Blog
01/07/2019 - 12:00

Oarsome Chance Principal John Gillard skippered a crew from Oarsome Chance on the famous Round The Island Race on Saturday 29th June, made possible thanks to the kind loan of the boat, Flame of Anor, a Sweden Yachts 38, by a friend of the charity.

Check out the gallery of pictures with some stunning shots of the race and the crew: https://oarsomechance.org/content/round-island-race-june-2019

The Round Island Race is a one-day yacht race around the Isle of Wight, right on Oarsome Chance's doorstep. The race attracts over 1,200 boats and around 15,000 sailors, making it one of the largests yacht races in the world and the fourth largest participation sporting event in the UK after the London Marathon and the Great North and South Runs. Competitors come from all over the UK, other parts of Europe and as far away as the USA to follow the 50 nautical mile course.

Oarsome Chance had entered the race as part of a series of race entries this Summer, to give members of our Fastnet crew training and experience in preparation for the big race in August. Fastnet crew members Kacey-Ellen and Luke, both young particpants of Oarsome Chance programmes, along with Oarsome Chance Trustee, Rod joined John for the local race. The rest of the Round the Island crew on Saturday included Trustees Paul and Emma, as well as Fundraising Coordinator Jane.

The day commenced with a 5.45am safety briefing (especially important for the inexperienced among the crew!) at Haslar Marina, Flame's home, and the trip across to the race start at Cowes was used to get everyone familiar with their assigned tasks and likely scenarios. As Flame got closer to Cowes, the Solent became more crowded with boats - over 1200 boats were taking part, spread over staggered start times. The view of hundreds of boats vying for a good start was made all the more spectacular as the conditions made a rare spinnaker start possible - the masses of brightly coloured 'kite' sails were a sight to see. 

Flame had a great start (8.20am), but soon, along with the rest of the field, had to contend with the challenge of fluctuating wind speeds, as competitors all around were chasing the breeze. Flame managed to keep up some pace as she passed Hurst Castle and rounded the Needles, but Flame's sails and those of the field around her dropped as the wind dropped and the fleet was becalmed. John made the decision to take down the Spinnaker, put up the Genoa sail and head offshore to pick up the fresher winds - a decision which initially paid off well. Once Flame moved away from shore she picked up the breeze and the crew enjoyed some fantastic racing as Flame set a good pace from Freshwater Bay and along the South West coast of the island.

There was some drama on this stretch as a tear in the Genoa forced a sail change, not an easy task in the fresh offshore winds, but Flame's crew rose to the task. As Flame made her way around St Catherine's Point and headed back inshore, the breeze dropped and John, along with skippers across the fleet, was faced with a decision - after 9 hours racing, to struggle on in the hope of picking up some breeze around Bembridge (even then against the tide), at best crossing the line by 10.30pm. Or put the race down to valuable experience for the Fastnet crew and retire. After talking it through, the crew decided retirement in the circumstances was the sensible choice (as it turned out, of the 1200+ competitors, only 237 managed to cross the line before the 10.30pm deadline!)

The final stretch, powered by the motor rather than sail, was a chance for the crew to reflect on what had been a fantastic day - spanning a whole range of sailing conditions and scenarios - and finally wearily arrived back at Haslar at 8pm, 14 hours after her early departure that morning.