Seaford College were very privileged to have a yacht donated by the Royal Navy CCF, in order to enter in the 2018 Round the Island Race. This race is a lap around the Isle of Wight – approximately 60 nautical miles against a staggering 1,400 competitors.
Miss Evans, Head of Sailing at Seaford College tells us about the event.
We had been given a Sigma 38 called Amaryllis. We took the opportunity to train in it before the event over four sessions. The pupils all had to complete their competent crew course with the Navy. This is a five-day course, where they learn the ropes of yacht sailing and they completed this successfully during the Easter and May half-term holidays.
Due to such outstanding training by the Navy, our Seaford training sessions were able to focus purely on how to race. This is an incredible feat as two pupils, Dylan Kirkpatrick and Alfie Dudley Warde had previously not sailed before. It was a steep learning-curve that they both embraced with vigour and energy!
Training took place in the Solent, and pupils had the opportunity to try out several roles on the boat in order to find out what they were best at. With a solid team of five pupils from across the CCF, Seaford College was ready for the race. Unfortunately, due to another skipper grounding the yacht a few days before the race and sustaining severe keel damage, we were not able to race Amaryllis. The Navy, in all credit, managed to secure us another boat and switched our entries. This boat was much smaller, and not really equipped for racing, but it meant we were at least get out on the water and take part.
The morning of the Round the Island Race dawned and after a wonderful breakfast at 6am on the mothership Black Swan (again generously provided by the Navy to support us) we left dock for our start. The forecast was incredibly light and we were nervous about being one of the last classes to start – we questioned whether we would make the important tidal gate at the needles. The navigational calculations made this incredibly tight and failure to make it through Hurst Point and then around the Needles before the tide turned against us was crucial to finishing the race.
The pupils pushed hard through the Solent, with Myles Lawson calling the best navigational route, positioning us in the best tidal stream. The pupils worked hard trimming and moving their weight around to maximise our boat speed. We just made it past Hurst Castle in slack tide, and unfortunately the tide started turning before the needles. With a very frustrating leg in light airs, we just made it around the needles. Carefully navigating us around the wreck we finally made it round, and then had the tide with us.
This helped us get down to St. Catherine’s point, but then the wind completely disappeared and we were left becalmed as the sea breeze fought the gradient breeze across the land. The pupils worked hard trimming the spinnaker, especially Tom Lawson and Olly Randell May. Finally, we found some wind, but unfortunately missed our second tidal gate of the day Bembridge Ledge, where we then sat punching tide for almost two hours in once again virtually no wind.
We finally made it around and broke into the Solent, with some tide with us, and the last of the sea breeze. We were hopeful and had everything crossed that the breeze would last as we only had two hours to make it to the finish line off Cowes. Alas, the wind gods were not on our side, and, with the sun dipping, the land breeze started fighting the sea breeze and we were once again becalmed.
We still kept trying, in the hope we would get the slightest puff, but disappointingly, sunset came, then 10pm our cut off time. With the line right in front of us, we had to announce our retirement from the race. The pupils were incredibly disappointed after 14 hours of non-stop racing, focus and concentration. We had all worked so hard and shown resilience in tough conditions. I can safely say it was the toughest Round the Island Race I have ever competed in and we had everything stacked against us not finishing in our small boat. With these conditions, to be so close to the finish line (less than 1.5 nautical miles away) was a real achievement and we were proud of ourselves for that. The pupils had demonstrated incredible comradery and determination.
According to Alfie Dudley Warde “We will be back to deal with our unfinished business!”
You can see a short video of the race here: