The Round the Island Race is an annual event held in June and is a major part of the rich sailing tradition of the Isle of Wight. Sponsoring the event this year was JP Morgan Asset Management.
Now in its 82nd year over 1,400 yachts and around 16,000 sailors take part making it one of the largest yacht races in the world – and the fourth largest participation sporting event in the UK.
Competitors come from all over the UK, Europe, the USA and around the world to sail the 50 nautical mile course around the Isle of Wight, starting and finishing at Cowes. Most boats take hours to finish the course, but the record set by the professional sailors is 3hrs 53mins 05secs for a monohull, set by Mike Slade on ICAP Leopard in 2008, and 3hrs 08mins 29secs for a multihull boat set by Francis Joyon in 2001.
A Record Breaking Day
At least that was the case until this year’s event on Saturday 1st June. UK sailor Ben Ainslie, winner of four Olympic golds, knocked 16 mins and 14 secs off Francis Joyon’s 2001 record with a time of 2hr 52min 15sec on a 45-foot wing-powered catamaran, imaginatively named “AC45 JP Morgan BAR”.
Then Mike Slade, on the 100-foot yacht “Leopard”, broke his own monohull record by 9 minutes 45 seconds in a time of 3hr 43min 50sec.
With Seaflex based in Cowes at the heart of the event, it’s not surprising that some of the team would be involved. This year the company was represented by Business Development Manager, Ben Board sailing on ‘Skibereen’ – a Fastnet 34 sloop built in 1975. Ben and his crew finished a creditable 289th out of nearly 1,500 competitors, even though Ben insists, “We’re not serious racers . . .”