WITH a forecast of sunny, breezy conditions, it should make for an exciting Round the Island Race tomorrow as record numbers compete for one of sailing’s great prizes.

Once the starting gun is fired at 7.30am, there will be a sea of colour on The Solent as more than 1,500 boats — and some 15,000 competitors — take part in the most spectacular and iconic yacht race of its kind in the world.

The annual race, organised by the Island Sailing Club (ISC), was won last year by High Potential, which featured Isle of Wight sailor Nick Elderfield, one of its winning crewmen, who lifted the coveted Gold Roman Bowl.

Last year’s Round the Island Race proved to be a nightmarish slog for all sailors, with virtually no breeze to compete with — reflected in the winning time of 8hr 30mins and 3secs, on corrected time.

This year, the forecast is for wind speeds of between eight to 12 knots, which will make for a much improved winning time.

Elderfield, from Gurnard, who will not be racing on High Potential this year, will be competing on board brand new J112e KnightBuild boat, Happy Daize, which is going on to do the IRC nationals the following weekend and Cowes Week in August.

He said: "The race is looking interesting. A south-easterly breeze for much of it, and the weather models have been uncertain all week on when there will be a change to the south-west.

"At the moment, it’s looking too late in the day to remove the prospect of a beat all the way from The Needles to Bembridge.

"But as the weather is looking more like the Med than The Solent, it’s not going to be a bad day on the water.

"With respect to winning the Round the Island, for most people the combination of planning, skill, tactics, weather and luck never comes together.

"I got that last year and to hope of doing it again is perhaps asking too much.

"But once you’ve held the Gold Roman Bowl and done that with your mates, that feeling is pretty special and will likely keep bringing me back to this race for years."

Olympic hopefuls will sail alongside boats of all shapes and sizes in the UK’s fourth-biggest participation event — a race with around 200 prizes up for grabs.

Starting on the famous Royal Yacht Squadron line in Cowes, the massive fleet will head west, anti-clockwise around the Island to The Needles, around St Catherine’s Point and the Bembridge Ledge buoy, before they race back to The Solent to the finish line at Cowes.

For spectators, the Island has many great vantage points to watch the race unfold and there will be a bigger shoreside race village, on Cowes Parade, from which to enjoy the spectacle.

ISC’s commodore and head of race management, David Atkinson, said: “We are proud to have received a record number of entries into the Round the Island Race, within 24 hours of entries first opening.

“One of the main reasons the race has a reputation as a world-renowned event is because it truly is a race for all.

“The Round the Island Race is on many sailors’ bucket list and we regularly find that once tried, sailors return year after year because it’s such a unique race.

“The club is very proud of its flagship event and of the genuine affection competitors show for the race each year."

The race, which has supported the Ellen MacArthur Cancer Trust since 2007, will also include 25 young people in recovery from cancer, who have all previously sailed with the charity.

They will be joined by world record breaking sailor, Brian Thompson, who holds the record for the fastest lap of the Isle of Wight and who has sailed non-stop around the world four times.

Finley Clark, from London, said the trust has built his confidence, boosted his self-esteem and allowed him to feel at ease when talking about his recovery from cancer.

The Ellen MacArthur Cancer Trust has been the official charity of the event since 2007, and is excited to work with the race again to help rebuild confidence after cancer in young people through sailing.

  • You can follow the action and view a list of vantage points online at: http://www.roundtheisland.org.uk/web/pubs/2019/RIR19-SpectatorGuide.pdf
  • Race updates are also available at www.roundtheisland.org.uk as well as on the Isle of Wight County Press website: www.iwcp.co.uk/sport tomorrow.
  • For more details about the Round the Island Race shoreside village and what it offers, go to page 13 of the Wight Guide.