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Ridge Employee Takes on ‘Around the Island’ Race as part of Challenge70

Siobhan Baverstock from our Reading office took place in the Around The Island Race’ as part of our Challenge70 efforts this year where we are aiming to raise £70,000 for charity in our 70th year of business. 

Siobhan recounts the race below:

The ‘Around The Island’ race took place on 2nd July 2016. We, known as ‘Xepha’ attended and raced amid the 1,533 boats that started. The first start time was 8.30am with starts staggered every ten minutes until 10:10. Our start time was 9.50, amongst 200 other boats! The course is anti-clockwise round the island.

The forecast for 16-23 knots wind was a bit low and at the south side of the Island there were winds of 45 knot at 08:30, the direction however had been forecast perfectly, straight on the nose for the West Solent, so lots of tacking across the water, giving way to boats on starboard!

Xepha made a reasonable start, the crew of seven were on constant look out, most boats in the Division were on Starboard as we crossed the start line, when we started to approach the Island the boats started to tack, they had to give way, so looking behind, careful of those in front, those coming from the portside who’ll give-way we plan to tack, we’re getting up to 7 knots lots of speed to tack, so away  we go “Helm-a-lee” we tack, turn through the wind, pull the fore sail in get it all set and we didn’t lose too much speed, we started to gain again from 4 knots.   This was the situation for the next hour us giving way when on Port tack, being the stand-on vessel (go ahead) on Starboard there were a couple close passes, us close to the rear of the stand-on and vice-versa.

Down the West Solent to Yarmouth, we didn’t know but could have guessed that the first boat to have gone round was finishing she’d gone round at over 25 knots.   Hirst Castle is to our right hand side and the wind is strong, the sea is building into some big waves, we make decision to carry-on, this is the last easy place to turn round and quit.  Through the Needles, past the point where Alchemist has sunk earlier the RNLI are on station having recovered the 5 crew, we listened to one side of the recovery on the radio channel 16, and hearing the retirements on channel 22 with Race control.

We punch through the gap between “Shingles Bank” and the “Needles”, a very bouncy gap, and now we turn away from the wind so it’s now behind us,  and we started to try “Surffing”, when it went well we speed up to nearly 10 knots, when it went wrong we “Broached” turned right very sharply, as helm I had no control when that happened . Fortunately all boas had made sure there was enough room for this to happen, there were lots of us doing this, for the next 3 hours bouncing, smashing, and surfing.

Sounds fun to me, but you?

We approach St Catherine’s Point, the fleet compresses as the tide races around here against us,  there’s less in the shallow water near the point, Ps, shallow water 5mtrs – we only went in to 10mtrs, we were now with the wind square behind and the boom looking as if it would gibe, change sides of the boat, we surf doing 9.8 knots, big wave and away we go and “HEADS!!!” the boom gibes, Crasssh, no one’s head  has gone, so for a bad thing; it’s gone well, we’re are still ‘flying along’ slowly over-taking boats, it’s a race remember.  Wind speed has been around 30 knots.  On the radio we listen to the RNLI recovering and helping boats and people who have stopped having a good day, masts have gone, unfortunately one casualty was recovered to shore in Sandown and on to hospital.

The last leg from Bembridge Ledge to Cowes, tight to the wind, trying not to get too far out into the tide, streams of boats around us doing the same.  Made a couple tactical mistakes and we took a long time along here, and it got very interesting the closer to the finish all these boats trying to go through gaps between three boats the southern gap was our finish line, the northern was for other classes, so boats were aiming and changing course and them someone on starboard causes you to change course to give way.

FINISHED  19:40…

Send the race declaration by TXT, time, boat in front, boat behind, we’re now on our way to Port Hamble Marina in the river Hamble.  When we’re taking the sails down the engine starts and very quickly stopped, turns out there’s a rope round the propeller.  Thankfully a returning RIB takes us in tow and drops us on a hammer head at Hamble Point Marina.  Went for food, bought the RIB crew a beer.  Discussed the race, bloomin great, exciting, where’d we finish…

28th in Class…. 396th overall…

A busy day, for the Solent Coast Guard, RNLI, Island Sailing Club, and 1533 boat crews who totalled over 16,000.  Us we had a great day.  It was disappointing to catch a rope, divers will free that this week.

The Crew of Xepha support the RNLI, we offer a way you may do so: “Just giving”


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