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 and 40 minutes to get everyone away as soon as possible.
The fastest times for the 55 mile course have stood since 2001. French skipper Francis JOYON on Dexia Eure et Loire holds the multihull record at 3 hours, 8 minutes and 29 seconds and Mike SLADE (GBR) the best monohull time in Skandia Life Leopard of 4 hours, 5 minutes and 40 seconds. SLADE 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. 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.
Amongst the Open 60 class, first to start at 05:00, are three round the world sailors. Sir Robin KNOX-JOHNSTON (GBR), on 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. Dee CAFFARI (GBR) aboard Aviva holds the record for sailing non-stop, round the world westabout, against the prevailing winds and currents. Jonny MALBON (GBR) skippers Artemis Ocean Racing. He was part of the winning crew in the Oryx Quest 2005 race round the world for maxi multihulls.
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' (GBR) Rosina of Beaulieu (a 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 (GBR) 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.
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 (GBR), 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 (GBR) and two teams from Swanage Sailing Club race in aid of Macmillan Cancer Support aboard their bridgedeck catamarans Watanga and Yeta.
The classic yacht Gipsy Moth IV, made famous by Sir Francis CHICHESTER (GBR) 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.