The Round the Island Race is sailing’s answer to the London Marathon as 1600 boats, crewed by some of the biggest names in sailing as well as keen amateur sailors, skim past The Needles, the Island’s distinctive rocky structure, round St Catherine’s Point and Bembridge Ledge and back into the Solent. It was first held in 1931 with 25 entries, and was the idea of Major Cyril Windeler, who commissioned a gold Roman-style bowl as a prize for the winner. The bowl was a replica of a Roman piece that had been dredged up from the Thames and put on display. The bowl that is still the top prize today was made by Bruce Benzie, the Cowes jewellers. However, it was not until the outbreak of World War II in 1939 that Major Windeler finally won his trophy, sailing a 7 ton auxiliary cutter “Kalliste” to victory.
The first start for the 2017 race is at 5.30am and the last start is at 7.10am. The boats pass round the Needles Lighthouse, along the south-west coast of the Island to St. Catherine’s Point and then up across Sandown Bay to round the Bembridge Ledge Buoy. The fleet then makes its way either side of No Man’s Land Fort and across Osborne Bay to the finish line back at Cowes. You can see roughly where the boats are expected to be at what time by clicking here.
Many of the Island’s pubs and cafes make the most of their spectacular viewpoint of the race. Try Character Inns who are opening their doors extra early from 8am for breakfast and have 5 points to watch the whole event unfold.