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We're off and running for the 2017 Round the Island Race. Photo: Joe McCarthy

The 2017 Round the Island Race sets off in brisk conditions

Author: Peta Stuart-Hunt   Date: 07:25 Saturday 1 Jul 2017

The wind is steadily building as the 1,340+ yachts amassed in Cowes, Isle of Wight, for the start of the 2017 Round the Island Race, the 81st, with the first class start at 0530. Eve Branson, British philanthropist, child welfare advocate, and the mother of Richard Branson was the star turn at the Royal Yacht Squadron as she was delighted to have fired the first starting gun. 

With all fleets now started it has been a whirlwind of activity. The breeze has certainly been higher than forecast, which has seen the leading boats making excellent time to the Needles.

Concise 10, the MOD70 trimaran and fastest boat on the water this weekend, started at 05:40 and made the Needles by 6:10. Their most recent communication is that they passed St Catherine's point at around 06:50 and are now heading to the east side of the Island.  

The first monohull to round the Needles was the Volvo70 Sanya Lan at around 06:30.  

In IRC 0 there is a big battle between the Fast 40+ fleet with last year’s Silver Roman Bowl winner, Invictus leading with Sir Keith Mills’ son, Alex Mills onboard. This fleet are now all past the Needles.  

In fact, so fast has the start been, that as of 06:50 some 200 or so boats had already passed the Needles.  

It was not a rounding without any drama through as TP52, Gladiator hit the famous Varvassi Wreck. They report from onboard that: “It is not a big hit but there was definitely contact. We have slowed to check everything is okay with the boat and all seems good, no major damage.”    

Elsewhere, everyone seems to be enjoying the fast conditions. Chloe Jones 17, has been helming Ellen MacArthur Cancer Trust 4 – the Race’s Official Charity – ‘Whirlwind’ and reported that they were about to go round the Needles just before 7am. Chloe was particularly pleased to be making the rounding before the last of the Trust’s four boats had even started. “It’s amazing fun and brilliant to learn new life skills,” she reported.