Three men in a boat

By Gary Hogan, Cabin boy 1st class

Thought I would share with anyone interested the ramblings of one tired sailor about his experiences at this years "Round the Island"’ Race.

I was lucky enough to be invited to crew once again for Skipper Adrian Lumb and purser, Glynn Fox on Adrian’s Parker 235 23 footer Vienna, from Ashlett Creek. Last year we had managed a respectable place in our class and thought we would like to repeat this again.

The day started well. We were moored near Calshot and had to sail across to the start line at Cowes before our start time of 7.45am. We had eaten a hearty breakfast, provided by purser Fox, and were ready for anything that the waves and wind could throw at us. There were over 1800 boats entered in this year’s event and most of the big boys had left the start line by the time we arrived. We did hear by way of the radio that Farr 45 Atomic, and the Hugo Boss boat, with Lewis Hamilton on board had experienced a collision at the start (not in the pit lane this time!) and also that Ellen MacArthur’s boat Extreme 40 BT was on its way back to Cowes with a broken main halyard.

Unperturbed we merry three set off to equal or better our record of last year. It was soon evident however that the conditions were to be a bit more taxing than last year. The wind was blowing a steady 15 knot south-westerly and the boat was soaring away. Still it was fun and we reached the Needles in a few hours. During our journey to the Needles the radio had been pretty busy with constant mayday calls from sailors in trouble. Many had steerage problems and a few had actually managed to lose crew overboard! Very careless! The RNLI were on overdrive with their inshore and offshore boats at full stretch even with the help of the RAF helicopter it sounded manic. We therefore approached the Needles with some trepidation. We rounded the Needles in relative comfort (relative that is to what was to come!) and then the real battering commenced.

We were on a broad reach on the south side of the island heading up to St Catherine’s point and being battered by heavy winds, gusting at 30 knots, and huge rolling waves. At one point when I was helming the skipper pointed out it was best not to look behind as the size of the waves would have probably sent me overboard! Our journey was not helped by the fishing boat that decided to trawl its nets in front of us.

Another crisis was averted and we battled on.

We passed Ryde and heard on the radio that a number of boats had ‘stopped off’ on the sandbanks for a nice cup of tea! Their day was obviously going to be even longer than ours.

We reached the No Man’s Land fort at about 3pm and could see Cowes and the finish line in the distance. We all breathed a sigh of relief as we had been sailing for 9 hours at this point. Our delight however was a little premature as it still took 3 and half hours and lots of tacking in heavy seas before we reached the finish line. We crossed the finish line at 18:28:06 precisely.

We then still had to sail back to our mooring in Calshot. We slept onboard that night and I don’t think any of us heard a sound until 8am.

We still achieved a respectable 48th in class, 133rd in group and (because of the handicap system used) a position, of 642nd overall, not bad at all!

As a footnote we heard that on finishing, the Hugo Boss boat, with Alex Thompson, Ben Ainslie and Lewis Hamilton on board, had been disqualified relating to the start line collision. Poor devils, I imagine the Farr 45 Atomic crew had a titter into their beers!

Did I enjoy it? Perhaps endure it is a better word, the sense of achievement is fantastic and the adrenalin rush during the race is great but the body was battered and bruised and the mind weary. Would I do it again? Ask me again next year!