Back to basics for Sir Ben Ainslie

– A slight change of pace for Sir Ben Ainslie in a Scow on the Beaulieu River yesterday – photo Julio Graham

A slight change of pace for Sir Ben Ainslie in a Scow on the Beaulieu River yesterday – photo Julio Graham

Sir Ben Ainslie made a guest appearance yesterday at the Buckler’s Hard 50th anniversary and redevelopment celebration regatta.

Ainslie, who was keen to embrace the spirit of the event, enjoyed a fun sail up the Beaulieu River in a Scow with the Hon Mary Montagu-Scott at the front end.

In sparkling sunshine and a light fluky breeze, they headed the fleet up the charming, winding river to Buckler’s Hard where celebrations began to mark the completion of the two-year/ £2m redevelopment project.

Following an afternoon of regatta fun, visitors and guests enjoyed a special awards ceremony hosted by Lord Montagu.

 To mark the occasion Ainslie was presented with a certificate granting him the Honorary Freedom of Beaulieu River, while fellow special guest Sir Chay Blyth received his certificate for Honorary Freedom of Beaulieu River that was granted to him by Lord Montagu’s father at the original marina opening in 1971, almost 50 years to the day.

 Ainslie said: “I just think it is really nice to be able to enjoy the water for enjoyment’s sake. It makes a real change from my professional sailing, which is all very serious. This is all about the grass roots and it doesn’t get any better than this particularly with such glorious weather.

 “Beaulieu River is just stunning and I have many fond memories of being on this River, so it is really special to be here today.’’

 Talking about plans to enjoy his Freedom of the River, Ainslie added: “I feel honoured to have been granted this privilege and to have a boat here one day would be my dream.”

Sir Ben Ainslie enjoys a relaxing afternoon with the Hon Mary Montagu-Scott and Lord Montagu – photo Julio Graham

Sir Ben Ainslie enjoys a relaxing afternoon with the Hon Mary Montagu-Scott and Lord Montagu – photo Julio Graham

Lord Montagu commenting on the occasion said: “It is impossible not to be aware of the huge feeling of goodwill amongst all the mooring holders. I don’t think anybody is here out of duty, we are all here because we want to mark this occasion and celebrate all that’s good about the Beaulieu River.

“Although I never doubted the redevelopment would be a good idea, we really didn’t know what obstacles we might run into, particularly environment ones. Thankfully everything came together surprising well. Yes it took two winters to complete and there was disruption and times when the current mooring holders were affected but today shows it’s all ended very well. We now have 66 new marina berths with larger berths to suit vessels up to 20m. We’ve upgraded all the electrical services, improved the Wi-Fi and have a new dedicated visitor area.”


Burnham Week 2021 open for entry – Full steam ahead for premier east coast regatta

Dragon racing on the River Crouch – photo Roger Mant

Dragon racing on the River Crouch – photo Roger Mant

Burnham Week Ltd (BWL) is delighted to announce Burnham Week 2021 is now open for entry writes Sue Pelling.

This premier east coast regatta (28 August-4 September) at Burnham-on-Crouch traditionally takes place to include the August Bank Holiday, which means now is the time to plan that all-important nautical staycation.

Book your holiday at this east coast beauty spot with eight days of fantastic racing and prizes on offer for both weekend and mid-week racing. There is something for everyone at Burnham Week with a wide range of classes to choose from including spinnaker and non-spinnaker racing divisions. The day boat classes such as the Dragon, Squib, and local one-designs (Royal Burnham and Royal Corinthian One-Designs) always enjoy a good turnout. For the first time also, BWL has expanded the event to include divisions for stand-up paddleboards, kayaks and river swimmers.

Annie Reid – BWL Chairman – said: “We are very much looking forward to welcoming you all – previous and new competitors alike – to Burnham Week 2021. With so much on offer, never has there been a better time to enjoy staying on ‘home turf’ for a fun, family holiday in Burnham-on-Crouch. With plenty of local accommodation and camping facilities, and so many places of interest to visit nearby, Burnham Week 2021 is definitely one to consider.”

For a three-day short-break, the Bank Holiday weekend racing is hugely popular with not only the Multihull Offshore Cruising & Racing Association (MOCRA ) but also dinghy fleets, which offer a series of weekend races for Ospreys and mixed handicap classes, or any class that can muster a fleet of seven.

