"The weather may not have been on our side for parts of the day, but what an incredible experience had by all", said a spokesperson from one of the many RNLI stations that provided safety cover, along with independent lifeboat volunteers.

Round the Island Race 2024 tested the mettle of competitors as hundreds of yachts of all shapes and sizes raced around the Isle of Wight in tough conditions summed up as “challenging.”

The Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI), which marks its 200th year, was the official race charity and seven RNLI lifeboat stations from Cowes, Calshot, Bembridge, Mudeford, Lymington, Portsmouth, Yarmouth and Selsey were involved in providing safety cover, along with independent lifeboat volunteers.

This year the “race for all” attracted 939 entries, although several classes were cancelled prior to the start due to the expected strong winds – gusting up to 40mph – and rough sea state.

Many also abandoned the race on the day due to the extreme weather – with 418 yachts retiring. A total of 154 completed the 50-mile course.

The hardy sailors who made it to the starting line at Cowes were praised by the Island Sailing Club (ISC) organisers and race team, who said: “A huge congratulations to all competitors for managing the tough conditions.”

The first race started at 0600 on Saturday 15 June with the competitors sailing anti-clockwise around the island.

Lifeboat crew in action at Round the Island Race 2024. Credit: Sienna Eve Photography

Lifeboat crew in action at Round the Island Race 2024. Credit: Sienna Eve Photography

‘Tasked early on’

An RNLI Calshot Lifeboat spokesperson said: “Competitors faced challenging conditions out on the water today and were ably supported by volunteers from a number of stations from both the RNLI and also independents.
“Our volunteers were tasked to two incidents. Firstly they attended a 40ft vessel that was taking on water following a collision. On arriving at the scene they undertook a rapid assessment and finding that the bilge pump was working well escorted the casualty vessel back towards East Cowes.
“Whilst escorting the vessel that was making good progress, crew were then retasked to a 34ft vessel that had suffered a fouled prop. Establishing an alongside tow, our crew then put the casualty vessel on a pontoon at East Cowes Marina.”

A spokesperson for RNLI Lymington Lifeboat also described the conditions as “challenging” in their round-up: “Lymington voluntary crew launched the lifeboat at 0630 in preparation to support the annual Round the Island Race.
‘The crew were tasked early on, along with Yarmouth to assist a vessel which had put out a Mayday call. A yacht was taking on water due to a collision with another yacht. Lymington lifeboat attended and assessed the ingress of water which was manageable and escorted the vessel to Yarmouth.

Helm Declan O’Riordan, who was onboard with crew Ed Wallrock, Piers Horobin and Richard Clarke, added: “It’s an honour to be the charity partner for the Round the Island Race. This partnership not only highlights the crucial role of the RNLI but also helps us generate essential funding and support. The increased visibility and support from the race will directly enhance our operations and capabilities at lifeboat stations, ensuring we continue to provide top-notch services.”

Track of RNLI Yarmouth Lifeboat at Round the Island Race 2024. Credit: RNLI Yarmouth Lifeboat

Track of Wanderer. Credit: RNLI Yarmouth Lifeboat

Yarmouth lifeboat and her crew launched in the rain and poor visibility at 0730 and made their way to a point between Hurst Castle and the Needles Lighthouse to begin their safety cover as the main fleet made their way through the course. However, from the offset the weather had taken a turn for the worse, and many competitors retired early between Cowes and Alum Bay.

Yarmouth lifeboat were first tasked at 0750 to a mayday from a yacht one mile off Yarmouth Harbour who had reported being in a collision and had begun to take on water. Once on scene, the crew found Lymington Lifeboat already assessing the situation and the tasking was handed over to them. Yarmouth’s second tasking at 1000 was for a yacht who was reported to have broken their rudder five miles south of Atherfield Ledge. Yarmouth Lifeboat waited with the casualty vessel providing safety cover in three to four-metre swells until a safety boat from the Island Sailing Club arrived on scene to take them back to Cowes via a towline.

And the third tasking came in just after 1100 from HM Coastguard, where Yarmouth Lifeboat was required to help in a search after a man overboard call located close to The Needles. Whilst on route, the tasking was stood down due to the casualty being recovered from the water prior to the lifeboats arrival.

Lifeboat crew in action at Round the Island Race 2024. Credit: Sienna Eve Photography

Lifeboat crew in action at Round the Island Race 2024. Credit: Sienna Eve Photography

Throughout the day, several sailboats encountered difficulties due to sudden shifts in wind patterns and large swells, necessitating immediate assistance from the rescue crews who were all afloat and prepared to arrive on-scene quickly when required.

