Local boat Eeyore, an Alacrity 18 Bilge Keel from Cowes, has laid claim to the prestigious Gold Roman Bowl, winning this year’s Round the Island Race after a long tactical day on the water.

With a crew of just three: skipper Jo Richards and his friends David Rickard and Duncan De Boltz, the 18 foot bilge keel was the smallest boat in the race.

A member of Gurnard Sailing Club and Cowes Corinthian, Richards talks through his winning race:

“It was an interesting but long race, we actually started at the opposite end of the line from the rest of the fleet which paid us reasonably well in the end. We got down to The Needles middle of the fleet and then there was almost no wind. We bounced off a couple of rocks on The Needles just for good measure and then it’s tempting to stay out of the tide and we did a couple of little tacks and thought no we need to be strong minded and go out, because you always get a wind bend down off Freshwater and if you sail along under the cliffs it just leaves you in a hole eventually.”

After competing in the Round the Island Race more times than he can remember and with two seconds already under his belt, Richards comments on his win:

“It’s probably about time too isn’t it? We’ve been second a couple of times over the years but reality is there are some very good sailors out there and very good boats; you’ve got to be lucky and get the breaks. Unless you’ve done the preparation and put yourself in a position to get the breaks it doesn’t happen, but you do still have to be lucky.”

The race offered challenging sailing conditions for the crew of Eeyore, which circumnavigated the Isle of Wight in 13 hours, 36 minutes and 31 seconds. The fleet of over 1,200 entries contended with fluctuating wind speeds from every direction, with only 257 boats completing the race before the 10.30pm deadline.

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The first finisher (with a time of 7 hours, 33 minutes and 36 seconds) was Yves Le Blevec’s Graghjghnd Prix racing multihull – ‘Actual Leader’ which led for much of the race. In light to moderate winds she managed to shake off her closest on-the-water rivals – Jethou, Ino XXX, Lady Mariposa and Mini Y.

The award for the first monohull across the line, at 16:30:28 (taking 9 hours and 28 seconds), went to Sir Peter Ogden’s Judel Vrolijk Mini Maxi ‘Jethou’ which almost snatched the lead from ‘Actual Leader’ earlier in the day. Despite hitting the bottom and hooking a lobster pot the crew of ‘Jethou’ had a great race with owner, Sir Peter Ogden, commenting: “Our top speed was 20knts which was 2 minutes after the start, but it went downhill after that and we averaged 7.9knts over the course. The best sail of the day was the stretch from the forts to the finish where we enjoyed a really nice breeze.”

This year’s race saw thousands of sailors compete on over 1,200 yachts in one of the UK’s largest sporting events. The Round the Island Race is a true race for all with competitors enjoying a spinnaker start for the first time in almost ten years.

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Michael Kitchen, actor, television producer and competitor, was the official race starter of the 88th Round the Island Race. Known particularly for his role as Detective Chief Superintendent Christopher Foyle in the ITV drama series Foyle’s War he said: “I couldn’t feel more honoured with the invitation of the official starter of this iconic race. It is a huge privilege. I have competed at the event many times and we always have a cracking time. It is a brilliant event.”

The Round the Island Race is sponsored by Helly Hansen, Raymarine, MS Amlin and Chelsea Magazines.