The annual spectacle of Round the Island Race takes place this coming Saturday 29 June 2019. Attracting over 1,700 boats and 16,000 sailors, it’s one of the largest in the world and the fourth largest sporting event in the UK after the London Marathon and the Great North and South Run.
Competitors arrive from all over the UK, Europe and as far away as USA in order to follow the 50 nautical mile course that spans around the Isle of Wight. The race starts at the famous Royal Yacht Squadron line in Cowes, then the fleet races west-about to The Needles, round St Catherine’s Point and Bembridge Ledge buoy, and back into the Solent to the finish line at Cowes.
The race is a great opportunity to watch world-renowned sailors racing against families and first-time racers. Although the majority of the fleet will take many hours to complete the race, the course records stand at 3h 43m 50s for a monohull boat, set by Mike Slade on ICAP Leopard in 2013, and 2h 52m 15s for a multihull boat, set by Sir Ben Ainslie on J.P. Morgan BAR also in 2013.
Where to watch the Race
If you’re not racing, then make the most of this unique spectacle and grab yourself a spot along the course. The first boats leave Cowes at 07.30am this year and the fastest could complete the course in just three hours! The vast majority of boats start later and can take more than twice this amount of time, so there are lots to see all day.
The very short version is this: Cowes for the starts, then Sconce Point at Fort Victoria, The Needles, Chilton Chine, St. Catherine’s Point, Ventnor, Bonchurch, Culver Down, and finally Ryde Pier.
Here is a more leisurely look at where you might want to head to really enjoy the day. Times are for the main fleet:
7:30 – 9am Yarmouth
A lovely spot to start your day with a walk up Yarmouth Pier and watch the main fleet pass by.
9am-11.30am The Spyglass Inn
Head to The Spyglass Inn for a hearty Full English breakfast as you watch the boats come round from St Catherine’s Point. The terrace of The Spyglass is a lovely vantage point, you might not want to leave.
11.30am-5pm The Culver Haven
Set on top of Culver Down, make the most of this vantage point and enjoy a pint and a spot of lunch as the boats pass by.
1pm – 7pm The Three Buoys
Located close to the water’s edge, watch the Round the Island race with the dramatic Portsmouth skyline as the backdrop. Serving fantastic lunches and dinners, booking is advisable.
All day Cowes Seafront
You can catch the early boats and the late stragglers in Cowes all day. A great base is The Yachtsman on the parade. They are serving a full menu from midday and is a great place to view the race action and soak up the sailing atmosphere.