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Osprey Class Round The Isle of Wight Race

by Osprey Class Association 27 Sep 10:23 BST 23 September 2023

Seventy years ago, in 1953, the Cowes Corinthian Yacht Club held a race for centreboard dinghies around the Isle of Wight to commemorate the Coronation of the Queen. It was quite a controversial event at the time with nearly 200 boats of various classes from 12ft to 18ft long taking on the roughly 60-mile circumnavigation of the island. The race was won, after 11 hours of sailing, in a split-second finish by Ian Proctor, Cliff Norbury and John Oakeley sailing the prototype Osprey.

In the subsequent years the Osprey Class Association have held Round the Island (RTI) races on three occasions 1978, 1988 and 2018. To race dinghies around the Isle of Wight requires suitable weather, and the 1978 race had to be shortened at the No Man's Land Fort due to lack of wind. Ian Proctor's words after winning the 1953 race was that the race should be treated for special occasions such as Coronations, Jubilees and Anniversaries.

With 2023 being both the seventieth anniversary of the Osprey Class and the year of another Coronation the time was right for another Osprey RTI race.

Thus a fleet of 15 Ospreys gathered at Lymington Town Sailing Club on Friday 22nd September for the safety briefing and ready for a very early start the following day.

The fleet launched at 06:30 for a short sail in the most gentle of breezes out to the start line in the Solent. They were treated to a magical sunrise as the boats glided out of the river. After a short postponement the race got under way at about 07:30 with the first "leg" to the Needles being a close fetch on Starboard tack. The wind building as the fleet headed west the Ospreys were fully trapezing by the time they reached the Needles. Matt Rainback & Phil Angrave, having just been crowned National Champions at Hayling Island, showed their speed rounding the Needles Lighthouse in the lead closely followed by Oscar Chess & Nick Daily-Hunt. The latter team having been National Champions in the past but not having sailed together for around 20 years slotting in where they had left off.

There then followed a very long run to St Catherine's Point. Many a crew complaining of a stiff neck after staring at the spinnaker for hours. The leading boats headed inshore across Brightstone Bay to cheat the tide and were followed by the majority of the fleet. At least one boat took it a bit far and got swamped by a breaking wave as they went too close to the beach. Three boats had a bright idea to head well out to sea hoping for the wind to swing around to the South. One bailed out early and headed back inshore while the other two found themselves around two miles behind at St Catherines! The leading two boats appeared to be tied together by elastic until approaching St Catherine's Matt & Phil gybed back inshore while Oscar & Nick in "Jammy Dodger" held on further out and rounded the lighthouse in the lead followed by Matt & Phil, Roger & Jamie Blake, Alex & Nick Willis and David Downs & Adam Southern.

These five boats then pulled away from the rest of the fleet past Ventnor and out into Sandown Bay, where the wind dropped leaving most searching for some breeze. Team "Jammy Dodger" however held onto their own bit of private pressure and planed off towards Bembridge Ledge. They were a speck on the horizon by the time the rest of the fleet got going again around Culver Cliff.

Oscar & Nick held an unassailable lead of some six minutes at Bembridge Ledge and as the wind filled in from the West reacquainted themselves with sailing fast with centreboard and rudder up across Ryde Sands. This time, unlike 2018, there weren't any seagulls standing on the bottom! There were plenty more snakes and ladders to be found in the Solent however, including the Hovercraft where the exhaust from the propulsion fans very nearly did for the "Jammy Dodger" and the Isle of Wight Ferry - not a good idea to try and pass in front of. (You know who you are!) Passing Cowes it was clear that Matt & Phil did not understand the meaning of unassailable and passed Oscar & Nick before sailing off into the distance beating up the West Solent in a now fresh breeze. Further back in the fleet there was also much changing of places; Terry Curtis & Peter Greig having gone out to sea at the Needles and been about two miles behind took an inshore course in the Solent and by Cowes were back among the fleet. They then proceeded to work through the fleet to finish fourth behind Mark Reynell & Chris Cheetham who were also revelling in the fresh conditions.

Matt & Phil finished after 8 hours and 48 minutes having turned a six minute deficit at Bembridge into an eleven minute lead over Oscar & Nick who themselves had a seven minute lead over the bulk of the fleet. All fifteen boats had finished after 9 hours and 25 minutes remarkably close after 60 miles of racing in a variety of conditions.

The Osprey Class would like to thank:

  • Lymington Town Sailing Club for hosting us and for the excellent dinner on Saturday evening.
  • Nigel Walbank and his team on board the mother ship acting as Race Officer.
  • The RIB crews who kept an eye on us all the way round.
  • All those who helped to organise the event.
  • Sailracer for supplying the trackers and the live tracking (nearly 3k live views with lots of people following the race).
  • Ian Proctor for designing and Richard & Mark Hartley for building the fantastic Osprey dinghy.
Will we do it again? That was a question that was asked of Ian Proctor seventy years ago. As he said then, "we were very lucky with the weather and it doesn't do to tempt Providence too often, but if we do I shall certainly want to be in it." Watch this space.

Overall Results:

PositionSail NoHelm CrewClub Elapsed
11352Matt RainbackPhil AngravePoole YC08:48:08
21348Oscar Chess Nick Daily‑HuntTata Steel SC08:59:19
31295Mark ReynallChris CheethamPoole YC09:07:38
41234Terry Curtis Peter GreigWeymouth SC09:08:52
51349Rob ShawIan LittleKielder SC09:09:08
61322Ben TownsendEd RichardsonEmsworth SC09:10:20
71382Roger BlakeJamie BlakeGreat Moor SC09:10:48
81373Richard MarshallArthur ButlerPoole YC09:11:06
91360David DownsAdam SouthernTata Steel SC09:11:26
101317Simon TownsendJack TownsendEmsworth SC09:13:38
111291Alex WillisNick WillisHayling Island SC09:14:46
121292Rob HeatherJonathan OsgoodTeignmouth SC09:15:50
131363Rob BurdekinAlistair RaynardBlithfield SC09:16:04
141183Ken BrownRobin Toos HobsonIsle of Sheppey SC09:19:30
includes 2% penalty (SI 14.1)
151316Keith McDonaldAndy BritainSmalltown SC09:24:54

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