The final Saturday is Trophy Day and, for IRC classes, includes a chance to win the prestigious Town Cup, which is being run alongside the Houghton Cup (one of the oldest offshore races on the East Coast) in conjunction with EAORA (East Anglian Offshore Racing Association).

In response to competitors’ requests Edwin Buckley – PRO – said he hopes being flexible will encourage wider participation in Burnham Week 2021: “Flexibility is a common request from competitors, and we are setting up to do just that. First starts will be at midday – some fleets are looking for one start each day and other fleets are asking if they can have two starts each day, midweek. The answer is: ‘Yes, you can’. We are going to be flexible and provide the racing each fleet is aiming for.”

The Squib fleet is always well supported – photo Roger Mant

The Squib fleet is always well supported – photo Roger Mant

Buckley was also keen to point out that, should Government restrictions and guidance restrict activities at the time, plans are already in place. “We have a great team ready to adapt our regatta format and any social events we have planned.”

As well as the competitive nature of this iconic family regatta, Burnham Week’s fun social reputation is legendary. As usual there are events lined up at all three clubs (Royal Corinthian YC, Royal Burnham YC, Burnham SC) throughout the week. One of the biggest events of the Week is Quay Day, a fun-packed day for everyone on Bank Holiday Monday (30 August).

Saxton and Lewis reign supreme Endeavour Champions – Ben Saxton and Toby Lewis make it five wins in a row

Ben Saxton and Toby Lewis fought back in today’s breezy conditions to secure the overall win of the Investec-sponsored Endeavour Trophy, for the sixth time and a record fifth time in a row, writes Sue Pelling.

Ben Saxton and Toby Lewis collect the Endeavour Trophy for the fifth time in a row – photo Roger Mant

Ben Saxton and Toby Lewis collect the Endeavour Trophy for the fifth time in a row – photo Roger Mant

In total contrast to the opening day’s flat conditions yesterday, the breeze was full-on today making it one of the most exciting final days seen in recent years with the results going right down to the wire.

After a relatively mediocre set of results from yesterday that included a couple of sixth places, Saxton and Lewis were on top form once again today and demonstrated their superiority on the Endeavour Trophy racecourse with an impressive 2,1,1 scoreline, which was just enough to snatch the title by just two points from James Peters/Maddy Anderson (RS200).

Chatting about his win, a delighted Saxton said: “Wining the Endeavour Trophy again is a great feeling. It was wicked fun out there and we sailed really well today.

“Given our results from yesterday, we needed to be low risk because although we were chasing it we didn’t want to count one of our sixth places. Our strategy was to be low risk on the start line then sail well and pick up places on the way round.”

Ben Saxton and Toby Lewis enjoy spectacular racing in today’s breezy conditions – photo Roger Mant

Ben Saxton and Toby Lewis enjoy spectacular racing in today’s breezy conditions – photo Roger Mant

Ever the gentleman, Saxton graciously put today’s success down to the expertise of his crew: “Toby’s level of sailing is just unbelievable. Going up the first beat we are usually about fifth or sixth but by the top mark we are leading. Without doubt, I can put that wholeheartedly down to Toby.”

Having finished the day yesterday in fourth place, Peters and Anderson (RS200) were on fire today with an impressive performance in race one where they managed to hold off Saxton/Lewis and score their first win of the series. They followed up this with a fifth and a second finishing the day just two points astern of the winners and in second place overall.

“We are really happy with second particularly as we didn’t sail brilliantly yesterday. We had a few problems with our downwind boat speed in the light winds, which cost us a lot but in the breeze today we were going really well. Very pleased and it has been awesome sailing with Maddy at the nationals and at this event.”

With an overnight lead of just one point, Luke Patience – Tokyo 2020 Team GBR sailor and Olympic silver medallist – and Mary Henderson, knew they had a lot on today. The breezy conditions didn’t seem to affect them dramatically, given their weight disadvantage against some of the heavier teams, until the final race of the day. Up to this point they still led the series from Saxton/Lewis but a capsize in the strong building winds dashed their winning chances.

Patience commented: “It was looking good until our capsize today but nevertheless I think Mary and I have done ourselves proud, particularly with a storming day yesterday. It has been a great weekend’s racing and a pleasure to smash round the course with all the best sailors. 

James Peters and Maddy Anderson (RS200) winning the first race of the day – photo Sue Pelling

James Peters and Maddy Anderson (RS200) winning the first race of the day – photo Sue Pelling

Sam and Ben Whaley (Laser) continued to sail as impressively today as they did yesterday and, by adding two fifths and a second to their consistent string of results, they finish the series in fourth place overall. They were always in the top three at the windward mark and just seemed to get better and better.

