Round Britain & Ireland Race

Starting and finishing in the Solent from the Royal Yacht Squadron Line, the Race is particularly interesting with many changes of weather and tidal conditions expected on the 1,800 nautical miles course around rugged headlands and off-lying islands. The teams are expected to take around 12 days to complete the course.

On 19th April at 1 p.m. the Round Britain Challenge started off Cowes on the Isle of Wight – 8 magnificent yachts racing clockwise round Britain. It was blowing Force 5 and ‘LogicaCMG’ (our boat) was second across the line, the wind too loud for most of us to hear the start gun. We looked back tosee ‘Vail Williams’ blown over on their side, then ‘TeamSpirit’ were blown over and worst of all ‘Spirit of Hong Kong’ with John Quigley (he had been on my watch for the BT Global Challenge 2000-1) on the end of a 35′ pole, he was dipped into the icy sea twice but he survived luckily, damp, to sail on.

The Solent spat us into the Channel at 17.2 knots all the way to the Fastnet Rock.  Then it was very calm as we sailed passed Ireland with our boat being dogged by ‘British Gas’.

We sailed on passed St Kilda and storms lashed the fleet as we sailed round Muckle Flugga – the northernmost tip of Great Britain. As we sailed down the east coast it got even colder, we no longer had the Gulf Stream to warm us and eventually we came to the Gas Field off the East Anglian coast. In the morning we had been 40 miles behind the leaders – catchable but difficult. It was decision time – we had managed to take 13 miles out of them, now which way would they go – east around the field to catch the SE winds predicted or straight through.

They decided to go east. We went straight through. As we came out of the field 3 miles in front of us was the leader, ‘Spirit of Southampton’.

It was a great game of cat and mouse as we sailed south towards the Thames Estuary and back into the Channel – at Dungerness we slipped passed them into lst place but did not see them change sails in the twilight. Now with binoculars trained on them for 48 hours we copied their moves and by Wednesday afternoon we were putting more distance between us. The unrelenting training was paying off.

Suddenly they headed off over the horizon – we stayed on our course not knowing where they were. At 10.30pm on Wednesday night 30th April during a radio call-up, to check all yachts were alright and get positions, they were 9 miles behind – their ploy had not worked.

We rounded the Needles and crossed the finish line – FIRST! A truly great race. It had taken us 11 days, 11 hours, 28 mins and 11 seconds.

The winning team!

Listen to Rona’s interview on winning Sir Chay Blyth’s inaugural Round Britain & Ireland Challenge. (Requires an mp3 player)