The legendary four yearly yacht race which was established in 1966 by the Cockershell hero Major Blondie Hasler. The race comprises five legs totalling approximately 2000 miles. The course is sailed clockwise around the British Isles and Ireland leaving all islands and rocks to starboard. The race is open to professional and amateur yachtsmen in mono and multi-hulls from twenty eight feet up to fifty feet length overall.
Recognised as one of the most testing of the two handed races the event attracts experienced crews from Europe and the world. Many famous names in the racing world including Sir Robin Knox Johnson, Chay Blythe and Steve Fossett have competed. The race is a major challenge of navigation and seamanship. For those ashore the race can be easily followed as the boats carry Yellowbrick Trackers and their progress can be monitored via the event website.
The Race Director David Searle, a former race competitor and current member of the RWYC, anticipates a strong local and international entry of fifty to sixty boats to contest one of the world’s toughest coastal two handed races. The race record stands at fifteen days seven hours but sailors should allow about twenty three days to complete the event, including the four forty eight hour stopovers in Kinsale, Castle Bay, Lerwick and Lowestoft. For the competitors the stopovers offer a chance to recover, repair their boats and, most importantly, to get to know their fellow racers during the respite of the host ports.
The Round Britain and Ireland race is essentially five races in one with the results decided on accumulated time (IRC corrected). The legs are relatively short stages of three or four days where time spent at the helm and minimum sleep has to be balanced with the need for solo watch keeping and precise navigation. The high tempo of the race is maintained by the four restarts when the anticipation of closing the gap on the boat ahead or defending a lead on the boats astern raises the adrenalin of the crews for long periods often in testing conditions. It offers a unique way to experience the magnificent coastlines of Britain and Ireland.
The first leg from Plymouth to Kinsale is 230 miles long passing the Eddystone and Bishop Rock lights to finish at Bulman Rock. Kinsale Yacht Club is at the head of the accessible and safe harbour and is famous for its hospitality to visiting yachtsmen.
After a 48hr stopover competitors set sail on the second leg from Kinsale for Castle Bay on the island of Barra in the Outer Hebrides. The boats keep the Fastnet Rock to starboard at the beginning of this 440 mile leg past the south and west coasts of Ireland. They pass Mizzen Head, Bull rock, Great Skellig and Inishtearaght. On arrival the fleet moors or anchors in the shadow of the ancient Castle that lends its name to Castle Bay.
Leg three covers a distance of 420 miles. The yachts round Barra Head and sail north nor’ west 70 miles out into the Atlantic, aiming for the isolated volcanic archipelago of St Kilda, and thence north east to the Flannan Isles and Sula Sgeir. After rounding Muckle Flugga, the most northern point of the British Isles, the boats head for Lerwick, 61 degrees north latitude, on the island of Shetland. Being further north than the southern tip of Greenland, during June there is almost twenty four hours of daylight. The Lerwick Boating Club is the host for two days of jollity and warm hospitality.
Leg four is the longest at 470 miles south from Lerwick to Lowestoft, which is the most easterly point of the British Isles. The Royal Norfolk and Suffolk Yacht Club provides a very hospitable stop-over. Family and friends find this port the most convenient to visit being the most accessible by land.
The final fifth leg of 305 miles sets off south across the Thames Estuary to North Foreland and then west round all those familiar headlands; Dungeness, Beachy Head, St Catherine’s, St Alban’s, Portland Bill and Start Point. This south coast leg often proves to be where the podium places are decided due to the many tidal gates.
The combination of coastal racing, dramatic scenery and panoramas only visible from seaward provide an intensity of experience that is unique to the Round Britain and Ireland race and which is magnified by the close competition right up to the very last tacks off the Mew Stone on the approach to the finish line in Plymouth Sound off the RWYC Club House.