A WORLD champion windsurfer has put the Isle of Wight and the sport of wing foiling on the map by setting the standard in the new Foil the Wight challenge.

Ross Williams became the first man to wing foil non-stop around the Island in 6hrs 49mins 18secs on Thursday to set a record he hopes will be a huge challenge for allcomers in the years ahead. 

The 55 nautical-mile circumnavigational gauntlet was thrown down by the Island Sailing Club, which runs one of sailing’s biggest events, the Round the Island Race. 

Williams was attempting the challenge in memory of his late father, Ceri, and raising money for Hasag, the asbestos disease support charity.

Isle of Wight County Press: Ross Williams passing St Catherine's Point lighthouse.Ross Williams passing St Catherine's Point lighthouse.

Williams competed with a team which comprised kitesurf champions Tom Court and Sam Light, and waterman, Tom Buggy. set off from the Island Sailing Club line when the wind got up at 1pm.

Wing foiling is a new discipline, about five years old, normally performed for short periods in a small area, so foiling around the Island represented a huge leap into the unknown — a test of the athletes’ to endure some of the most treacherous waters in the world on what organisers describe as being ‘little more than a sail-powered Weetabix’.

Court won the start and the wing men battled up The Solent, beating with the tide in Force 4-5 winds. 

Williams was first to reach The Needles and turn the corner, with his fellow wing men about a mile behind. 

Isle of Wight County Press: Ross Williams was delighted after winning Foil the Wight.Ross Williams was delighted after winning Foil the Wight.

Light used his experience of the Round the Island Race to hug the shoreline and get out of the tide, making up plenty of ground on Williams. 

While the others were battling with the varied conditions, Williams battled his own demons off Seaview as the wind dropped and struggling to get back on his  foil, allowing Light to get ahead. 

But an evening breeze filled in from the west and Williams was able to coax his board up and away once again for the last push home.

Afterwards, Williams said: “It was a brutal day on the water. The beat up The Solent was a hard grind. When I turned the corner at The Needles, I rode the waves all the way to Culver. 

Isle of Wight County Press:

“The surfing was epic off my backyard breaks at Bonchurch, Dunnose and Bembridge Ledge, but as Seaview, the breeze died and I lost foil pressure. 

“I thought we were done, but I found some puff to get past the forts, then it was about holding on and staying out of the tide. 

“I knew my father was there in spirit for the last push to the finish.”