Picture 2,000 participating boats and 12,000 competitors battling for position, gladiatorial style, in what is already one of the most crowded waterways in the world. Organising this melee of boats and avoiding the potential yacht-ferry and yacht-supertanker sandwiches that may result, the Island Sailing Club held a safety briefing with the local authorities and drafted a risk assessment

The HOYA Round the Island Race is the largest and most popular yacht race of its type in the world. The 50 nautical mile race, which takes the fleet anticlockwise around the Isle of Wight, starts at 0800 on Saturday 16th June 2001 for the first group of boats off the Royal Yacht Squadron starting line at Cowes. A special Big Boat Class will depart at 1000 competing for the Hoya Trophy, along with five International America’s Cup Class yachts.

There will be fair tides from Cowes between 0600 and 1200, with High Water at 0740. With each of the 2,000 boats expected to converge on the finish line, this year the line will be extended by 50 metres and angled and situated further to the west in an attempt to reduce congestion and encourage the quick and early dispersion of the finished yachts. If the weather is favourable it is anticipated that new course could see records being set.

As far as weather is concerned, according to the Chief Race Officer, David Atkinson, it is the only factor that is likely to require the race to be postponed. Never in the past has the event been cancelled or re-scheduled, and it will be with fingers crossed that David monitors the weather over the week in the run up to the race.

Bearing in mind the size of the event, and the fact that the start of the race crosses the fairway to the entrance of Cowes and the course continues along a major shipping channel, the coming together of competitors and commercial traffic is at the forefront of the organisers’ minds. It is for this reason that the Cowes Harbour Master, Capt Stuart McIntosh, in particular requested a Port Marine Safety Risk Assessment document to be filed with him and the local authorities.

Representatives from Associated British Ports, Cowes Harbour Commission, Marine Rescue Solent Centre, Marine Police Unit, Queens Harbour Master, HMCG, Red Funnel Group and the R.N.L.I. were at the briefing in order to discuss the safety factors and to formalise the Port Marine Safety Risk Assessment for this year’s event.

The Marine Police Unit has agreed to operate boats at the start and the finish of race, keeping the channel clear for ferries and large vessels. At this time, there are no reported cruise ships or container vessels due in the area during the start of the race.

Red Funnel ferries operating between Cowes and Southampton will be re-routed around the centre of the Solent at the start of the race and during the finishing period as they were last year.

In contrast to last year, the Chief Race Officer hopes, there will not be a buoy marking the site of the wreck off the Needles. Last year someone, albeit with good intentions, marked the wreck, but ended up confusing many competitors who had no idea of what this uncharted buoy was, that didn’t receive a mention in the race instructions. So as a message to anyone with similarly placed intentions, the event organisers are asking that you don’t mark the wreck.

Breaking with tradition, some may say with sadness, the prize giving is officially going to be taken in at the seams and shortened after many found the whole affair dragged on. Though ybw is still trying to establish whether the ‘many’ are the miscreants that normally walk away with their tail between their legs pitifully trying to stuff their wooden spoon in their pocket.