There¹s all to play for in this year¹s J.P. Morgan Asset Management Round the Island Race

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Whatever the result, Ben Ainslie will make history tomorrow on board Eleonora, the largest yacht ever to compete in the Round the Island Race.

Photo credit: Matt Dickens, onEdition

Big guns have J.P. Morgan Asset Management Round the Island Race in their sights

The scene is set for another classic J.P. Morgan Asset Management Round the Island Race, as big breezes and some impressively large yachts promise to make the 81st running of the event on Saturday June 30 another superb spectacle.

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On the eve of the 50-mile race, which sets off at 0700 hrs tomorrow from the Royal Yacht Squadron line in Cowes, a pre-event press conference saw the skippers of the two largest monohulls take to the stage.

With 60-foot and around 100 years of yacht design between them, ICAP Leopard and Eleonora represent two very different styles of sailing but both will be competing in the IRC 0 class tomorrow, starting first among the 1,600 plus boats competing in Britain’s largest yacht race.

The modern racing yacht ICAP Leopard is the current monohull race record holder. This 100ft Farr Supermaxi, helmed by Mike Slade, set the current track record at 3 hrs 53 mins 05 secs, in 2008, and will be here to defend her title. Owner Mike Slade commented, “It would be nice to beat our own record tomorrow but looking at the conditions out there today, it is going to be a real bash. We are hoping for about 18-20kts. From our point of view we are looking at getting round safely. A gybe around St Catherine’s Point will be lively!”

At 162-foot the classically styled Eleonora is the largest yacht ever to compete in the J.P. Morgan Asset Management Round the Island Race. The beautiful ‘Big Class’ schooner will welcome Team GBR’s Ben Ainslie on board to share the helm, before Ben aims to win a record fourth gold medal in the Finn class at the 2012 Olympics next month.

Mr Zak, the owner of Eleonora, added some detail, saying: “Built in 2000, Eleonora is a replica of the schooner, Westward – the 1910 Herreshoff-designed yacht. The same materials have been used on her and she even has a wooden mast. We race and cruise her and we are looking forward to our first ever Round the Island Race on her. The race is going to be spectacular.”
Another yacht sporting classic lines is the 22ft Nellie, the oldest boat in the fleet, celebrating her 150th birthday this year. Scott Waddington, Nellie’s owner and skipper, said: “We come from the same DNA as Eleonora. The Itchen Ferry boats were built for the skippers of the big boats so the Westward skipper would have had one of these boats built for him, from the off-cuts. She is the oldest in the fleet, built in 1862 by Dan Hatcher, a very reputable boat builder of the time, and is 22ft on deck with a 10ft bowsprit so she is 32ft long. We’re looking forward to it, we’re very excited about it.”

Fabulous fundraising for a fabulous cause
Britain’s favourite yacht race also raises thousands of pounds for good causes, and this year’s chosen charity is once again the Ellen MacArthur Cancer Trust. This year 26 young people recovering from cancer and leukaemia will be competing in the race on board four boats, joined by Trust patron Dame Ellen MacArthur and Radio 1 DJ Rob Da Bank, competing in his first Round the Island Race on board Moonspray.

Also speaking at today’s press conference Ellen MacArthur, racing on Dark Star, said: “Everyone is really looking forward to it. There will be seven of us on board and at this stage I don’t know what I will be doing. My job is mainly looking out for the young people, talking to them, helping make sandwiches and the tea. I love sailing with the youngsters.”

Seventeen-year-old Esme Macintyre from Kinloss, Scotland, will be sailing with the Ellen MacArthur Trust. She said: “I have sailed a bit before, in dinghies but this is my first Round the Island Race. I had cancer a few years ago and I have been a long time learning to walk again. I am kind of getting back on track. Sailing has really kept me going and having trips like this planned is something to look forward to.”

The sailors will also be ‘raced’ on land by 125 cyclists pedalling around the Island to raise money for the Ellen MacArthur Cancer Trust. Representing J.P. Morgan, cyclist Andy Graham explained: “Some of us will try to beat the sailing record time. Over the last five years we’ve raised £83,000 for the Ellen MacArthur Trust so the aim is to break the £100,000 barrier this year. We only need about £10,000 now so we are on track. Those who want to donate should go to justgiving.com.”

With tomorrow’s south-westerly breezes forecast to build from 20 knots throughout the day the cyclists will have a race on their hands to get round before the first yachts. Raymarine race meteorologist Libby Greenhalgh commented: “The forecast is starting to be fairly consistent. We have low pressure dominating the area and as we’ve gone through the last few days the wind strength has been building and building, and it is looking like quite a windy race. At start time we will have between 15-20 knots from the south-west but we will see this build fairly quickly and as these early boats reach the Needles it will be at 25kts. Round the back of the island the sea state will be quite rough as an effect of the big winds over the last couple of days. Thankfully the wind will not be squally but just a solid 20-25knots and stronger breeze will be coming in at 1800-1900hrs in the evening which means those taking the longest time to get round will be finishing in the strongest breeze up to 30 knots.”

Libby Greenhalgh will be holding the Raymarine Weather Briefing, giving competitors an in-depth view of the forecast conditions, at 1800hrs tonight in the Island Sailing Club.

Rod Nichols, Commodore of the Island SC and PRO of the Round the Island Race, said: “After a year of planning, we have done all we can at this stage and we are fully prepared for tomorrow’s race. The only thing that concerns me at the moment is the weather. But I would rather have too much wind than not enough.”

Race Partners 2012: Britannia Events, Haven Knox-Johnston, Henri Lloyd, Nautica Watches, Old Pulteney Whisky, Raymarine, Red Funnel, Small Luxury Hotels of the World & Volvo Car UK.

You can follow the J.P. Morgan Asset Management Round the Island Race online via the race blog and GPS tracking at www.roundtheisland.org.uk. Please also feel free to tweet using – #RTIR – throughout Race Day!

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