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Round The Island In A 1720

Following months of planning, a motley crew travelled to Cowes in the Isle of Wight for the annual Round The Island Race on Saturday June 15th. Here, Alex Barry recounts the trip.

Having competed in traditional inshore dinghy and sports boat events for over 20 years, the well worn windward/leeward 3 races a day format has lost it’s appeal somewhat since COVID broke the rhythm. This has brought me to seek out more adventurous endeavors while maximising the ‘fun with friends’ aspect of the sport recently through taking part in more unique events like the Cong to Galway, the Bloody Mary and hopefully the Archipelago Raid in time. One of those such great races is the Round The Island race. I’m not that into offshore racing, so this 50mile circumnavigation of the Isle of Wight is at the limits of my attention span and my tendency to suffer from seasickness but seeing images of 1,200 boats rounding the Needles in tight quarters has always fascinated me. The day after the race finished last year, I booked accommodation for 6 people in the Anchor Pub on Cowes High street for the 2024 race with no idea how or with whom it would happen.

Rather than ramble on, I’ll tell the story in picture and captions! The crew, made up mostly of National 18 sailors and Crosshaven residents were Alex Barry, Richie Leonard, John Coakley, Andrew Lane, Sandy Rimmington and Blake Walsh.

Given our experience in smaller boats, and the obvious challenge that we didn’t own an IRC racer, we opted to take the Cork300 1720. She needed a good clean and tidy and we had to borrow some sails and spare parts, but fundamentally she was in decent condition.


We trailered the boat from Cork to Rosslare on Thursday evening, took a late ferry to Pembroke and drove through the night to Southampton, arriving early Friday morning. Towing a 1720 is thirsty work and filling the 100 litre diesel tank in the jeep with a slow pump meant creativity was needed.


Sandy and Alex drew the short straws and took the ferry… John, Blake and Richie travelled in style with Andrew waiting for them in London.


We craned in in Southampton on Friday morning, loaded the boat with supplies and headed for Cowes. Craneage on the mainland was one of the harder elements of the plan to arrange but we go sorted with Gareth in Drivers Dry Berthing in Southampton.


We had a great 12 mile sail out the river Itchen and across the Solent to Cowes.

YOU MUST BE JOKING! Mid way across the Solent, we learned that the Sportsboat fleet and other smaller boats were cancelled due to the extreme weather forecasted. This was a pity, but in reality it was inevitable. All weather models were pointing to gusts of 35+knots on Saturday, not suitable for a 1720. We decided to push on regardless and make the most of the weekend.

All wasn’t lost, we hoisted the kite for a memorable sail along the Cowes foreshore before berthing in the Cowes Yacht Haven.


Sunset in Cowes. After many whatsapps, phone calls and some dock walking, we managed to get two spots for the big race on a J109 ‘Jukebox’ via a lead from Mark Mansfield. Straws were drawn and Alex and Andrew prepped for an early morning and a wet and wild ride ahead.

Alex and Andrew joined John Smart’s J109 Jukebox. Alex on main, Andrew trimming jib. Jukebox went on to complete the race in 6hrs 47mins, seeing top true wind speed of 37knots, sustained breeze of over 25knots and finished 1st J109, 2nd in class and 20th overall, a result the team were delighted with given there were 950 entries and less than 100 boats finished. 



Meanwhile back at base, the lads got up early, watched the start, had a double breakfast and visited the local sites such as the classic boat museum.

Many museums were visited..

Leaving Cowes on Sunday morning after a good night on the town; ready for another brisk crossing of the Solent heading to Southampton for craning out.



Lifted out and packing up in Southampton, ‘Where It All Began’


Essential nutrition for the long road trip!


Blake killing time in Tenby en route to Pembroke, the famous lifeboat house from Grand Designs in the background.


We made it back to Cork on Monday morning after the overnight ferry from Pembroke to Rosslare. The trip was bitter sweet, we didn’t get to complete the race as a team but we ticked many of the intended outcomes.. we had a great adventure, some great sailing and most importantly we had great craic. Unfinished business and a template for the future means we may well be back again.

Thanks to Tom Mapplebeck, Mark Ring and Gavin Deane for organising the boat. Thanks to Nick Walsh and Peter O’Leary for the sails. Thanks to Mark Mansfield for the connection with the Jukebox crew. And of course thanks to those at home who supported us through the weekend.

What’s next? The best adventure race of them all.. the Ballinacurra Cup on Saturday 22nd June.


Highlights of the 2024 Round The Island Race-

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