Having sailed the Endeavour two years ago the Whaley boys said their aim was to improve dramatically. Sam commented: “We didn’t know much about the RS200 two years ago and finished middle of the fleet, so went away, made amends and it seems to have paid off. This time the aim was to sail consistently so we are exceptionally happy it worked out. The other thing is we are Laser sailors so we know how to hike, which was just a big advantage today. We also seemed to make some good decisions which made all the difference.”

Smiles of success as Ben Saxton and Toby Lewis cross the finish line in the final race – photo Sue Pelling

Smiles of success as Ben Saxton and Toby Lewis cross the finish line in the final race – photo Sue Pelling

Nick Craig and Emma Clarke who are no strangers to the top end of the Endeavour fleet suffered a mediocre day yesterday were back on form today but couldn’t quite match the speed of the leaders and had to settle for three third places and fifth place overall.

Craig, who is known for his love of breezy conditions said: “As much as we would have loved a final windy race, it was absolutely the right decision to call it a day. As always it was a fantastic weekend of sailing and hospitality, and we look forward to hopefully returning in the future.”

Exactly as predicted, the big winds that had been building all morning arrived on cue in the closing stages of the seventh race so the final race of the eight-race series was cancelled. 

Edwin Buckley, event director and race officer commenting on his decision to cancel the final race said: “With the wind in excess of 25kts as predicted, and forecast to increase further I felt it prudent to call it a day to ensure the safety of competitors and safety-boat crew.”

Overall Results (7 races, 1 discard)

1st Ben Saxton and Toby Lewis (2018 Champion) 17pts

2nd James Peters and Maddy Anderson (RS200) 19pts

3rd Luke Patience and Mary Henderson (Olympian) 21pts

4th Sam and Ben Whaley (Laser) 25pts

5th Nick Craig and Emma Clarke (B14) 28pts

6th Christian Birrell and Sam Brearey (Merlin Rocket) 29pts

Startline action on a flooding tide – photo Roger Mant

Startline action on a flooding tide – photo Roger Mant


Patience and Henderson take overnight Endeavour Trophy lead – Olympian leads Merlin Rocket champs by one point

Olympian Luke Patience, and Mary Henderson (470) stole the show on the opening day of the Investec-sponsored Endeavour Trophy, with three wins in the bag writes Sue Pelling

Light winds and a strong tidal stream resulted in challenging conditions for the 30-strong fleet of champion sailors but Luke Patience – Tokyo 2020 Team GBR sailor, and Olympic silver medallist – and Mary Henderson took control of the event, managing to hold off closest rivals Christian Birrell and Sam Brearey (Merlin Rocket) in the first two races. They won the second race of the day by one minute 49 seconds. 

Olympic sailor Luke Patience, and Mary Henderson take overnight lead – photo Sue Pelling

Olympic sailor Luke Patience, and Mary Henderson take overnight lead – photo Sue Pelling

Another impressive performance was noted in race three, in arguably the most challenging conditions of the day, when Sam and Ben Whaley (Laser) led the race and managed to hold off James Peters and Maddy Anderson (RS200) in a close race to the finish line. 

Patience and Henderson were back on form again in race 4, in what turned out to be the final race of the day in slightly more favourable conditions on a course set on the River Roach. However, they certainly didn’t have it all their own way. 

Serial Endeavour Trophy winner Nick Craig, sailing with Emma Clarke (B14) executed one of the best starts of the day at the committee boat end of the line and managed to sneak inshore out the tide. Patience and Henderson, Ben Saxton and Toby Lewis (Returning Endeavour champions), and Cliff and Bec Milliner (Supernova) enjoyed a fantastic short-tacking battle up the first beat.

At the close of play after an exciting finale it was Patience and Henderson who used their light wind expertise once again to snatch victory from Craig and Clark as they crossed the line. Saxton and Lewis took third and the Milliners followed closely in fourth.

As they sailed ashore this afternoon, Patience and Henderson were clearly delighted with their performance and said they particularly enjoyed the final race. Patience said: “We had a fantastic race with Nick [Craig] in that one. I have to say we are lighter so we are at an advantage. Tomorrow with a bit of breeze, he’ll be back for sure.

