Round the Island Race Success

A 5.00am wake up call, a 5.30am departure from the pontoon and a 6.30am race start didn’t dampen spirits on Challenge Wales | Wales’ Tall Ship today, and after just over 11 and  a half hours Challenge Wales crossed the finish line in the famous Round the Island Race.

In what is the largest yacht race, with over 1,200 boats taking part and with around 10,000 participants taking to the water it really is  a spectacle like no other whether you are onboard or in the crowds watching and, if you are not doing either of those then following the fleet on the website race tracker can be pretty addictive too.

An early start for Challenge Wales crew means seeing a lovely sunrise

Challenge Wales, as a Class 0 vessel, was in the first group to start and as the cannon went off (fired with the press of a button by Dame Ellen MacArthur) it was a moment of excitement for everyone. For some of those on Challenge Wales it was their first Round the Island Race, while others had raced multiple times. But that didn’t matter as the exhilaration, anticipation and excitement was just the same.  Every 10 minutes for well over an hour another class of vessels would be facing the start line. Challenge Wales was the last of the Challenge 72 yachts to cross the start line. That gave us a bad start and in light airs which would be reducing through the morning, a bad start wasn’t what was needed.

The Challenge Wales charity uses Round the Island Race as one of its adult fundraisers which helps raise awareness of the sail training charity and also helps bring in revenue into the organisation to support our youth development programme, providing life skills to young people. It’s also one of the only opportunities where you will get to see several Challenge 72 yachts racing together against each other. And a great teambuilding event for companies, colleagues, friends or someone on their own to join in with.



An hour and a half into the race and we were making good progress and swapping places with the other Challenge boats.

As we went past the Needles, the spinnaker came out and as a spectator it is quite spectacular too see hundreds and hundreds of boats, all shapes and sizes turning into a mass of colour.

Pic of Challenge Wales  by Paul Wyeth on Round the Island Race website

Although we seemed well ahead of the other Challenge Boats we knew with light airs and tide it could be anyone’s race.

Challenge Wales managed to make good use of the wind and having a competitive skipper and team onboard and sailed ahead of the other Challenge 72’s.

At 1515hrs it looked like we were well ahead of the other Challenge 72’s but that almost changed as we ended up with little wind

A couple of hours later the wind dropped and it wasn’t until a couple of hours after that the wind started to pick up and we were able to gain some speed again and get across the finish line.

We finished the race,  beating again the other Challenge 72’s and the Clipper fleet, a few minutes after 1800hrs. Our elapsed time was 11 hours 34 minutes and 36 seconds, 18th in class and 283rd overall (which we don’t think is too bad seeing that 1,204 vessels started!). Here’s to next year…maybe!?

 

 

 

 

40 knot winds and exhilarating sailing

Ex-hurricane Gert was going to create some windy conditions in the UK and this would mean exciting sailing on the horizon for Challenge Wales crew and trainees.

After a crew change in Amsterdam we left in light airs, engine on, to Boulogne, France. We motored non-stop through the night and at times with the very quiet chugging of the engine we craved some decent wind. But it gave an opportunity for those who were sailing for the first time (ever) an opportunity to learn the boat and gain confidence in helming.

An important part of when we visit ports is to explore and learn. We enjoy experiencing new cultures and that is exactly what we did that evening, enjoying a well-earned meal ashore in a quiet picturesque village although after a short walk around we were particularly drawn to one menu…

 

Les Gallois had arrived in France….or is it Les Welsh?

From France, our next stop would be the UK. It felt like an age since we had been in the UK (we had left Aberdeen on 23rd June) and although we were looking forward to being back in the UK and heading home, deep down there was an unsettling realisation that this was also the end of our amazing summer of adventure Tall Ships Racing.  The winds were starting to change as the UK called. We had to cross the Traffic Separation Scheme in the English Channel and then it was tacking towards Eastbourne.

We spent the evening nestled in Eastbourne and the following day the wind we had craved for certainly showed up!

The Challenge Wales vessel reports into the Challenge Wales office twice a day, every day, and this morning due to the strong winds, which would be on the nose, the Skipper advised that a short sail to Brighton Marina would be in order to break up a long sail to Gosport…..and as we left Eastbourne the winds were getting stronger.

It soon became clear as the winds strengthened that Challenge Wales wouldn’t be able to get into Brighton Marina and we had to stay out at sea. What was to follow was not just challenging and relentless but one of the best sailing experiences we’d encountered in a boat that was built for these conditions and a new-found team that were going to go through a bonding and memorable experience like no other.

Challenge Wales was built for sailing around the world ‘the wrong way’ into the prevailing weather and with the wind on the nose it was a hard beat to get from Eastbourne to Gosport. This is where Challenge Wales came into her own.

Over 40 knots of wind were recorded across the deck, waves were crashing relentless across the boat soaking the crew (if any wet weather sailing clothing manufacturers want to give us some samples to test we’d be more than happy to!), the boat would slam down into the waves…..but with it brought a new found exhilaration and excitement to those onboard. And when it was time for the watches to change over it was with reluctance that those onboard handed the helm over to the next person.

Tired, wet, adrenaline-fuelled and buzzing from what we had all just achieved (it had been a 16 hour experience!) it was 0300hrs by the time we all got into our bunks after being moored up in Haslar Marina, Gosport.

The following day, with the sun shining and a breeze wafting past our banner flags we couldn’t believe the epic adventure we had had the day before and we reflect that we wouldn’t have wanted to have been in any other boat, other than Challenge Wales as she helped us safely cross the high seas.