At 0730hrs last Saturday, Challenge Wales was slipping the lines at West Cowes, Isle of Wight. In fact quite a few other boats were doing the same thing. There was the chit chatter of voices, there was the jangle of halyards against masts, there was a buzz and excitement brewing…
Today was the day when novices and experienced sailors take part in one of the largest participation events – after the London Marathon and the Great North Run and Great South Run (we believe) – to race around the Isle of Wight.
Over 1,500 boats were registered for the event including Challenge Wales. We enjoy taking part in Round the Island Race as it is the only adult race that we do and is one of our fundraisers. Guests who were sailing onboard were paying to take part and by doing so they were contributing to our bursary fund and helping young people. Our bursary supports those who can’t pay the full amount to jump aboard Challenge Wales and helps them to have the same opportunity as anyone else. Who would have thought that giving to a charity could give you so much fun on the water!
0830hrs was our start time for the race and as always there was a battle to cross the line. Skipper Andy was pleased we had a good start! It would take over an hour and a half though for all the other boats to cross the start line and get into the race.
Throughout the 50 mile race we had a variety of conditions – mainly choppy waters and gusts of 35 knots, which resulted in no fewer than 311 boats retiring from the race and even one small boat sinking (don’t worry, the RNLI were on hand and everyone was safely rescued).
The team on Challenge Wales, most of whom had only met for the first time onboard the day before, had their jobs to do on the boat – from trimming the sails, to waving to the film crew in the helicopter to cooking breakfast to navigating! They had had a day of training the day before the race so by now knew the routines on board and putting what they had learnt hours earlier into practice.
Once the race is over there is still that exhilaration and excitement as crews head ashore and share their Round the Island Race tales. As we headed back into Cowes, and the mainsail came down there was a loud shout of “Challenge Wales !!” as a couple of volunteers were shore-side and gave us a welcoming and congratulatory well-earned cheer and wave.
One of our volunteers was tweeting and following the race from ashore so if you want to catch up on any of the race then visit www.twitter.com/challengewales search for #RTIR or visit the Round the Island Race website.
By the time Challenge Wales had finished just under 40 boats had crossed the finish line and 144 had retired. Challenge Wales finished the race in 7 hours 11 minutes and 28 seconds and was just over 3 minutes slower than when she took part in 2015! Like the other times we had raced other Challenge 72 boats, we once again beat them all (and not bad seeing that we were weighed down with food and fuel for the rest of the summer!).
Visit Wales are using the hashtag #FindYourEpic to showcase fantastic Welsh adventures, with the weather conditions we had and the exhilaration it brought we can certainly say that those onboard #FoundTheirEpic on Challenge Wales!
It was a fantastic effort, so well done Challenge Wales team, and what’s even more fantastic is the day on the water generated over £3,000 for Challenge Wales – a huge amount of money we are very thankful for.
Challenge Wales takes part in Round the Island Race each year to raise awareness of the charity and its activities. Adults take part in the event onboard Challenge Wales to help raise funds and may have no experience of sailing. Next year’s race is on Saturday 1st July 2017.