Year 10 pupil, Freddie, reports from the Round The Island racing event near Cowes.
The first thing you notice is the amount of boats. For someone who is used to six dinghies in a lake, the sheer amount of yachts that compete is mind blowing! The boats are all carved up into classes to allow for staggered starts, and we were in turquoise, which started at 9:00am in the morning. When we started, we were higher up the line than the other boats in our fleet, allowing us to start sooner. This meant we would need to do fewer tacks (a type of turn) to get down to where we needed to be. The first run down to the Needles Lighthouse was hectic, boats everywhere. We had lookouts all over, telling the skipper where the boats were and making sure he could guide us through the carnage. Once we had rounded the needles we were flying.
Heading along the second leg of the diamond shaped Isle of Wight we were flying, faster than any of the boats around us. Most on board our yacht were very seasick at this point as the waves were much rougher on that side, without the isle itself to protect us from the wind. We then rounded St Catherine's point and headed onto the third side, the downwind section. Unfortunately we didn't have a spinnaker (type of sail) on board; a problem we knew we'd have to deal with in advance, but that we couldn't do anything about.
We weren't that slow compared to others, but we lost a few positions. We then rounded the final point to head back towards Cowes, the finish line. We headed towards a marker that pointed out the edge of Ryde Sands, a very shallow sandbank, and we passed it on our left hand side (port), meaning we were clear of the sandbank. Then disaster struck. We had a boat on our inside, meaning we had space to the sandbank, but suddenly both boats bounced and slowed a bit, both crews looking very confused. Then again, a bounce and slowing. By this point our skipper knew what was happening, and had the wheel hard over to the right, but it was too late. Our bow entered the water from the bounce, and turned us upwind, in tandem with the boat next to us, and we were both aground on Ryde Sands.
We spent half an hour trying to get the boat free, as using the engine or accepting a tow meant a retirement, but eventually we got free and were on our way again (albeit having lost half an hour and around 100 places!). We finished a mighty 358th out of 1117 boats - an amazing position, especially considering what had happened, but the real achievement was even finishing after we'd gone aground. All it means is that next year we can finish even higher!