Bognor sailor Phil Bray once vowed never to do the JP Morgan Asset Management Round the Island Race - but admits the lure of competing alongside some of the world’s most iconic boats has finally proved too strong.
Boat captain Phil Bray, and his two-strong team will be among 16,000 sailors who tackle the famous 50 nautical mile course around the Isle of Wight this Saturday.
Now in its 82nd year, the race, organised by the Island Sailing Club, is one of the largest yacht races in the world, regularly attracting more than 1,700 boats, and is the fourth largest participation sporting event in the UK.
Bray, who co-owns the Seal 22 Mark3 named Swiftly with Portsmouth-based sailing mate and skipper Jason Gavin, admits he always thought the race was mayhem and never wanted to put himself nor his boat in among the nautical maelstrom.
But having competed in Cowes Week with Gavin a few years ago, and revelled in the opportunity to see some of the world’s most celebrated racing yachts up close, Bray did a bit more homework on the island event.
He said: “I’d always wanted to see the race live and we talked about going to watch. But there was an instance at Cowes Week where ICAP Leopard sailed past us and it was just amazing to be up that close to level of yacht.
“I looked more in-depth at the details of the Round the Island Race and learned all about the staggered starts and the safety aspects, and decided with Jason that if we were going to see the race, we may as well be a part of it and put ourselves to the test. We got Swiftly in November so this is the first chance we’ve had to enter.
“To be on the same racecourse as boats like ICAP Leopard, and sailing alongside guys who race these boats for a living, is something to really look forward to. We have no idea how the boat’s going to perform but we will hopefully be reasonably competitive.”
Meanwhile, a retired surgeon from Bosham taking part in the Round the Island Race wants to raise as much money as possible for the Myotonic Dystrophy Support Group in support of three family members who suffer from the condition.
Skipper Kenneth Moore will race with daughter Katherine and son-in-law Fin.
Myotonic Dystrophy is an inherited condition and the commonest muscular dystrophy of adult life. It is the most variable neuromuscular disorder in terms of severity, age at onset and different body systems affected. Kenneth’s wife, Mary, has a daughter, son and 16-year-old grandaughter who are all affected by this degenerative condition.
The support group is a small charity run by volunteers and dedicated to offering the hand of friendship and support to all those affected.
This will be the sixth year 73-year-old Moore, who took up sail racing at 65, has entered the Round the Island Race with his 20ft Norfolk Gypsy, Kingfisher. She is the only Norfolk Gypsy to have ever completed the race, which she has done three times.
He said: “I’ve never done the race for charity before but having seen the impact the condition has on people’s lives, it seemed a perfect opportunity to raise awareness and funds for the Myotonic Dystrophy Support Group.
“It’s a nasty condition with very unpleasant side effects. Because it affects all of the muscles in the body, it can attack the heart and sufferers are extremely exhausted as it upsets sleep greatly. The gene can lay dormant for years and people don’t know they are carrying it.
“We’re hoping sailing conditions are more favourable than in recent years. In 2009 we retired through lack of wind while in 2011 it was so windy we retired before the start. Last year the conditions very windy and rough, but we made it round. It was hairy though.”
The event’s ‘Race for All’ ethos is unique in that enthusiastic amateurs get to race alongside some of the biggest names from sailing, sport and entertainment. Previous high-profile participants include four-time Olympic champion Ben Ainslie, double Olympic gold medallist Shirley Robertson and Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton.
The race starts on the famous Royal Yacht Squadron line in Cowes and most boats will finish the iconic race in eight to ten hours depending on conditions.
The Ellen MacArthur Cancer Trust – the charity set up by the history-making round-the-world yachtswoman to rebuild young people’s confidence in recovery from cancer through sailing – is the official race charity for 2013.
Through the #raceforall Twitter hashtag, JP Morgan will donate 10p per #raceforall Tweet to the charity, with the goal of raising at least £3,000, as well as ramping up the online social media buzz around the race.
JP Morgan Asset Management has been title sponsor of the race for nine years and is committed until 2014.
For more information about the 2013 Round the Island Race visit www.roundtheisland.org.uk