Last year's JP Morgan Asset Management Round the Island Race. Picture by Jennifer Burton.
A FLEET of some 1,650 yachts will set sail from Cowes as dawn breaks over The Solent tomorrow (Saturday).
Among those jockeying for position in the 7am start of the 81st JP Morgan Asset Management Round the Island Race will be Mike Slade returning to defend his monohull record of three hours, 53 minutes and five seconds set in his Farr 100 sloop, ICAP Leopard, and Francis Joyon racing his bright red maxi multihull IDEC with a determination to beat, and at the very least retain, his multihull record of three hours, eight minutes and 29 seconds.
Robert Veale is racing his beautiful 1958 Bermudan sloop Danegeld in the classic yacht class. In 1960, members of the Island Sailing Club each paid £1 to freight her from the Royal Docks in London to Bermuda aboard the Royal Mail freighter, Ebro, to take part in the Bermuda Race.
After five days of heavy winds and rough seas, Danegeld finished as second foreign boat on corrected time. Danegeld then sailed in the transatlantic race to Marstrand in Sweden.
Ben Ainslie will be making his final public racing appearance prior to his bid for a fourth Olympic gold medal, on board Eleonora, a 49.5m schooner.
Ben said: "When I was asked to sail on Eleonora it was an offer too good to turn down.
"This will be my seventh Round the Island Race and I’ve competed in everything from an open 60, Extreme 40, Kerr 40 to an SB3 — but nothing is going to match sailing the 50-mile course on this beautiful classic."
The Ellen MacArthur Cancer Trust has entered four boats, providing 25 young people in recovery from cancer the opportunity to compete in the race.
They will be joined by Dame Ellen MacArthur along with race first-timer, Radio 1 DJ Rob da Bank. MacArthur will be racing with seven of the trust’s young people on the elegant 90ft sloop Dark Star. Joining Rob on Moonspray will be IW Radio presenter Paul Topping, who will broadcast live from the boat throughout the race.
Good vantage points for spectators are Yarmouth, The Needles, St Catherine’s Point and from Sandown Bay and Appley seafront, where the boats are likely to have spinnakers up.
People can support the charity by buying a virtual mile of the race through the 'Buy a Mile’ scheme at http://facebook.slipstreamstudio.com/buyamile
• The Race Village, situated in Cowes Yacht Haven, will be open from midday today (Friday).