Light winds turned the 2014 event into an endurance test with the slowest ever winner; 715 finishers and 791 retirees. This extremely light winds, at times recording zero knots, turned the 2014 J.P.Morgan Asset Management Round the Island Race into an endurance test for its participants.
Held yesterday on Midsummer’s day, the race was one of the longest in the history of the 83-year-old race. There were 715 finishers and 791 retirees; race organisers said it is always regrettable to have more retirees than finishers but there was a very positive response from the majority of competitors nonetheless.
The slowest elapsed time for a line honours boat ever recorded in the race’s history was 08.51.37 achieved by Team Richard Mille on their GC32 foiling multihull – almost three times slower than last year’s winning time of 02.52.15, set by Sir Ben Ainslie’s AC45 catamaran team.
Most of the 1,585 entries started the race around the Isle of Wight in around three knots and bright sunshine and as the hours went by, temperatures rose but wind speed dropped leaving hundreds of boats becalmed and a large proportion of the 16,000 crew desperately seeking ways of making their boats go faster or resorting to stretching out on deck to enjoy the sunny conditions.
There were several standstills for many boats during the race, and other times when it was the tide, rather than the wind, that powered the yachts along.
First to the Needles was Jamie McGarry and Colin Moore’s Swan 45 Eala of Rhu but the going was slow and Sir Ben Ainslie, racing on the Farr 45 Rebel with members of his BAR America’s Cup crew, took longer to complete the first 13 miles than the record-breaking time he took to finish the entire race last year.
Rebel very quickly became involved in a match race with rival Farr 45 Toe in the Water crewed by injured servicemen and women who had served recently in Afghanistan and the lead swapped several times over the 50nms course though it was Capt Lloyd Hamilton’s ecstatic crew who nudged across the finish line ahead of Ainslie and his team of professionals.
‘This means everything to us,’ he said recording a time of 8 hours 51 minutes 39 seconds.
He added: ‘The guys are ecstatic at beating Rebel. They don’t know many of the America’s Cup sailors but they know and love Sir Ben Ainslie, so are thrilled.”
Racing debuts pay dividends
Another big battle to ensue on the water was between the brand new high-performance catamarans, the GC32s Team Richard Mille and Spax Solution making their racing debuts in the Solent.
Former line honours winner Pete Cumming had gathered together a professional crew for Team Richard Mille, including helmsman Paul Campbell-James and proved consistently faster than their rivals.
They took five long hours to reach St Catherine’s Point where the sea breeze kicked in to give the leading boats a big push over the next two hours towards the finish but just as they were within sight of the line, the wind in Stokes Bay died and their final flourish was delayed by a further hour to record a finish time of 8 hours and 51 minutes.
Cumming said: ‘It wasn’t the easiest race but these boats are superb – very fast even in light airs and fun to sail.’
First monohulls in battle royale
First monohull across the finish line was Dutch boat Tonnerre de Breskens, with a time of 9 hours 56 minutes 13 seconds but they too had a battle royale to gain an advantage over Mike Bartholomew’s Tokoloshe II, which trailed in just 22 seconds later after one of the biggest tests of endurance and patience since the Round the Island Race started in 1931.
The first Ellen MacArthur Cancer Trust yacht, Scarlet Oyster, crewed by PBO News Editor Laura Hodgetts, trust volunteers and six young people crossed the finishing line at 5.57pm – almost 10 and a half hours after setting off at 7.30am.
A total of 24 teenagers took part on the trust’s five yachts. Dame Ellen and a crew aboard the trust’s flagship yacht Moonspray were forced to retire, after becoming becalmed off Dunose.
Twelve hours after the first start, 246 boats had finished and a further 445 had retired but the rest were still out on the course valiantly trying to make the finish before the cut off time of 10pm.
The Gold Roman Bowl was awarded to a Folkboat, Madelaine, skippered by Edward Donald, who hasn’t quite achieved the record four wins of the Gold Roman Bowl by Edward Heath but he’s nearly there, having won it individually three times and the Donald family has collected this famous trophy four times.
The Tenacity Trophy, awarded annually to the skipper of the last boat home. This year it fell to Stuart Whitmore to win the applause. He crossed the finish line on his Sigma 33, Sixes and Sevens, (IRC3) at 21.51.35, having started his race at 0730 – 14 hours, 21 minutes, 35 seconds later.
Event organiser, the Island Sailing Club, runs the event with support from title sponsor J.P. Morgan Asset Management and the race partners for 2014: Dream Yacht Charter, Haven Knox-Johnston, Henri Lloyd, Nautica Watches, Old Pulteney, Raymarine, Red Funnel, Volvo Car UK.