Solo round the island

First timer takes line honours in this weekend's Petit Bateau event

Monday April 28th 2008, Author: Jerry Freeman, Location: United Kingdom
The annual singlehanded race around the Isle of Wight; RIOW Solo, was won in record time by newcomer John White in his X37 Essex Girl, setting a solo course best time of 8 hours 36 minutes to win the overall, the class one and the IRC prizes .Second boat home, just 3 and half minutes behind was another RIOW rookie, Andy Greenwood in his new Figaro 2 winning Open Class 2 at his first attempt. Peter Olden was very fast in the light conditions to take class 3 and third place in IRC in his Solent Goose (J/92S) and Simon Forbes raced Scooby to win the multihull class for the second year running.

35 yachts chugged out from Shepards Wharf in Cowes for the start of this third edition at first light of dawn on Saturday to find an encouraging 8 knots of breeze from the SSW for the first start at 0600. Closehauled on port tack, the fleet found the best conditions on the island shore with a few holes in the wind to frustrate the less fortunate as usual. The fleet headed upwind for the Yarmouth, initially in light winds which built to a good 12 knots passed Hampstead, with those close on the island shore gaining most.

Boats offshore had to tack south to rediscover the best breeze and a huge hole at Hurst Castle allowed the fleet to bunch together providing exciting close racing. The majority cleared the Needles on the last of the ebb on the edge of the Shingle bank. First boat to round the Needles was Essex Girl, closely followed by Mike Moxley in Malice (HOD) and Rob Craigie in Jbellino (J/122)

The lead group parked up at St Cats and another significant reshuffle took place, Jbellino briefly retaking the lead offshore in the drifting match only to have Essex Girl pass close under the cliffs at Dunnose on a spinnaker reach .

Perhaps the closest battle of the day was between the five J/105s, with all five boats within hailing distance of each other. At St Catherine’s it became closer still as the wind died leaving the boats bereft of movement with all five within a few hundred metres of each other. Simon Curwen on Voador chose the offshore option in search of breeze, whereas Rob Dornton-Duff aboard Java and Oscar Mead aboard Juneau chose the inshore option which paid handsomely. Race Director Paul Peggs made a good break to get his Audacious (JOD35) up to second spot as the leaders rounded Bembridge Ledge Buoy, the order was Essex Girl, Audacious, GreenFigaro, Ding Dong (Chris Rustom, Stuart 37), Catriona (Rory Carter, Dehler37) and Jbellino.

The fickle 8 to 10 knot breeze backed further to the southeast made for almost a dead run to the No Mans Land Fort and saw the sprit boats gybing for their lives. Here the conventional spinnaker on the Figaro2 paid handsomely as Andy Greenwood moved up to take second place at the Fort which he held to the finish.

The wind came ahead on the last leg to the finish at Prince Consort buoy just east of Cowes Roads with all the first boats finishing close hauled under white sails having carried the tide the whole way around the island for the first time in the race's short history.

Most encouraging was the host of new, some young, skippers taking part in RIOW Solo. For the first time Katie Miller (below) helmed her Figaro 2 Hot Sox in race and was very pleased to be dualing with the veterans, while Oscar Mead raced his first solo race in his J/105 Juneau and crossed the line second of the J/105s, ahead of several top skippers.

Awards for persistance go the late finishers who stuck to their task through a complete glassy calm in the late afternoon to complete the course and collect their trophies. Keith Willis won the class mini in Rattle and Hum and Roderick Walker in Tinkerbell (F27) who was second in the multis.

Special thanks to the start box team led by OOD Charles Allen who were on duty by 0530 in the JOG box at Egypt Point with just enough daylight to see the sail numbers and the check lifejackets in the sail through. Island Sailing Club provided the hospitality in their splendid Club house and competitors enjoyed supper there on both Friday and Saturday nights, Two RIBs laden with photographers persued the fleet around the course so there is a surfeit of excellent shots on the web site at
The RIOW Solo race is organised by Racing at Petit Bateau and is the first of this years new Solent Solo Series of 4 fun size day races aimed at encouraging skippers who wish to try single handed racing perhaps for the first time, the next being on Sunday 17 August, the day after the RSYC Nab Tower race. Over 20 experienced singlehanders have already entered for the bluQube Solo 1000 which starts from Mylor (Falmouth) on 29 June and visits Kinsale in Ireland, Santander in Spain and finishes in Camaret , France two weeks later.

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