Near record line-up
When entries closed on 16 June for the 2007 JPMorgan Asset Management Round the Island Race, the total stood at 1,796 - the second highest in the history of the event. Only once has this number been exceeded, and then by only 17. This was in 1989, the centenary of the Island Sailing Club, organisers of the race since 1931.
The Club has made a change to the timing of the starts this year and going an hour earlier certainly seems to have met with favour from the thousands of sailors who participate. It will mean all classes will have at least three hours of favourable tide westwards to The Needles. By agreement with ABP and other authorities, the sequence is also being compressed to 1 hour 40 minutes to get everyone away as soon as possible.
The next record breakers ?
The fastest times for the 55 mile course have stood since 2001. French skipper Francis Joyon ( Dexia Eure et Loire) holds the multihull record at 3 hours 8 minutes and 29 seconds and Mike Slade the best monohull time in Skandia Life Leopard of 4 hours 5 minutes and 40 seconds. Mike has broken the record on three occasions, in three different yachts. This year, he has a new boat and perhaps the opportunity to do so again. The brand new ICAP Leopard tops the IRC rated group at 1.876. Built in Australia and launched just a few weeks ago, this will be her first taste of competition. A Farr design, 100 feet long, with a canting keel, the crew will number 28 plus guests. America’s Cup sailor Adrian Stead and Volvo Ocean Race veterans Jules Salter and Tim Powell join Mike Slade in the afterguard with fellow VOR sailors Jason Carrington and Justin Slattery on the bow.
The Extreme 40 class will be competing in the race for the second year. Skippers include Conrad Humphreys ( Team Blue), Rob Greenhalgh (Basilica), Nick Moloney ( Offshore Challenges Sailing Team), Johnnie Hutchcroft ( ABN Amro) and Ellen MacArthur ( JPMorgan Asset Management). The X40s will be hoping for a northerly breeze so they can ease sheets for fast reaching. Their gun will be at 0510 hours, sharing a start with other multihull classes, original and modern gaffers.
Olympians and round the world skippers
Olympic and Paralympic sailors, many of whom are members of Team Volvo for life, will be swapping their normal craft for J/80s, with some helms competing against their usual crew rather than with them. Double Olympic gold medallist Shirley Robertson will be leaving her Yngling and vying for a class place against crew members Annie Lush and Lucy MacGregor who will be lining up too. They will also find keen competition from Athens 470 silver medallists Nick Rogers and Joe Glanfield plus top Paralympic sailor Helena Lucas. Star class sailors Iain Percy and Andrew Simpson, recently returned from competing in the Louis Vuitton Cup, will race on Skandia Big Grin, a scaled-down version of the Jo Richards’ designed Full Pelt. Paul Goodison, 2006 National and European Laser Champion, will be the skipper aboard the Farr 45 Volvo RYA Keelboat Programme with a crew consisting of young sailors making the transition from dinghy to keelboat racing.
The Open 60 class, first to start at 0500, includes three round the world sailors. Sir Robin Knox-Johnston ( Lombard Marine Finance) is a sailing legend, having become the first to race round the world, non-stop solo in 1969. He has recently completed the gruelling Velux 5 Oceans Race, finishing fourth and, at 68, the oldest skipper in the history of the event. He will be racing with Robin Aisher, Admiral of the Island Sailing Club. Dee Caffari aboard Aviva holds the record for sailing non-stop, round the world westabouts, against the prevailing winds and currents. Jonny Malbon skippers Artemis Ocean Racing. He was part of the winning crew in the Oryx Quest 2005 race round the world for maxi multihulls.
Classic cruiser racers
Over 80 trophies are awarded, many for standard production boats which can be equally well used for cruising or racing. Thirty Contessa 32s will compete for the Contessa Challenge Trophy, including Richard Clark’s Carolina built in 1973 for Winston Churchill MP. The South Coast One Design (SCOD) came from the drawing board of Charles Nicholson in 1955 and still provides competitive racing for scores of owners. SCODs are enjoying something of a revival at present, having been featured in Woody Allen’s film about to be released and starring Ewan McGregor. In the 1970s, the Nicholson 32 was many people’s ideal offshore and blue water cruiser. Although out of production since the mid 1980s, the owners take a pride in keeping their yachts in trim to compete for the Halmatic Trophy. Steve Green’s Canna was the subject of an event filled voyage to the former USSR and back in the 1980s, detailed in the book Voyage to Leningrad. Since 1998 she has been upgraded and enhanced by the present owner who hopes to be sailing her for a good 25 years more.