“In this sort of competition you take what you get at the time. The key thing is to win when it is your conditions; it’s a crime if you don’t. We knew we had to win races today because it is likely it will be full-on with more wind tomorrow. And I am sure the bigger guys will be rapid, so we are just pleased to have done well when we had the opportunity.”

Talking about their game plan tomorrow, Patience added: “We aim to sail smooth and steady and, if there is wind, we aim to keep the ‘stick in the sky’.”

Craig commenting on his performance today said: “Light winds are not our conditions really so we were pleased we did so well in the final race. Not so good in the others because we just made some wrong decisions.”

Talking about the level of competition, Craig added: “It is unbelievable this year. Having three or four Olympians here is amazing. I wish we could do this every weekend, it is fantastic.”

3At the halfway stage of the series just three points separate the top three boats, which means there is everything to play for in the final four races. Patience and Henderson with three wins clearly have the advantage but with more wind expected tomorrow and a host of premier league, adrenalin-fuelled sailors ready to do battle to secure victory at the 59th Endeavour Trophy, there’ll be no shortage of exciting competition.

In the meantime this evening, competitors are enjoying the full Endeavour experience at the annual dinner at the Royal Corinthian Yacht Club where the solid silver Endeavour Trophy is on display.

Results (after four races with discard yet to come into effect)

1st Luke Patience  and Mary Henderson (Olympian) 17pts

2nd Christian Birrell and Sam Brearey (Merlin Rocket) 18pts

3rd Ben Saxton and Toby Lewis (2018 Champion) 19pts

4th James Peters and Maddy Anderson (RS200) 22pts

5th Sam and Ben Whaley (Laser) 23pts

6th Ian Dobson and Matt Mee (Fireball) 23pts


Annual champion of champions race over-subscribed

3So popular is this weekend’s Investec-sponsored Endeavour Trophy (11-13 October), there is now a waiting list to take part writes Sue Pelling.

Despite the doom and gloom of the weather forecast threatening to put a damper on the 59th Endeavour Trophy at Burnham-on-Crouch, there are still a few hopeful competitors ready to step in at the last minute. Included on the waiting list, should a place in the 30-strong fleet become available, is Stuart Bithell former Endeavour champion, 2012 Olympic silver medallist, and Tokyo 2020 Team GBR 49er crew.

Fellow Tokyo 2020 Team GBR sailor, and Olympic silver medallist Luke Patience (470) is among the other champions signed up and ready to do battle in this weekend’s intensely competitive, and challenging eight-race, one discard, series in RS200s.

One of the biggest challenges the fleet faces this weekend is to break Ben Saxton/Toby Lewis’ recent domination of the event. Saxton and Lewis have won the last four events in a row (five overall) and if they succeed again this year they will match the overall record number of Endeavour Trophy wins – currently held by Nick Craig with six wins to his name.

Craig (B14) will also be on the startline tomorrow, with former Endeavour-winning crew Emma Clarke calling the shots at the front, so the stage is well and truly set for some top-class racing. Craig commented: “The aim of course is to improve our standing. In preparation I have lost a bit of weight and now weigh in at 85kg, so it will be interesting to see how we go. More than anything, I am really looking forward to some good racing because the champion line up is fantastic this year. We even have James Peters here again. He is now a bit older and wiser, so I think we’ll have a lot on our plate.”

Team GBR 49er sailor James Peters (RS200), sailing this time with Maddy Anderson, narrowly missed winning the Endeavour Trophy from Craig in 2011 so is keen to complete some unfinished business. He said: “I haven’t been back since then for one reason or another but it does feel a bit like unfinished business. It should be great fun and I am really looking forward to giving it my best shot.”

At today’s opening Investec-sponsored training session headed by Steve Irish – one of the UK’s leading dinghy racing coaches – teams had a chance to pick up a few tips, acquaint themselves with their boats, and fine tune their brand-new suits of sails supplied courtesy of RS Sailing and Hyde Sails.

1A mid morning briefing, and on-the-water session was followed by a video debrief back at the club this afternoon, and a summary of the day’s training, was particularly helpful to first-timers to the event, and those unfamiliar with the RS200 class.

Alice Davis (RS Tera Pro) sailing her first Endeavour Trophy said gaining an entry to the Endeavour Trophy is a great opportunity: “I am most excited about sailing against the really good sailors here tomorrow. I think we shall learn a lot. The only thing is I haven’t sailed an RS200 before so having Steve Irish here to help us rig and set up the boat today is invaluable.”

