It was during the autumn of 2015 that I received an email from the OKS on behalf of Richard Ninham inviting members to join the OKS Sailing Club and take part in the 2016 Round the Island Race. The event was one item on my “Bucket List” so I was more than interested. The school had been chartering three boats for a number of years to take part in the race, one being crewed by the pupils, one by the parents and the third by the OKS. So it was that I took part in the 2016 race sailed in winds varying from force six to seven the whole way round the fifty plus mile course anti clockwise round the island. Not content with that I then took part in the 2017 race sailed in far more pleasant conditions.
In the autumn of 2017, the missive arrived from the OKS seeking crew for the 2018 race so once again I found myself sending the entry form and cheque to Richard to join the boat for 2018.
In the previous races Claude Fielding (MO 1940 - 1941), at the sprightly young age of ninety plus and who had sailed in every race, had acted as quartermaster making the necessary arrangements to provision the boat to keep us well fed. However during the OKS Sailing Club AGM in April he mentioned that he would need a deputy this year and David Horton (LN 1955 - 1959) agreed to take on the role.
In the past, David had organised the Thursday evening dinner at Hardy’s for those arriving in advance of the Friday morning departure. In discussion with David I agreed to take on the task and the offer was extended to the parents as well. So it was that we sat down on Thursday 5
July at Hardy’s to an excellent dinner despite the usual problem of numbers varying right up to the last minute as circumstances forced people to change their travel arrangements.
Friday dawned to a forecast of very little, if any wind, so after breakfast ashore and the arrival of all the crews for the three boats, we set off from Haslar Marina in Portsmouth for our training day sail ending up at Cowes on the Island.
Friday evening found all the crews enjoying dinner at the Royal Thames Yacht Club for which we have to thank Howard (SH 1957 - 1961) and Linda Fair as well as Claude’s landlady, Deborah, who between them made all the arrangements.
Saturday found David busy cooking breakfast for the crew of the OKS boat at 0630 hrs, with Claude joining the boat at the same time. Casting off about 0700 we headed out for the start of our class at 0740 hrs in a light breeze with a thin covering of cloud. Along with some of the 1,300 boats taking part we headed down towards the Needles as the breeze was dying away. Drifting towards the Needles we could see between them the earlier starters becalmed the other side of them with sails and brightly coloured spinnakers hanging limply due to the lack of wind. At this stage the pupils’ boat had just managed to round the Needles while the parents were somewhere behind us. As it was now approaching midday it was decided that we would retire and return to Cowes rather than continue in the race. Shortly after this we heard that the pupils had made the same decision. Meanwhile the parents’ boat continued in the race.
Arriving back in Cowes most of the crew went ashore to find a suitable television in a pub to watch the England Sweden World Cup match with its very satisfying result to make up for the disappointment of our retirement. I stayed on the boat but could follow the match just as well based on the cheers ashore.
The evening found us on the roof of the Island Sailing Club, who organise the race, for a barbeque. This was slightly delayed as the parents having sailed the whole course finally arrived about 2000 hrs. Not only do we thank the Island Sailing Club for their hospitality but once again Howard, Linda and Deborah for making the arrangements.
Sunday was again windless for our return to Haslar Marina in Portsmouth and onward travel home.
I can only hope that I will be able to follow Claude’s example and still be taking part in the race for many years to come although I will be missing next year’s race due to a family celebration.
On behalf of all the crews I would like to thank Four Seasons Yacht Charter for the hire of the boats; their professional skippers, Tim on the OKS boat, John on the parents’ boat and Debs on the pupils’ boat. Also Richard Ninham for organising our participation in the race and the school for their support.
My thanks to Steven Burrell (MR 1976 - 1981), Simon Roberts (GR 1985 - 1990), Ashitha Nagesh (MT 2003 - 2008) and Nolan Macgregor, Simon Kershaw (MR 1970 - 1974), Matthew Knight (MO 1993 - 1998), Dan Pritchard (MT/MR 1979 - 1983), Crispin Comonte (MT 1987 - 1991), our quartermaster and chef David Horton (LN 1955 - 1959), and not forgetting the indefatigable Claude Fielding (MO 1941) on the OKS boat for a very enjoyable weekend.
Finally congratulations to John and all on the parent boat for completing the course and winning the 597 trophy.
The results since 2012 are OKS 3 – Parents 2 – Pupils 2
P.S. Some idea of the conditions can be gauged from the fact that the leading fast boats normally take about two and a half hours to sail the course while the lead boat took over six hours this year.
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