The 162ft Herreshoff schooner Eleanora was one of the sights of the race. Picture by CHRIS BOYNTON.
LINE honours in the 81st JP Morgan Asset Management Round the Island Race have gone to the Multi 50 trimaran, Actual.
The multihull, skippered by Frenchman Yves Le Blevec, streaked across the finishing line at around 10.20 this morning (Saturday) — just one minute outside the multihull record.
Actual’s provisional elapsed time for rounding the Isle of Wight was three hours, nine minutes and 57 seconds — just 1 minute, 28 seconds off the record.
Two short tacks put in by Actual before the line could have made all the difference.
In second place was another Multi 50, Prince de Bretagne, with Mike Slade’s ICAP Leopard came in third.
Leopard powered past Norris Castle, East Cowes, with all 30 of her crew stacked on the rail — they needed to finish at 10.53am to beat their own monohull record set in 2008.
Sadly though it wasn’t to be as they crossed the line at around 11am.
The morning began with a continuous flow of large yachts heading out of the River Medina, including Brian Thompson and the team aboard Vespucci’s Black Sheep, and a stream of new Sunsail F40s.
However, owing to the strength of the wind forecast, some classes — multihulls MOCRA racing class, sportsboats, J80s, 707s and SB20s — were withdrawn from the race on safety grounds.
Some of the well-known names competing in the race included triple Olympic gold medallist Ben Ainslie, who co-helmed the largest boat ever to compete in the race, the 162ft Herreshoff schooner Eleonora, and reigning 470 world champions Saskia Clark and Hannah Mills on Farr 45s.
Just as the rain eased and the murk across The Solent lifted, Hannah fired the starting gun at 7am to get the larger IRC Division 0 yachts and the race underway.
Werewolf made a good start while Mike Slade’s ICAP Leopard, with one reef, seemed to hold back. Further down the line, Eleonora was keeping out of trouble. She looked majestic under full sail and dwarfed all those around her.
Apart from Ainslie, the beautiful yacht was also hosting international rugby player Nick Easter. Radio 1 DJ Rob da Bank gave up his time to support the official charity, the Ellen MacArthur Cancer Trust. He sailed on Moonspray with IW Radio’s Paul Topping while Dame Ellen, whose sailing CV needs no introduction, was on board Dark Star with youngsters from the trust.
She texted the media centre as they headed into Hurst Narrows at around 9.10am to say: "everything is all nice and steady."
By Gurnard, Leopard had stretched her legs and was leading the fleet. She had already passed Newtown Creek by 7.30am with TP52 Manroland Sheetfed, owned by Tony Langley, lying in second place.
The TP52 had fallen back to third place by Yarmouth with the Multi 50 Prince de Bretagne in second.
At around 8.20am, Leopard was not far off The Needles and reporting lumpy seas and winds gusting 25 knots.
An hour on from the first start and yachts were still pouring out of the Medina, though with just four fleets to go, the huge mass of boats on The Solent was thinning out.
ISC group 6 included Cowes-based Gipsy Moth IV, the historic yacht on which Sir Francis Chichester sailed single-handed around the world in 1966-67.
In IRC 1, J/111 Manic was leading the fleet at 8.25am off Newtown Creek, along with the leading Gaffer, Coral.
By 8.30am, the first multihull had overtaken Leopard around the Needles and at 8.35am Slade and the two Multi 50s, Actual and Prince de Bretagne, were the only ones to have rounded the iconic rocks.
At the back of the fleet, the crew of Aqua Sulis, a Bridgedeck catamaran, had to be plucked from the water after capsizing off Newtown Creek. Conditions there were described as 20 knots with a moderate sea state.
Meanwhile The Itch, a Quarter Tonner in IRC3, was making her way back up the Medina, having been dismasted.
Back at the front and Mike Slade was making great progress having passed Atherfield and well on the way to St Catherine’s Point.
However the first boat to round the headland was the Multi 50 Actual at 8.58am, followed by Prince de Bretagne.
Speaking from on board Leopard, Louay Habib said: "The boat is shifting and we’re humming along."
Back at the Needles, Toe in the Water with famous ocean racer Dee Caffari at the helm was heading round the lighthouse with a group of about 20 boats while Toe in the Water Too was having its own race within a race with Erivale.
By 9.30am, Actual was speeding past Ventnor at 18.9 knots. Less than 20 minutes later she had reached Bembridge Ledge and at 10.19am she crossed the finishing line.
Meanwhile back at St Catherine’s Point, the swell was reportedly 1.5 metres with 15-20 knots of windspeed and getting increasingly choppy off Ventnor with 1.5 to 2 metre waves through to Bembridge Ledge.
Ex-international rugby player, Alex Woodhouse, who charted the IRC Group 0 yacht IDEA, said: "We’re blasting along at over 14 knots as we head for Bembridge. We are all having a really great time."
The crew on Bavaria 38, Solent Star said: "We’ve just put in a second reef as we are regularly getting 20 knots out here.
"We are approaching the Needles and there are boats behind us. It’s a lot of hard work but fun."
Meanwhile, family and friends racing in the event for the first time on yacht Havana were really enjoying themselves — sandwiches and coffee were the order of the day as they approached Black Rock off to the west of Yarmouth.
By 11.50am, Toe in the Water was heading back up into the Solent from Bembridge, along with the multihull Humdinger, while Toe in the Water Too was approaching the headland,accompanied by Team Volve 2.
For some, however, there was still along way to go with Free 'n' Easy, a Westerly Centaur racing in ISC 8 just passing the Needles.
At midday, people in Sandown and Shanklin were treated to the sight of the beautiful Eleonora sailing off the bay.
At around the same time the Ker 40 Apollo was just off Seaview, along with the Farr 45s Alice II and Werewolf. The pressure was on the navigators of the big boats as they ducked close inshore along Ryde Sands to get the best of the tide.
By 12.05pm, Grant Thornton's IDEA was about to become the third monohull on the water to finish.
Video courtesy of My Destination Isle of Wight http://www.mydestination.com/isleofwight