A spokesperson said: “For the second year running, Yarmouth RNLI 17-25 ‘Wanderer’ has completed the race course! Albeit, at a different starting and end point!
“Providing safety cover alongside many other assets including RNLI and independent lifeboats across the entire island from Yarmouth, down passed the needles towards St Catherine’s, across the south of the island, then round the most eastern point at Bembridge and back north where they covered across Ryde and East Cowes, then home straight back to Yarmouth. I think it’s time to get that kettle on!
“Well done to everyone involved, be that competitors, safety cover and those watching.
“The weather may not have been on our side for parts of the day, but what an incredible experience had by all.”

Main event trophy winner

TP52 Notorious competing in the Round the Island Race 2024

The owner of the coveted Gold Roman Bowl winner was TP52 Notorious owned by local Isle of Wight resident Peter Morton. Credit: Ian Roman Photography

TP52 Notorious competing in the Round the Island Race 2024

Credit: Ian Roman Photography

The race team and ISC have announced that TP52 Notorious is first overall in the IRC Class and wins the coveted Gold Roman Bowl and the Observer Trophy for Monohull Line Honours.

Local Cowes resident Peter Morton, owner and skipper of Notorious said: ““This is one of the world’s greatest races and every year I look forward to it. I’ve not had the boat that long but I’ve competed in Round the Island Race many times over the last 50 years in various boats I’ve owned. Yesterday was special and the toughest one I’ve done. It’s 40 years ago since I won the Gold Roman Bowl on a little 25ft boat called ‘Odd Job’ which was the smallest boat in the fleet, so this year was very special for me.”

The first boat to cross the finish line was the multihull Highland Fling 18, which completed the race in 3 hours, 39 minutes and 5 seconds and wins the Freedom Challenge Bowl (Line Honours for Multihull Grand Prix & MOCRA Racing Classes).

Irvine Laidlaw, owner and helm of Highland Fling 18, said: “It was the first event for us in 2024 and we’ve travelled over 3,000 miles from Palma to be here but it’s worth it! I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the race – it’s such a great race and I like the fact we go around an island with the start and finish in the same place, it’s rather satisfying.”

This weekend, the race team and the ISC are staging a free-to-enter Official Hospitality Venue on Cowes Parade with everyone welcome.

The prizegiving was held on Sunday 16 June.

The crew of Highland Fling 18 multihull at Round the Island Race 2024. credit: Paul Wyeth - pwpictures.com

The crew of Highland Fling 18 multihull were first across the finishing line. Credit: Paul Wyeth/pwpictures.com

Race director, Dave Atkinson said: “This race was a challenge for both the competitors and the race team at the Island Sailing Club, with the safety and well-being of the crews being the main priority.

“We would like to thank the RNLI, independent lifeboats and coastguard teams for their assistance and co-operation before and during the race on Saturday. Despite the challenging conditions we only had nine incidents connected to the race which is less than previous years, this shows the seamanship of the crews and the correct decision making that went into undertaking of the race.”

Race safety officer and station manager at Cowes RNLI, Mark Southwell said: “The sailors who competed made the right call and had a challenging but no doubt enjoyable race they’ll remember. Those who cancelled or retired as they sensed conditions approaching the Needles also made the right decision.

“Sailing is a safe sport undertaken by responsible individuals more than capable of weighing up: wind, sea state, boat and gear condition, crew experience and the ability to then decide whether it is right to put to sea or continue to race. Yesterday was a good day for safety at sea. This is a race for everyone and everyone made the right call, we thank you for that.”

’93 years of support’

The RNLI was chosen as the official charity because of its key role in keeping competitors safe for the past 93 years.

Dave Atkinson, race director said: “The race team, RNLI and Coastguard have worked closely together since the first Round the Island Race in 1931 to operate a safe race for all the competitors.

“We are incredibly grateful for the safety cover and assistance that the RNLI station teams provide on race day and so we are especially pleased to announce that all the donations raised will go to the seven stations involved in the race and specifically for the training of their volunteer crews.”

RNLI Yarmouth Lifeboat at Round the Island Race 2024. Credit: RNLI Yarmouth Lifeboat

RNLI Yarmouth Lifeboat at Round the Island Race 2024. Credit: RNLI Yarmouth Lifeboat

Safety of all the participants is integral to the smooth running of the race. RNLI lifeboats from Cowes, Calshot, Bembridge, Mudeford, Lymington, Portsmouth and Yarmouth have been involved in the running of the event for many years and will be strategically positioned around the course.

For example, Bembridge RNLI position their all-weather Tamar lifeboat on the furthest eastern side of the Isle of Wight to provide cover for the final leg of the race, whereas Yarmouth RNLI position their all-weather Severn class lifeboat at The Needles, the Isle of Wight’s most western point and where the sea conditions can change drastically without warning.

Helly Hansen in partnership with RNLI held a lifejacket clinic outside the Helly Hansen store in Cowes High Street last Friday and all competitors were welcome to bring their lifejackets to be checked by a local RNLI volunteer team.

A fundraising page has been set up to help cover the training costs of the stations involved: www.justgiving.com/campaign/rnli-round-the-island-race-2024