What a start to summer July has been! The last month has been full of action, either engaging in it myself or watching it live. Of late, I have been watching the daily action unfold in Tokyo at the Olympics and have been losing hours to the riveting footage.
The opener for July was the Classic Round the Island Race organised by the Island Sailing Club. It was a spectacular 90th anniversary edition with a 1200 boat fleet taking part. Afloat, there was everything from flat calm to 25 knots gusts and fog to sunshine. It is the fourth biggest participation event in the UK after the London Marathon and the Great North and South Runs and following cancellation last year everyone was delighted to be back out on the water racing. There is nothing that quite matches the sight of a fleet of so many boats stretched around the stunning coastline of the Isle of Wight.
The overall winner was ‘Eeyore’, an Alacrity 18’ Bilge Keel yacht, securing back-to-back victories as they had also won the previous edition. We enjoyed racing on Gentoo and achieved some firsts along the way. We sailed inside the wreck at the Needles and inside the fort to avoid the strongest tide as we entered the Solent to the finish. Sailing a smaller boat allows me to continue learning new areas of the Solent all the time.
Gentoo has been busy this month as we continue our build up to the Rolex Fastnet taking place in August. We participated in a very slow and tactical RORC St Malo Race where a mistake was very costly in the spring tides and very light winds. The RORC Channel Race gave us fierce tides, but the winds were better. We found a better pace but failed to match our rivals in Swell, however, we did manage to keep the remaining Sunfast 3300 fleet behind us.
Heading into the Fastnet Race, we sit in second place for both RORC IRC 3 and the RORC double handed fleets. In the UK Double handed series, we sit in first place for the Mixed Category sponsored by the RYA and in the Youth Category sponsored by B&G and we are in third place for the Best Jeanneau. As the Rolex Fastnet Race attracts double points, it is all to play for.
The heatwave in the UK earlier in July coincided with Sail GP arriving to UK waters, with Plymouth hosting the weekend of racing. The natural amphitheatre of the harbour, the sunshine, the wind and some amazing racing really delivered an impressive spectacle. I joined in the role as host, providing base tours and commentating for guests getting up close to the action with an event that did not disappoint. It was incredible to witness the fleet racing up close. The podium race delivered lead changes and exciting drama not seen for a while. The boats and athletes were inspirational to watch, and the event has taken sport to the next level. Sail GP chose Plymouth to launch their Impact League, making the race not only on the water but also for teams to make a difference to our planet. Australia Sail GP team were victorious on the water, but it was New Zealand Sail GP that led the Impact League.
Inspiration is a theme that has continued this month as the long-awaited Tokyo Olympics have begun. I have to admit to having been glued to the television whilst following the Olympic action. I have cried, celebrated, gripped the edge of my seat and shouted at the TV in frustration and feel I have lived each emotion with the athletes as they compete at the top level of their sport. As well as following my favourites, I have been engrossed in sports new to me. Who knew Taekwondo would be so enthralling, where a kick to the head in the final second can change the colour of your medal? I have been impressed with the skill of not only the rider but also the horse in dressage, with Gio becoming the nation’s hero. We have sports that are shining, like BMX, boxing, swimming and gymnastics to name a few and we have sports that have not found their usual rhythm such as rowing, where our medal haul has not lived up to our expectations. But every athlete has given everything on a world stage, and I am in awe. They are true role models for society, they all make us proud no matter the end result, and they are inspiring the next generation, and for that I would like to thank them all. As far as sailing is concerned, the consistency from British Sailing has been remarkable. The onboard cameras are helping show the athletes at their best, dealing with the varied conditions they are facing, and we sit well placed for potential medals as I write this. I have everything crossed for them.
With all those examples of hard work, tenacity, following a dream and delivering to the best of your ability, I have no excuses ahead of the Rolex Fastnet Race that is now just a week away!