Round the Island 2019 and throwback to Andy's race onboard his Sonar.

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The 88th Round The Island Race got off to a spectacular start, with Spinnakers flying for the first time in 9 years. The light airs presented a predictable challenge with the fleet often coming to a near standstill first at the Needles, then St Catherine’s point and again at Bembridge Ledge. Great respect should be given to the boats that stuck with it and finished, some trickling across the line almost 15 hours after the race started and long after the Race village party had ended. Of the 1210 boats that started the race, only 283 completed it.

Andy Cassell completed the race this year with Richard Hargreaves on his 30 Square Metre ‘Aeolus’ coming 53rd in their class and 60th overall, the conditions this time being in complete contrast to the white knuckle he once had on board his Sonar…

Andy Cassell, Sonar

‘A few years back the Island Sailing Club found the cost of Insurance for the nine strong Sonar Class they own too costly and banned all the Sonars from competing in the Round The Island Race, this partly due to new safety regulations.

If I wanted to take part in the race, my only option was spend the money (about £600 as it turned out) to get my Sonar fitted out with all the new safety features that had been introduced including Guard rails in order to get the boat IRC rated and therefore satisfy the race entry requirements.

The Round the Island Day dawned with the usual 0700 start, a very stiff breeze blew in from the south west, probably a steady 20knots but definitely gusting at least 25 knots. By the time we reached the Needles the effect of the wind against the tide was to create some huge breaking waves that often hid many of the larger boats from our view making the whole thing very exciting or nerve wracking depending on how you approach these situations!

We discussed the possibility of turning back, but decided that it would be even more dangerous to do that than it would be to continue. So on we went. Once we were out of the Needles channel and heading east things did calm down a little and the Spinnaker was hoisted. It was still a white knuckle ride to say the least with quite a lot of surfing and planning.

We made St Catherine’s point only for the sea state to increase once again whilst sailing over the edge of the overalls, we ended up with the mas in the water after a serious gybe, we rapidly lowered the Spinnaker, sorted ourselves out, re hoisted the Spinnaker and continued on our wild ride to Bembridge planning at some rig shaking speeds unable to see a lot due to the amount of spray.

On the homeward stretch it felt like a very long hard beat back to Cowes, but we made it safely, exhausted and exhilarated after a really tough sail.

A very tense wait for the results followed and we finished 11th overall against some of the largest boats in the race. A fantastic result for a 23ft/7metre open day boat with a small cabin and five crew.

A great night of self-congratulation followed in the Island Sailing Club!’


Ratsey & Lapthorn are UK sailmakers based in Cowes on the Isle of Wight. We specialise in racing sails, cruising sails and classic sails. Combining the latest sail making technology with hundreds of years of experience established within the loft, no boat is too big or too small.