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Cyclops Marine 2023 November - LEADERBOARD

Nordic Folkboats in the Round The Island Race

by Chris Baldwick 13 Apr 2022 12:43 BST
Madelaine in the Nordic Folkboat UK National Championships © Eddie Mays

If you want to win the Round The Island Race, you need the right boat; one that will benefit from the tidal gates in this race. Past history tells us that the overall winner will generally come from either IRC Division 3D or IRC Division 0.

So, £200,000 might get you a second hand TP52 in IRC Div 0, but less than £20,000 will get you a boat in Division 3D with a better chance of a top place.

Within IRC Division 3D, the Nordic Folkboat stands out. It benefits from tuning up with close one-design class racing in Solent waters, which helps it sail to its' optimum in these conditions. No wonder then that the Nordic Folkboat has won the Gold Roman Bowl on four occasions in the last 16 years.

The first Round The Island Race, (RTI) organized by the Island Sailing Club, was run on July 11th 1931. There were 25 entries for this inaugural race, and it was won by one of the smallest boats in the fleet a 22ft Cornish fishing boat named Merry Conceit. This result clearly set a precedent for the smaller boats to take overall honours in this race.

By 1939 the fleet had grown to 80 entries but then the Postponement Flag had to be displayed until 1946 when racing once again resumed.

In 1941, while most of Europe was immersed in the Second World War, Sweden was neutral. The Royal Swedish Sailing Association decided to hold a competition to choose a design for a new keelboat, the competition attracted 58 designs. The judges could not decide on a winner, instead naming six boats as all having some good attributes. A young naval architect was tasked with taking the best features of each design and drawing plans for a new boat that incorporated them all into the new design. Construction of the first Nordic Folkboat was commenced at Arendal's yard in Gothenburg in October 1941 and was launched the next spring, on 23rd April 1942.

Not long afterwards, in the 1948 RTI, the first British Folkboat winner, Katrina, emerged victorious. This boat was a clinker-hulled British Folkboat built at Woodnutts in Bembridge in 1947. She still sails in Weymouth under an IRC handicap, and is as competitive as she was over seventy years ago.

By 1949 there were 121 entries and the fleet continued to grow as more family and casual sailors entered the event. It peaked in 2011 with some 1,908 entries and over 16,000 sailors taking part, which made it the fourth largest participation event in the UK. Not bad for what started out as a local regatta!

The first carvel-hulled British Folkboats were building in the UK around 1950. According to Yachting World the first two keels were laid in 1949 and the first carvel British Folkboat, Cyra, was launched in July 1950. She was owned by Jim Saunders, a Lloyds yacht surveyor, who went on to become the first UK Class Chairman. Cyra proved the competitiveness of the Folkboat by winning the Gold Roman bowl for first place in the RTI in 1958 and again in 1963, while Fenya won in 1962, making this a good period for racing a Folkboat in the RTI.

Ted Donald's British Folkboat, built by him post-war on a ration book in the Hamble - FB39 Celia Mary - won the Gold Roman bowl in 1994 skippered by his son Malcolm Donald and again in 1999 skippered by his grandson Ed Donald. The Donald family have won the Gold Roman Bowl four times in two different Folkboats, compared to the oft-quoted record holder ex-Prime Minister Ted Heath credited with four wins in three different Morning Clouds. (In fact Ted was not on board for either the first win or the second). The most frequent winner of the Gold Roman Bowl is the Rogers' family Contessa 26 Rosina of Beaulieu which has won three times (2002, 2003 and 2006).

The first Nordic One-Design Folkboat, Periwinkle, took the overall win and the Gold Roman Bowl in 1991 when Peter Bainbridge, sailing under CHS, corrected to first place in a fleet of 1,300 boats. This is thought to be the first Nordic One-Design victory in the RTI, as Katrina, while being a clinker hull was always rigged as a British Folkboat.

Over the years, since 1931, Folkboats have won the RTI under a number of different handicapping systems. Since 1999, the RTI has adopted the IRC handicapping system for the overall winners. Folkboats can also enter in their own class, but are not eligible for the overall prizes if entered in the Folkboat class.

Under the IRC handicap Div 3D, the Nordic Folkboat has been the outstanding competitor in the RTI. In the past sixteen years Nordic Folkboats have won the RTI outright on four occasions. They have been second seven times. The Contessa 26 comes a close second and the International Folkboat has also performed well. Both designs are derived from the original Nordic Folkboat.

The outstanding Nordic Folkboat under IRC has undoubtedly been GBR 707 Madelaine, sailed by Ed Donald. Remarkably, Madelaine has won the RTI twice in the last sixteen years (2007, 2014). She has been second on five occasions. Madelaine has been in the top five finishers in ten out of the past sixteen years. Unfortunately, in 2016 she lost her mast off St. Catherine's point, whilst under spinnaker and in 2020 there was no RTI due to Covid.

To enter the RTI under IRC, it is necessary to conform to Category 4 safety requirements. This involves the fitting of stanchions and lifelines, which puts off a number of Nordic owners who are loath to drill holes in their decks. The majority of Nordic Folkboats therefore enter the RTI in the Folkboat Class, racing as a one-design rather than under IRC.

Within the Folkboat Class, the outstanding boat is GBR 718 Crackerjack, followed closely by GBR 652 Stralende.

It is interesting to compare the Folkboat Class results with those of IRC Division 3D, in which the Nordic Folkboats compete under IRC. The RTI Folkboat Class generally starts 20 to 30 minutes after IRC Div 3D. So, the wind conditions at the start, and the tidal gate at the Needles will always be slightly different. A direct comparison between the Nordic Folkboats in the Folkboat Class, and those in IRC must bear this in mind. Nevertheless, in many years the leading boats in the Folkboat Class have recorded elapsed times that would have put them comfortably into the prizes under IRC.

2022 is the 80th Anniversary of the Nordic Folkboat. It is the most successful design in the history of the RTI, and its success under several Handicapping Systems demonstrates its remarkable competitive longevity.

Round The Island - Nordic Folkboat Results in IRC Overall (2006 - 2021):

YearPositionSail NoBoat name

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