Christian Birrell and Sam Brearey test out the conditions ready for the start tomorrow – photo Roger Mant

Christian Birrell and Sam Brearey test out the conditions ready for the start tomorrow – photo Roger Mant

Irish (pictured left, with Alice Davis), a former champion and Endeavour competitor, said the aim of the day was to get the fleet on the water to give them a chance to set up their boats for the conditions. “Although it was fairly windy today gusting up to 27kts, a total of 11 teams managed to get on the water for some useful practice.

“For many sailors here, this is the first time they’ve had a chance to look at an RS200 let alone sail one so, my aim is to ensure all the newcomers have their boats rigged correctly and have the correct tuning numbers for set up when they are on the water.”

Adding a bit of advice to fellow competitors, Ben Harden competitor (Blaze), and Sales and Marketing Assistant at Allen Brothers said: “I learnt to sail on the River Crouch, so I’m extremely excited to be able to race on my home waters against the best in the country. The Crouch is known for being very tidal and there are certainly tidal gains to be had. I’d recommend looking over some charts closely to find where the shallows are and keep an eye out for back eddies and tide bends, especially at the mouth of the River Roach.”

Looking ahead at the conditions for the start of the eight-race Endeavour Championship series, which kicks off at 1030 tomorrow, Edwin Buckley, event director and race officer commented: “Although we’ve had our fair share of wind today, the rest of the weekend is looking good. The wind tomorrow will be around 12-15kts generally from the south-south west and, because we are halfway between neap and spring tides, the conditions will be ideal for some really good sailing.” 

Commenting on event in general, Buckley concluded: “I am delighted that we have a great competitor list, it’s going to be a very competitive weekend. I hope all the competitors are all looking forward to the 59th Endeavour Trophy as much as we are, it’s shaping up to be fantastic. The Corinthian, the Endeavour Committee and the sponsors have been working so hard to make it a special event.”

Confirmed 2019 Endeavour Trophy entries

  • 2018 champions – Ben Saxton and Toby Lewis
  • 2020 Olympian (470) – Luke Patience and Mary Henderson
  • 29er – Oliver Evans and Will Jarman
  • 420 – Eleanor Keers and Faye Chatterton
  • 470 mixed – Jess Lavery and Alex Hughes
  • 2000 – Jasper Barnham and Richard Thomas
  • Albacore – Oliver Davenport and Georgia Booth      
  • B14 – Nick Craig and Emma Clarke
  • Blaze – Eden Hyland and Ben Harden      
  • Cadet – Daisy Nunn and Harry Chatterton
  • Fireball  – Ian Dobson and Matt Mee
  • GP14 – Sam Watson and Andy Thompson           
  • Hadron H2 – Jack Holden and Sam Mottershead        
  • K1 – Paul Smalley and Mari Shepherd
  • Lark – James Goss and Chris White        
  • Laser  – Sam and Ben Whaley         
  • Laser Radial – Jon Emmett and Arran Holman    
  • Merlin Rocket – Christian Birrell and Sam Brearey           
  • Optimist – Henry Heathcote and Kuba Staite
  • RS Aero 5 – William Caiger and Catlin Morley           
  • RS Aero 9 – Liam Willis and Will Taylor
  • RS Feva – Joey Taylor and Terry Hacker        
  • RS Tera – Alice Davis and Dylan McPherson           
  • RS200 – James Peters and Maddy Anderson        
  • RS800 – Luke and Emma McEwen   
  • Scorpion Peter Gray and Rachael Rhodes  
  • Streaker – Martin Plenty and Sam Waller
  • Supernova – Cliff and Bec Milliner          
  • Topper 4.2 – Sam Grayton and Raife Piggott    
  • Topper 5.3 – Oliver Allen-Wilcox and Freddie Howarth


Endeavour Trophy count down – Champions prepare for annual showdown at Burnham-on-Crouch


Photo Sue Pelling

With just one month to go until the Investec-sponsored Endeavour Trophy (11-13 October), entry has almost reached its 30-place limit writes Sue Pelling.

For the first time in many years response to the annual Endeavour Trophy invitation dinghy champion of champions’ event has been overwhelming, with organisers at the Royal Corinthian YC, and new sponsors Investec, looking forward welcoming the 30 dinghy class national champions to the home of the Endeavour Trophy.

