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The Countdown Begins for This Year’s Round the Island Race

On 7 July, 15,000 sailors will take to sea....

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On 7 July, Island Sailing Club will host its annual Round the Island Race, a one-day yacht race around the Isle of Wight.

Round the Island Race’s usual draw of over 1,400 boats and around 15,000 sailors makes 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.

The Countdown Begins for This Year’s Round the Island Race

The Route

Competitors come from all over the UK, other parts of Europe and as far as the USA to follow the 50 nautical mile course round the Isle of Wight. Starting on the famous Royal Yacht Squadron line in Cowes, the fleet races westabout, to The Needles, round St Catherine’s Point and Bembridge Ledge buoy, and back into the Solent to the finish line at Cowes.


Any boat, from cruiser to maxi yacht, can enter the Round the Island Race. In recent years the Round the Island Race has become a popular challenge for sailors at all levels of experience and abilities, attracting classic yachts such as the elegant J Class “Velsheda” as well as state-of-the-art, record-breaking greyhounds. Entries come from all over the south and east coasts of England as well as from France, Belgium, Channel Islands and further afield. The event is reported in media across the world – from Brazil to Japan, Hungary to New Zealand. A complete list of Gold Roman Bowl winners is also available online.

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Spectators can find many vantage points, both on the mainland and Isle of Wight, to watch the race progress. The first start in Cowes for the 2018 race is at 6:30am, and you can find a spectator guide online that includes information on observation points and where the boats typically are at different times of the day. Those who cannot watch in person can keep an eye on the website’s livestream of race-day action.

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Historical Fun Facts

The original idea for the Island Sailing Club’s Round the Island Race came from member Major Cyril Windeler. In 1930 he suggested a handicap race around the Isle of Wight that could cater for smaller boats – those in the category 5 to 25 tons. He may, at that time, have been enjoying a quiet joke at the expense of the Royal Yacht Squadron, who had stated that their members must own a yacht of minimum 30 tons!

After one of the early races, a competitor suggested to winner Chris Ratsey, of the Cowes sailmakers and then Rear Commodore of the ISC, that ‘Evenlode’ might have fouled his yacht. Like a true gentleman, Ratsey thus declined the trophy. Major Windeler was so impressed with this example of Corinthian spirit that he bought a Silver Roman Bowl and presented it to Chris Ratsey as a special prize. It is still awarded, but now for the second placed yacht overall. Chris Ratsey went on to win the Gold Roman Bowl, fair and square, in 1938.

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