A Sea of Colour

When it comes to sailing spectacles, Round the Island is about as big as they come.

Whether you’re a fan of the sport or not, you’d be hard pushed to find a more impressive sight than the rainbow of 1,400 or so spinnakers that circumnavigate the Island’s coastline each year.


“It’s a carnival at sea,” said Dave Atkinson, commodore of the Island Sailing Club, Cowes, which has organised the race since its inception in 1931.


For Dave, the uniqueness of Round the Island is what makes it so special.  “I think it’s one of those bucket list events people want to do,” he said.


“Sailing is a unique sport in that you can be a first timer on the same course as all the world champions and all be doing exactly the same thing – there aren’t many sports where you can do that.


“I love the uniqueness of it. You’ve got a course of 60 miles and every part is different, it’s a challenge for everybody.”
Dave has been involved in Round the Island for 37 years and has competed many times.


With all the Island’s beauty on display it must be hard to pick a favourite part of the course but, for Dave, there’s one particular point that stands out from the rest.


He said: “From the water, the coastline looks pretty spectacular but my favourite part is Blackgang Chine looking back across Atherfield and Brook. When you see all the coloured spinnakers coming towards you it’s pretty special.”


It may come as a surprise but Round the Island is actually prepared five years in advance. The port authorities in Southampton require that much notice to arrange for part of The Solent to be closed to commercial traffic for three hours during the race.


However, things didn’t quite go to plan this year when a date clash with the IW Festival meant organisers had to move the event from its usual slot in June.


Dave said: “We had to pull in a lot of favours to move it. It has had a knock-on effect on numbers, which are slightly lower than normal.”


By the time race day comes around it’s hoped numbers will be up to their usual level. You can still enter up until 12pm on July 4th.


Because of its long history, stunning scenery and challenging conditions, competitors come from all over the world to take part.
This year, crews are travelling from as far afield as the US, The Netherlands and Italy.


The race is also popular with celebrities, with the likes of Lewis Hamilton, Prince Harry and Denise Van Outen, having featured in the past.
Dave said: “They do it because they melt into the background. They can be among 15,000 others and still enjoy the day without anyone really knowing they are there.”


With all the major prep work done well in advance, the day itself is usually a formality but it still requires the help of around 150 volunteers to make it happen.
Dave said: “I’m on edge leading up to it but race day is usually quite enjoyable. I’m lucky to have a great team around me with many hundreds of years of expertise behind them. Every year is a highlight.”


This year’s Round the Island Race takes place on July 7th.


Watch the action unfold from 6.30am on Cowes Parade and use our guide, right, to choose the best vantage points throughout the day.
Download the live tracking app or log on to https://tinyurl.com/y7uyqno4 to track the progress of competitors.

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