Round the Island Race 2011 Press Conference huge success

Dame Ellen MacArthur led the list of sailing luminaries to grace the stage at the Island Sailing Club’s Press Conference earlier this afternoon when she spoke about her love for this Race and the joy she gets from sailing with the young people racing with the Ellen MacArthur Cancer Trust.. L-R: Richard Simmonds, Ellen MacArthur, Mike Perham, Jessica Watson, Ben Ainslie. - Round the Island Race 2011
Patrick Eden
J.P. Morgan Asset Management Round the Island Race 2011 is a 50 nautical mile course around the Isle of Wight, starting and finishing in Cowes.

On the eve of the historic 80th Anniversary Round the Island Race, commencing with the first gun at 0600 hrs tomorrow, the Race organisers at the Island Sailing Club (ISC) in Cowes, Isle of Wight, are delighted with the level of media interest being generated in this year’s Race. The Club and Race title sponsor J.P. Morgan Asset Management hosted a strong turnout of national, regional and local media at today’s Race Press Conference. The lower marquee at the ISC was overflowing with VIP guests, competitors, TV crews, photographers and writers as the sailing commentator and today’s MC Richard Simmonds invited one famous name after another to take to the stage.

Guests included Commodore of the Race hosts, the Island Sailing Club, Mr Rod Nicholls, Dame Ellen MacArthur, Ben Ainslie, Mike Perham and Jessica Watson, Tom Richardson, Julian Everitt, and Raymarine’s weather guru Libby Greenhalgh.

Direct quotes from those interviewed at today’s press conference:

Ellen MacArthur
'I think this Race is special because I live on the Isle of Wight, that is a big reason for me. Also, it was one of the first races I did in my Mini Transat boat and it’s around the Isle of Wight which is beautiful. I think what has made it special for me over the last few years is because of the Ellen MacArthur Cancer Trust and I cannot think of a better way of racing round the Island than with these young people who are a) having fun, and b) truly inspirational.

'The Cancer Trust is a very special charity; we help young people cope with their illness by taking them out on the water and building their confidence. Everyone who sails knows just how special it is to be on the water because it is an amazing feeling of freedom. I think that having 1,908 boats racing tomorrow and if everyone is aware of what we do and supports us in some way, that makes a huge amount of difference.

'First and foremost, the huge benefit the Ellen MacArthur Cancer Trust gets from this Race is the young people out there having an adventure, and it really is an adventure because it is 50 miles starting and finishing in the same place. It is an amazing opportunity for those people and they love it. But is also important for us to be the official charity for the Round the Island Race because to have the support of the race, thousands and thousands of sailors out there all taking part in the JP Morgan Asset Management Round the Island Race, and they feel like they are all sailing for the Trust and that was crucial to us and that is something we are going to build up over the years but to be here and have that fundraising in what are difficult financial times is absolutely key.'

David Poskitt – EMCT sailor
'I did the Round the Island Race last year so I know more or less what to expect. Sailing with the Trust sort of proves to me that because I have an illness it doesn’t mean I can’t take part in sports like sailing. Also, because there’s a lot of teamwork involved in those you sail with, you build up great friendships.'

Gary Copeland from Derbyshire– was the record-breaking entry at number 1876 (final entry figure is 1908)
'We have a Cowes Classic, built in 1962 next to Lallows Boatyard in Cowes. I’ve never ever done it before but my sister Gill has, so she’s the expert. We are really looking forward to being part of this amazing event. Our boat is based at East Cowes but we commute every three weeks from Derbyshire.'

Julian Everett – Racing Shallot, sister ship to Glass Onion.
'I have won the Gold Roman Bowl once in Glass Onion in 1982. As far as favourable conditions are concerned I really don’t think it matters. It doesn’t matter if it is blowing hard or light. You don’t race anybody else you just try and get round as fast as you can.'

Richard Simmonds: 'In some ways over the past 80 years, everything’s changed but nothing has changed at all, and a lot of that is due to where we are standing right now and the people of this Club.'

The Charity Cup is presented for the most money raised for the charity by an individual. Dennise Shepherd raised £6,000 for Breast Cancer Care for her 201 Race and she wins the Charity Cup. To a round of applause Dennise said, 'I feel a bit of a fraud because my husband and my parents did most of the fund raising while I just had a lot of fun.'

Gold Roman Bowl winners

Tom Richardson 1965 – 'We won on Firebrand which was built in Lallows, Cowes. A beautiful varnished Sparkman and Stephens boat. We had a great race that year and managed to pull of a result and won it. But tomorrow Hamish and I will be racing her again, sadly without Dennis Millar who is no longer with us, but this time with Ed Dubois who now owns her.

Julian Everitt 1982 – won the Gold Roman Bowl on Glass Onion
'We won the event by seven seconds but we didn’t know until later. This year we are on the sister ship – Shallot. Potentially competitive but it is all about tidal gate and where you are at the time. You don’t race the competitors you just try to sail your own fastest race, and try to avoid everybody. That is the key.'

Brian Appleyard 2010 – won the Gold Roman Bowl in 2010
'Interestingly we had no idea how well we were doing. We were in close contact with several boats of a similar handicap all the way round. We thought we’d beaten everything we could see but what the big boats were doing, we had no idea. I think it will be tough again this year because there seems to a lot of small boats with huge amounts of sails and they are going plan away like mad and we don’t do that. We are hoping for about 15kts.'

Michael Perham – British teenage solo sailing star
'We are sailing quite an average boat really and there are lots of average boats out there which can be so competitive so we hope to have a great day.'

Jessica Watson – Australian teenage solo sailing star
'First time here. This is also the first time sailing in the UK. We call a big fleet back home a couple of hundred boats but this is amazing.'

Richard Simmonds: You are nothing without winning the Gold Roman Bowl to add to your trophy and medal cabinet!

Ben Ainslie
'I have tried to win it lots of times. I feel a bit of a fraud turning up to this event because there are so many winners from the past so I think I need to have a bit of a chat with these offshore experts over here (Ellen, Michael Perham, Jessica Watson). I am on a potentially competitive boat this year – a brand-new Ker 40 KERONIMO which has been going well on the local racing circuit plus we have a really great team onboard including Will Greenwood who knows a bit about winning Rugby World Cups. I think we are going to be quite heavy but by the sounds of the forecast we might be okay tomorrow. We’re looking for 25kts.'

Libby Greenhalgh – presenting the Raymarine Weather Briefing at the ISC this evening at 1800 hrs
'I think at some point someone will be smiling because the sun will be out at the end of the day. We are expecting a building breeze. It will start out about 15kts and will potentially increase to 20-25kts especially round the back of the Island with the south-westerly creating nice big waves; there’ll be plenty of excitement. Definitely put your oilies on!

'Basically you have a low pressure moving in creating a bit of an overcast, drizzly start and as we go through the day and the skies clear, just expect a bit of a thermal enhancement which will add 4-5kts to the forecast, so definitely expecting that to continue, and this will in some ways perhaps favour those smaller boats in the building breeze.'

Don't forget to make your donation to the Race Charity the Ellen MacArthur Cancer Trust. It's really simple to do. Just go online and select a boat and crew member who you would like to support and buy a virtual mile of the Race.

Round the Island Race website