The Gold Roman Bowl, dating back to the 1930s, is presented to the best boat overall using the IRC handicap system. This has been won on three occasions recently, including 2006, by Jeremy Rogers’ Rosina of Beaulieu (Contessa 26). This year the Rogers family will not be entering the race, having sold Rosina and embarked on a project to restore a Contessa 32. Very often the trophy is won by a yacht at the smaller end of the range including Tony Dodd’s Purple Haze in 2005 and the quarter tonners will be out in force again this year.
The larger number of boats compete in the ISC Rating System for the Silver Gilt Roman Bowl. These skippers are not regulars out on the race track but many have vast amounts of experience. By completion of a self-measurement form, the Island Sailing Club is able to ensure a level playing field so that Allan Cameron’s 80ft Dreamcatcher can compete with Andrew Walker’s 21 foot Scampi for the top prize. In 2006 Chris Bean from Gosport won the Silver Gilt Roman Bowl sailing Toucan Tango (Bavaria 40).
Youngsters rise to the challenge
Michael Perham will be competing in Cheeky Monkey. Earlier this year he became the youngest person, at 14, to sail across the Atlantic Ocean single-handed. JPMorgan Asset Management stepped in to bring Michael’s boat back to the UK so he could compete in the race. Raymarine Young Sailor of the Year Katie Miller will be racing Elektra sistership to Ellen MacArthur’s first keelboat. Paddiywack is owned by the Island Youth Water Activities Centre and crewed by young people between the ages of 13 and 18, giving them their first taste of yacht racing. There are also boats crewed by Islington Sea Scouts, Combined Cadet Forces chosen from 120 schools and pupils from Milton Abbey School.
A growing charity dimension
Many of this year’s entrants will be racing to support charities, trying to go one better on last year’s total of £30,000 raised during the race. Robin Wood, skipper of Noumenon will be supporting Prostate Research Campaign UK. A sufferer himself and undergoing trial drug treatment, he wants to assist in making prostate cancer a chronic rather than terminal illness. Martyn Hamlyn and two teams from Swanage Sailing Club race in aid of Macmillan Cancer Support aboard their bridgedeck catamarans Watanga and Yeta. Christopher Barker aboard Belle Serene is raising funds for Breast Cancer Care: "My gorgeous and magnificent wife Zoë has just started chemotherapy. This is her favoured charity."
The JPMorgan Asset Management Bournemouth office will be supporting The Ellen MacArthur Trust. 30 staff will be cycling round the Isle of Wight whilst 24 will crew two Clipper yachts. The classic yacht Gipsy Moth IV, made famous by Sir Francis Chichester in 1966, will be sailing with representatives of the four preferred charities on board as well as people undergoing treatment or in remission from cancer. Many, many other sailors will be fund raising for charities - from the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation to RYA Sailability; Pestalozzi International Village Trust to Greenwich and Bexley Cottage Hospice. Each boat competing has a collection bag and donations can also be made in the Regatta Village at Cowes Yacht Haven, where the charity winch grinding competition will be run by Volvo and a charity sailing simulator competition will be held at the main charity stand. A bespoke website has also been set up to facilitate charity entries. To register/donate, simply go to http://justgiving.com/roundtheisland.
Older than the race itself
Phil Plumtree’s Arrow is a 1924 West Solent one design which raced regularly in the Solent during the 1920s and 30s. She has been lovingly restored over the last 12 years. Kim Hartley’s Cygnet of London is a 1906 one off gaff yawl, recently fitted with a new rig and winner of the Jubilee Trophy in 2006. Kelpie is another treasured gaff classic built in 1903 and now owned by Richard Bendy. The oldest boat in the race is Nicholas Harvey’s Sophie, an 1892 Falmouth Quay punt, built as a working boat and converted to a yacht in the 1920s. She is based in Hamble and the owners have just completed the six year renovation project.