Edwin Buckley – event director and race officer commenting on the event and the support of its new sponsor said: “We are very proud to announce Investec Wealth & Investment becoming a sponsor this year, we are all looking forward to working with them alongside our long term sponsors for this prestigious event.”  

Among those already signed up to do battle at this annual event are Ben Saxton/Toby Lewis who are not only keen to defend the title they won last year, but who are also looking forward to trying to make it a record five Endeavour wins in a row. Another win would also put Saxton in a position of matching the record number of Endeavour Trophy wins currently held by Nick Craig who has six wins to his name.

Offering a bit of advice to fellow competitors Saxton says although winning the Endeavour is all about tactics it pays to keep things simple. “The key to success at the Endeavour is to work hard but keep the tactics simple. We don’t do anything special but we just try to keep the right side of the tide and wind, and pick a few boats off here and there.”

Having secured his Endeavour Trophy ‘ticket’ this year with a win at the 2019 B14 national championship, Nick Craig, together with Emma Clarke (former Endeavour winning crew), will also be preparing for some serious competition. Last year they were neck and neck with Saxton/Lewis so it will be interesting to see what approach they have lined up this year in an effort to break Saxton/Lewis’ recent domination of the event.

To ensure a relatively level ‘playing field’ for the diverse entry that includes youth, singlehanded and doublehanded sailors, the popular one-design RS200 dinghy is the chosen Endeavour dinghy for the fifth year in succession. For continuity competitors will also have the use of brand-new sails courtesy of RS Sailing and Hyde Sails.

The Endeavour Trophy eight-race/one discard series takes place on Saturday and Sunday on windward/leeward courses, and is preceded on the Friday by the Investec Training Day. Presented by Steve Irish – former champion/Endeavour competitor and coach – the training day offers competitors, particularly first-timers to the event, and those unfamiliar with the RS200 class, a chance to acquaint themselves with the boat before racing begins on the Saturday.

Those keen to support the event and join the champions after racing on the Saturday evening (12 October) are welcome to attend the grand Endeavour dinner in the Trophies Room at the Royal Corinthian YC. Tickets are available to purchase at £22.50 in advance from



Bilge keeler wins 88th Round the Island Race 2019

Photo – Paul Wyeth

Photo – Paul Wyeth

No records broken this year but complex, light conditions proved ideal for local hot shot Jo Richards and team, who stole the show by winning the Gold Roman Bowl on the smallest boat in the fleet writes Sue Pelling.

Beating 1,210 other boats in extreme light, shifty conditions aboard ‘Eeyore’ the smallest boat in the fleet – a 55-year-old, 18ft modified bilge keel Alacrity – to win the coveted Gold Roman Bowl will undoubtedly go down in the history books as one of the finest Round the Island Race achievements on record.

Yves Le Blevec’s 100ft Grand Prix racing multihull – ‘Actual Leader’ – the largest boat in the fleet – was the favourite for a stab at outright record but with the light to moderate forecast, and the wind set to veer from east to west later in the day, record-breaking opportunities for the 88th edition of Island Sailing Club’s headline event diminished soon after the start.

Le Blevec and team however, did take overall line honours with a time of 7hrs, 33mins, 36secs. The first monohull to cross the finish line taking 9hrs 28secs was Sir Peter Ogden’s well-sailed Judel Vrolijk Mini Maxi ‘Jethou’. To give a good indication of how extreme the weather was this year, only 257 of the 1,210 that started, completed the race before the 2230 deadline. Even the eventual Gold Roman Bowl winner finished with just 23 minutes to go.

The passion to compete in this 50nm endurance race has never been so strong however, and given the fact the smallest boat and largest boat in the fleet headlined the event this year, Island SC’s tag-line #RACEFORALL could not be more appropriate. Even after completing his duty as official race starter, the likes of Michael Kitchen, the highly respected actor known particularly for his role as Detective Chief Superintendent Christopher Foyle in the ITV drama series Foyle’s War, was keen to get on the water to take part in his own boat and enjoy what he describes as “a brilliant event.”

Jo Richards (center) and Duncan Deboltz (right) receive the Gold Roman Bowl from record breaking global sailor Brian Thompson – photo Paul Wyeth

Jo Richards (centre) and Duncan De Boltz (right) receive the Gold Roman Bowl from record breaking global sailor Brian Thompson – photo Paul Wyeth

While undoubtedly there’s a certain amount of luck involved with succeeding in this sort of race, ultimately it’s about preparation, skill, tactics and making the least mistakes. Gold Roman Bowl winner Jo Richards – Flying Dutchman bronze medallist, yacht designer and regular RTIR competitor said it is also all about being able to recognise when luck it is going your way, and utilising it.

