Thousands of sailors again took part in the annual race around the Isle of Wight on Saturday, with Extreme 40 Oman Sail Masirah taking line honours and the 25-foot Tattarat winning the Gold Roman Bowl in light and challenging conditions.
Conditions in Saturday's JPMorgan Asset Management Round the Island Race gave all the 1,779 boats entered a challenge. The breeze at the start was light, with some boats swept over the line early and having to make their way back slowly. At the Needles the most popular description competitors had of the race was "champagne sailing". Then the wind played tricks. Off Bembridge everyone was on a spinnaker reach when the breeze suddenly went through a 180 degree turn and then dropped. From 80-footers down to Laser SB3s, crews were kept busy fending off other boats. Once into the eastern Solent most of the fleet had to cheat the tide and creep close into Ryde Sands. Then it was short tacking to the line. The 'rush hour' was between 19:00 and 20:00 when close to a thousand boats were finishing.
Oman Sail Masirah led the fleet back to Cowes to take line honours and win the Extreme 40 class race. It was a nail-biting finish, with a provisional 29 seconds separating the Omani boat from Russell COUTTS
(NZL) helming Team Aqua.
"We were behind Team Aqua right up to Yarmouth but once round The Needles it was true champagne sailing,"
described skipper Pete CUMMING
(GBR). "At St Catherine's we out-gybed Team Aqua and extended our lead to 22 minutes at Bembridge. We thought we might be able to cruise back to Cowes but then the wind started to go light. Once in the Solent it was even lighter and it shut down completely. We could see Team Aqua and Team Origin trying to short tack out of the tide. We decided to stick in the middle. It was a case of holding your nerve and covering Team Aqua. It's always good to have a close race but to go from a 22 minute lead down to a 29 second win, that's really something."
The winning team comprised Olympic 49er silver medallist Chris DRAPER
on helm, CUMMING trimmer with Mark BULKELEY
, Olympic Tornado sailor on mainsheet. David "Freddie" CARR and Khamis AL ANBOURI shared the bow.
British supermaxi, ICAP Leopard, owned by Mike SLADE, took monohull line honours, finishing the race in an elapsed time of 8 hours and 3 seconds, some way off the course record that she set in last year's race of 3 hours, 53 minutes and 5 seconds.
The top prize Gold Roman Bowl is provisionally shown as one of the smaller and older designs. Tattarat is a 25-foot Nordic Folkboat built in 1978. Her skipper is Philip WILLIAMS (GBR), a director of Williams Shipping in Southampton who very kindly supplied one of their tugs as a committee boat. Tattarat completed the course in 10 hours and 46 minutes. WILLIAMS said, "Our race was quite eventful. We touched on Ryde Sands and my 62 year old father jumped over the side to push us off!
"We started in a very light breeze and had a difficult beat to The Needles. Later in the eastern Solent it went light again. Basically we hugged the Island shore all the way round to get out of the tide. We were close in at The Needles, St Cat's and Bembridge. It was a difficult, testing time but a good race."
WILLIAMS's father Eric is joint managing director of Williams Shipping and a keen Dragon sailor. Philip is hoping his father will sail with him again, despite his swim!
Two years ago sistership Madelaine won the Gold Roman Bowl with Tattarat the runner up. This year it is the Folkboat Nordic Bear second.
The Silver Gilt Roman Bowl for the top yacht in the ISC Rating System Division is provisionally the little 20-foot Hunter Medina Tudor Rose, built in 1982. Jointly owned by Richard and Ian COOKE from Hill Head, the boat is a regular competitor in the race over many years.