Round the Island Race - Entries aplenty and a nipper from Kent

Read on to discover who the tiny helmsman is heading home after the Race & in charge of the J/80 sportsboat Jabba!
Peta Stuart-Hunt
The J.P. Morgan Asset Management Round the Island Race has continually attracted a healthy number of international teams and the #raceforall Twitter campaign launched in January has certainly helped to create a buzz of excitement and a new wave of interest across social media platforms.

The 2013 Race entry list already includes boats from Switzerland, Belgium, Netherlands, Austria and France and there are boats competing with crew members who are flying in from Australia, South Africa and the USA for the great occasion. The organisers at the Island Sailing Club expect around 10% of the final entry number to be first timers which is an optimistic sign that this Race still holds its unique place as 'Britain's favorite yacht race'.

So far, the youngest competitor we have come across is racing the J/80 Jabba (GBR169) with his father Vladimir. Michael Philips is ten and the family live in Orpington, Kent (aka the 'Garden of England').

We got in touch with Vladimir to ask how handy his youngster is around the boat and we were delighted to receive the following email:

'Generally Michael is quite a helpful member of the team on board. He's been sailing with me for the last five years. Last year he could not take part in RTIR but Michael raced on Jabba around the Isle of Wight in September in a race organised by Kabestan - the Russian sailing club in the UK.

'As we are going to have a full crew for RTIR 2013, Michael's main responsibility will be to maintain a good lookout for other boats and in particular those on starboard tack approaching us behind the jib. Michael is young and light, he has a pair of very sharp eyes fitting perfectly for this role. The last part of the course from the Forts to Cowes is particularly important, when many sailors tend to lose focus.

'Michael also helps with race preparation and he can take the helm on our way back to port after the Race, when the rest of the crew need some rest. He's written you this essay.'

Michael Philips essay - Round the Island Race
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Another interesting entry from Orpington is from Bobby Lawes who is racing Huahine, (GBR5517L) a Discovery 55. Bobby first entered the Race in 1959, 54 years ago, so we asked him about his Race history and how he feels the Race has changed since those days.

'My first effort in the RIR was in Tonga, a Fairy Marine Atalanta - 26 ft long twin lifting keels, hot moulded ply hull, designed by Uffa Fox. This was my father's first cruising yacht. One of my crew this year, Chris Evans, (not the famous one) was on that Race. During the 1960s - 1990s the family owned an Excalibur 36ft, Camelot, which did a number of RIRs.

'Huahine is kept at Port Solent and we rarely race, but we did do the 2008 race in her first year. Since then we have acquired an MPS (basically an asymmetric spinnaker), so we hope to sail a bit faster downwind.

'Although not a very regular RIR racer these days, I would say that the Race has retained its appeal for the occasional racer. Last year we saw the Race by chance as we returned to the Solent from Boulogne and sailed alongside the fleet all the way from Bembridge to Cowes (being careful not to take any wind)!

'The ISC rating system is a useful innovation although I gather it generates plenty of challenges for the race committee. Complainants should get a full rating. I'm not sure about race numbers in 1959 but seem to recall around 350. Of course the size of the fleet is part of the fun. Sensible skippers especially of large cruising yachts are well advised to control their enthusiasm on the start line - not so easy especially when you have a part-serious racing crew aboard as we shall have.

'I note that race progress can now be monitored in real time on the internet - who would have guessed that in 1959? Not even any cell phones then. My grandchildren can't imagine how we got by...!'

One of the world's most eminent and respected yachtsmen and the first man to perform a single-handed non-stop circumnavigation of the globe, Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, is skippering one of ten Clipper entries, CV 21, in this year's Race.

Sir Robin, the Chairman of Clipper Ventures plc and shortly celebrating his 74th birthday, has also graciously agreed to present this year's prizes at the Island Sailing Club at midday on Sunday 2nd June. Could he end up armed with silverware and shaking his own hand as a Class winner?

We were quite taken at the prospect of an entire roast dinner being cooked, served and eaten aboard the Hickman family's entry Sirius (GBR5927T), especially as it's their first ever attempt at doing the Race!

The Dehler 35CWS is owned and skippered by Mark Hickman from Honiton, Devon, apparently ably crewed by his two daughters Sarah and Anna. There's also a Ben Pym on the crew list. Mark says he is relying on his girls to get them round so, Ben, we hope you're practicing your gravy-making skills at an angle for Saturday Race day!

Make this the year you compete in Britain's favourite yacht race on Saturday 1st June. You can enter here.

Round the Island Race website