One of the first challenges of the day was keeping the right side of the line on the downwind spinnaker start on an ebbing tide. Richards, who was sailing with his regular crew David Rickard and Duncan De Boltz, agreed that getting the start right this year was particularly tricky. “The key was locating the line. For a downwind start my advice is to get onto the line with a minute and a half, or two minutes to go then sail back up. That way you know you are not going to be too far away and you can have a good look and make a decision where you want to be.

“If like us, everyone around you is quicker, there is no point in fighting for the best place on the line, you’re best off being a bit further down the line and finding an area of clear air. Having clear air and being in control is vital, and of course less stress!”

After the start Team ‘Eeyore’ basically sailed along the mainland shore to avoid the wind holes off the Island shore then judged favourable crossing over to the Needles to establish a good rounding position. Richards said being outside the bunch at the Needles is a no, no: “You can’t afford to be outside because the tide on Shingles Bank runs at 30 degrees to the Channel so it sweeps you off towards Bournemouth. You need to be wary of that, particularly in light conditions. If you end up on the outside, you’ll have no options and you’ll be totally controlled by others.”

The subject of exactly how close to sail round Needles Point is always up for debate, but Richards has one firm view: “I would seriously not recommend doing as we did and go through the Channel between Goose Rock and the Needles because it is a wreckless thing to do.”

Commenting on what he believes to have been one of the turning points in the race, Richards said: “We knew we could benefit from a wind bend between the Needles and Compton so, having rounded, we had to take a bit of a short term loss for a long term gain by tacking out in order to be on the inside of the wind bend. It seemed to work but we still had no idea how well we were doing overall.”

Richards says with this race it is vital have a strategic plan and stay in control of it. “It is all too easy to be ‘bullied’ away from where you want to go, so it is well worth taking a couple of ducks in order to do what you think is strategically good. You have always got to be thinking about long-term gains. If you have thought it through beforehand at least, you have a good starting point and if/when the conditions do change you have something to work on.”

Racing for 13+ hours in a short boat like ‘Eeyore’ that has no directional stability is quite uncomfortable and tiring and more like dinghy sailing said Richards. “Balancing the boat and keeping movement to a minimum is a priority. And because you can’t really find ‘the groove’ you constantly have to steer it, which requires lots of concentration. How did we sustain it? It was a management exercise and I seriously believe that the seven plus cups of tea on the way round was what kept the brain in order!”

Recalling when he finally felt comfortable about finishing the within the 2230 time limit, Richards concluded: “It really wasn’t until we were halfway across Osborne Bay. After we crossed the line at 2207 we still had no idea where we’d finished until we got ashore and looked at the results, so yes, it was an absolute lovely surprise.”

For Yves Le Blevec and his pro team aboard the 100ft Grand Prix round the world, racing multihull ‘Actual Leader’ they were unable to achieve anything other than overall line honours. Matt Sheahan – leading sailing journalist/commentator who joined the crew for the day said what impressed him the most was the way in which the crew handled the 100ft speed machine and their ability to keep it moving through the water in the light airs. “Because the team is so used to the size of the boat and they knew their angles really well they knew exactly when to call the gybes. They always got it spot on, which was extremely impressive.”

Sheahan was also amazed at how many boats risked crossing the bows of the huge trimaran in the jostling before the start: “You can’t really head up because it will accelerate so all you can really do is bare away. I think a lot of people out there are unaware of how dangerous it is slip across the bows. It’s like old age pensioners walking out on the M4; it’s ridiculous.”

Pip Tyler, Brand Ambassador at Neilson Holidays, one of the 17-strong contingent from Brighton, sailing with his brother Pete and crew on ‘Redeye’ – Jeanneau Sun Fast 3600 – in Division 1C finished seventh in class and 118th overall. As a race regular Tyler said among one of the things to do before you get on the boat is to read the sailing instructions: “Read them carefully. They look complicated but aren’t and it’s a shame to get bunged out for an error – especially the safety gear you have to carry. Also don’t get to engrossed in route/passage planning – have a strategy but keep it flexible for if/when the conditions change.”

