The morning of the 81st JP Morgan Asset Management Round the Island Race dawned bleak and wet, with a brisk south-westerly breeze. As the fleet set off from the Royal Yacht Squadron line, started by Olympic 470 sailor Hannah Mills, the rain absented itself as over 1,600 boats headed in a westerly direction round the Isle of Wight.

Round the Island Race 2012

The fleet rounds the Needles - photo OnEdition

With the moderate south-westerly breeze predicted to increase, racing for some of the smaller classes was cancelled, including sportsboats, J80s, 707s, SB20s (formerly known as SB3s) and the small MOCRA multihull fleet (LOA less than 9.15m). There was also a safety call made for all competitors to wear lifejackets.

However the breeze remained fairly steady throughout the day, delivering a fabulous race for racers big and small, and of the 1,647 entries, 1,198 crossed the finish line by the 2200hrs deadline and 247 retired.

Record time... almost
The likes of Mike Slade’s 100ft Farr-designed superyacht – ICAP Leopard – revelled in the conditions and soon slotted in to her natural position at the head of the fleet. She led the fleet round the Needles but was soon challenged by last year’s line honours winner, Lionel Lemonchois and team on the Multi 50  Prince de Bretagne.

However, line honours went to the Multi 50 trimaran Actual, which crossed the finish line just before 1020hrs, finishing in a time of 03 hours, 09 minutes and 57 seconds to miss out on the outright record set by Francis Joyon in 2001 by just 1 minute, 28 seconds.

Skipper Yves Le Blevec, a Jules Verne record and Mini Transat winner, said: “We had three objectives for this race. Firstly don’t break the boat, secondly don’t arrive behind Prince de Bretagne, and in third it was to arrive in first overall across the line. We had those three points but we didn’t think about the fourth point – which was the record, and we missed the record by very little!”

Blevec said they weren’t aware of how close to the record time they were as they neared the finish: “We didn’t check that before, and when we saw the time we realised it was very close. But it was a very nice race, and on the south of the island there was big waves and windy, very nice conditions.”

They were followed home by last year’s line honours winner Prince de Bretagne, while first monohull home was the current course record holder ICAP Leopard, who rounded the Island in 03 hours, 59 minutes and 04 seconds.

Round the Island Race 2012 Line honours winner Actual

Line honours winner Actual - photo Onedition

Overall victor
The winner of the prestigious Gold Roman Bowl for first boat overall on IRC handicap is Tony Langley’s TP52 Manroland Sheetfed. Competing in IRC 0, Manroland Sheetfed (aka Weapon of Choice) was the second monohull to complete the course, finishing in 4hrs, 42mins and 12secs to win on corrected time by just three minutes.

Tony Langley’s crew held off a strong challenge by last year’s Gold Roman Bowl winner Sundowner. Jo Hutchinson’s Contessa 26 won IRC Division 3D by completing the course in 08 hours, 31 minutes and 17 seconds giving them a corrected time of just three minutes and four seconds slower than the TP52 and awarding them the Silver Roman Bowl for second overall in IRC.

Sundowner also faced a fierce challenge from another previous winner of the race, Ed Donald’s Madelaine, a Nordic Folkboat that won the Gold Roman Bowl in 2007. Racing in the same class, Madelaine finished just two and a half minutes behind Sundowner on the water, to take third overall on corrected time.

Also see Gael Pawson's story of the race, which she did aboard one of the Ellen MacArthur Trust boats, Sailing Round the Island with Ellen MacArthur.