Were These Round the Island Race Crews in Over Their Heads?

Elaine Bunting of Yachting World asks whose mistake led to 75 distress calls during a race billed as a family friendly event. We say you must be prepared to handle the worst conditions.

For the 1,303 crews who completed the 50-mile JP Morgan Asset Management Round the Island Race off Britain’s coast on June 25, it was a quite an achievement in windy, murky, and at times quite rough conditions. But it’s also quite legitimate to ask whether some crews and yachts could perhaps be a bit better prepared for a race that some years gives quite tough offshore conditions. This year, those conditions were well forecast. And they weren’t really that severe, at least not in the overall scheme of things. According to Yarmouth lifeboat crew, the top gusts were 30 knots and there were seas of 6 to 10 ft. Yet the statistics tell of a race that stretched rescue services to the full. Solent Coastguard handled some 75 distress calls.

Audrey Pedersen, Coastguard watch assistant from C Watch, on duty all day on Saturday, said, “I’ve never known that many incidents during a day in my ten years here.” The Coastguard were sometimes handling “four, five or six incidents at a time,” she added.

“I started counting PanPans and after 22 I lost track of it. It was just non-stop.”

RNLI crews from Yarmouth, Lymington, Bembridge and Calshot assisted with 23 different emergencies, including four dismastings, three broken rudders, three head injuries (one man was airlifted to hospital after being hit by a spinnaker pole) and at least two man overboards.

It’s up to skippers to decide to race and to carry on racing. Still, even accepting that race conditions were very unpleasant, I do wonder if the Round the Island Race this year and perhaps in future too, wasn’t a victim of its own successful image as a fantastic day out for the family. On a moderately windy day it can also be quite a rough day offshore.

For the complete story, go to www.yachtingworld.com.

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