Sir Robin Knox Johnston and Suhaili together again

Sir Robin Knox Johnston stepped aboard his trusty ketch Suhaili for another circumnavigation on Saturday June 21st. Suhaili sailed down to the Solent from her home at the National Maritime Musem in Falmouth to participate in the annual Round the Island race. She joined 1,594 other boats for the 67th edition of the Island Sailing Club’s 50 mile classic, first run in 1931. Aboard with Sir Robin was Yachting Monthly’s Mike Kopman.

“We had a great start at 8 o’clock, with the kite up and drawing right off the line. Suhaili’s downwind performance was quite surprising and we were soon amongst the tail enders of the class ahead of ours. The crew of every passing, or passed, yacht greeted Suhaili and her famous skipper with the utmost admiration and respect. Hats were raised and salutes were exchanged. There was little doubt that despite her lengthy sabbatical, Suhaili was still instantly recognisable as one of the most famous yachts in the world.” Unfortunately, the fleet turned hard on the wind at the Needles and Suhaili began to show the limits of her 80 year old design. “By the time we reached Ventnor the wind was dying fast and the tide had turned against us. We short tacked right in shore, trying to stay out of the worst of the tide, but we were only making about 100 meters on each tack.” Unfortunately Suhaili did not manage to complete the course by the 22h00 cut off. “We may not have had the fastest trip around, but it was a trip I shall not easily forget. Sir Robin’s impersonations had us in stitches (his South African accent is better than mine!), his curry accompaniment to our ham sandwiches really hit the spot, and his many incredible stories had us hanging on his every word. Spending a few hours at Suhaili’s stout tiller under his watchful eye was a real privilege.”

Despite the presence of some of world’s fastest and most glamorous yachts, the race was won for the second time by “Rosina of Beaulieu “, Jeremy Rogers’ Contessa 26. She was sailed by Jeremy’s sons Simon, Kit and David, who will return the prestigious Gold Roman Bowl to the family home in Lymington.

The Yachting Monthly Family Trophy was won by Island Sailing Club members Willem Wester (58) aboard his Contessa 33 with his wife Helleen (58), daughter Minka (31), son Robert (29) and grandson Andrew (12) in an elapsed time of 8:41:23 and corrected time of 8:21:03.

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The 68th Round the Island Race will be held on 26th June 2004 – Entries close 5th June 2004