Slow-mo Round the Island
The longest day of the summer came close to delivering the longest J.P.Morgan Asset Management Round the Island Race ever as winds ranging from zero knots to painfully light tested the patience of crews.
Most of the 1,585 entries started the race around the Isle of Wight in around 3 knots and bright sunshine and as the hours went by, temperatures rose, but wind speed dropped leaving hundreds of boats becalmed and a large proportion of the 16,000 crew desperately seeking ways of making their boats go faster or resorting to stretching out on deck to enjoy the sunny conditions.
First to the Needles was Jamie McGarry and Colin Moore's Swan 45 Eala of Rhu, but the going was slow and Sir Ben Ainslie, racing on the Farr 45 Rebel with members of his BAR America's Cup crew, took longer to complete the first 13 miles than the record-setting 2hrs 52mins 15secs he took to finish the entire race last year.
Rebel very quickly became involved in a match race with rival Farr 45 Toe in the Water crewed by injured servicemen and women who had served recently in Afghanistan and the lead swapped several times over the 50 nms course though it was Capt Lloyd Hamilton's ecstatic crew who nudged across the finish line ahead of Ainslie and his team of professionals.
"This means everything to us," he said, Toe In the Water recording a finish time of 8 hrs 51 mins 39 secs. "Beating Ben Ainslie is better than beating the Taliban for these guys. He left us shortly after St Catherine's Point and flew away but we kept on trying and it is apt when you look at who we have on board because it proves you should never give up.
"The guys are ecstatic at beating Rebel. They don't know many of the America's Cup sailors, but they know and love Sir Ben Ainslie, so are thrilled."
Another big battle to ensue on the water was right at the front of the fleet between the brand new high-performance catamarans, the GC32s Team Richard Mille and Spax Solution. Former line honours winner Pete Cumming had gathered together a professional crew for Team Richard Mille, including helmsman Paul Campbell-James and proved consistently faster than their rivals.
They took five long hours to reach St Catherine's Point where the sea breeze kicked in to give the leading boats a big push over the next two hours towards the finish but just as they were within sight of the line, the wind in Stokes Bay died and their final flourish was delayed by a further hour to record a finish time of 8 hours and 51 mins.
"We have had a great week and to round it off with a line honours win in the 2014 J.P. Morgan Asset Management Round the Island Race is a fantastic achievement especially in these conditions," said Cumming who put the project together. "It wasn't the easiest race but these boats are superb - very fast even in light airs and fun to sail. We want to thank our sponsors for giving us this opportunity and look forward to working together in the future."
First monohull across the finish line was Piet Vroon's Tonnerre de Breskens, with a time of 9 hrs 56 mins 13 secs but they too had a battle royale to gain an advantage over Mike Bartholomew's GP42 Tokoloshe II, which trailed in just 22 seconds later after one of the biggest tests of endurance and patience since the Round the Island Race started in 1931. A battle royale ensued for Tonnerre de Breskens to gain the advantage over Tokoloshe II to take the monohull win.
12 hours after the first start, 246 boats had finished and a further 445 had retired, but the rest were still out on the course valiantly trying to make the finish before the cut off time of 10.00pm when the overall race winner and new holder of the Gold Roman Bowl was set to become clear.