Andrew McIrvine – RORC past Commodore and Admiral, and former class winner – who raced his 10-year-old Beneteau First 40 ‘La Reponse’ into second place in IRC Division 1A and 61st overall this year said it pays to study the tides: “Go and look at what is actually happening near start time. And watch lobster pots, buoys and your boat speed compared with SOG. Also watch the AIS of the boats ahead to predict wind speed and direction on various parts of the course.”

The classic boat contingent is always well represented at the RTIR and this year was no exception, with the likes of Giovanni Belgrano’s 80-year-old Laurent Giles One-off IRC ‘Whooper’ making her presence known once again. She won the Gold Roman Bowl in 2015 and this year won her division and finished eighth overall 

Belgrano, representing the home club and Gurnard SC said it is important to identify lessons learnt from previous years: “Our objective is to sail our very best, and our whole campaign revolves about practicing and preparing for the race. This year we definitely stepped-up, mostly from lessons learned last year. We pride ourselves in our starts, course tidal/wind positioning, and crew-work/sail-changing manoeuvres but it is important to measure performance.” 

Recycled winner – interview with Jo Richards

Eeyore – Gold Roman Bowl 2019 winner

Eeyore – Gold Roman Bowl 2019 winner

 modest as he is, there is no getting away from the fact that Jo Richards – international yacht designer, Olympic medallist, local racing hot shot and serial RTIR competitor – was a favourite to win the Gold Roman Bowl at some point. He lives in Gurnard, and has competed in virtually every Round the Island Race since 1975 so, not surprisingly this talented sailor has an extensive knowledge of the Island, and its complex tides/winds. Although he has come close in recent years with a couple of seconds overall, his win in his latest ‘recycling’ project ‘Eeyore’ the 18ft bilge keel Alacrity, which cost him £500, was probably the most challenging. “Actually,” corrected Richards, “It was the road trailer that cost £500 and the boat was thrown in for free!

“What possessed me? Well, having spent many happy family holidays aboard my parents’ Alacrity when I was young, and remembering how well it sailed, I thought it would be a fun project to get hold of one. However, the boat in question was advertised as a Vivacity, which I thought would do, because the design was fairly similar but to my delight, when I arrived to collect her I realised she was actually a 1964-built Alacrity.

“She came from a very gloomy place at Ratcliffe-on-Soar Power Station, near the River Trent sitting in a field and was in a terrible state. She was full of really smelly oily water so I had to drill a hole in the hull to get rid of the gunk before I trailed her back to the Island.

“The original deck had almost collapsed in on itself, so I totally replaced that with a deck I had hanging in the rafters of my shed. All the internals and bunks are original but I ended up putting an additional layer of laminate either side of the hull because I didn’t think it was strong enough for purpose. Unfortunately this made her heavier so her hull now weighs 400 kilos, while the keels only weigh 200 kilos, so it is not the ideal ballast ratio by any means.”

The new keels are, as expected, no longer bog-standard bilge keels instead they have been totally re-designed by Richards to look more like the keels on the ACC boat ‘Australia II’ without the wings. Richards added: “I did this to keep the keel in the water that runs parallel to the centerline. The good news is we still only draw 900mm so we can get into, and, importantly get out of a lot of places others wouldn’t even contemplate, so it is a great boat for the Round the Island Race.” 

In his summing up of how he sourced components for his re-cycled race winning boat, Richards confessed to carrying out a spot of ‘bin diving’: “I do a lot of work with Selden so I have special permission to raid their scrap bin, which is a lot of fun. I managed to recover an RS Elite mast second which, after a bit of modification and chopping the end off, worked perfectly, as did the National 18 mast I used as the boom. You’ll be delighted to hear that I did actually replace the original sails with a new suit of North Sails, which seemed to do the job.”


Gold Roman Bowl – 1st overall IRC – ‘Eeyore’ (Alacrity) – Jo Richards (Elapsed 13hrs, 36mins, 31secs

Line honours

‘Actual Leader’ (Grand Prix racing multihull) – Yves Le Blevec (Elapsed 7hrs, 33mins, 36secs)

Round the Island Race 2020

The 89th edition of the Round the Island Race is earlier next year – 30 May 2020.


Records to beat

  • Monohull course record: 3h 43m 50s – supermaxi, ICAP Leopard (Mike Slade) set in 2013
  • Multihull course record: 2h 22m 23s – MOD70, Team Concise 10 (Ned Collier Wakefield) set in 2017

Feature as published in Yachts & Yachting September 2019.