Vestas 11th Hour Racing's Volvo Ocean Race-winning navigator Simon Fisher has spent plenty of time sailing and racing in the waters around the Isle of Wight. Here, he talks us through the tricky Around the Island Race, how to approach it – and the importance of drawing first blood in Leg Zero... Take it away, SiFi.
It’s a 50-mile race track, but obviously you’re always going around a corner so it’s a big challenge. The Around the Island Race is pretty famous as an event in itself, and it’s a tricky race. The tide is really important and obviously the timing of that is going to impact on the whole race course, but I think today will be decent southerly breeze with a front approaching, so there’ll be plenty of wind and tide on the back of the island.
We’ll be off down the Solent, tacking upwind, decent breeze, and looking at the shifts there’s always a lot to look out for in the Solent, these boats draw quite a lot, almost 5 metres, and you’ve got things like Gurnard Ledge and Hamstead Ledge on the way, so staying off the bottom is a challenge!
Then out past the Needles – with the smaller boats you’ve always got the chance to go inside but today I suspect we’ll all be outside. It generally gets pretty windy and wavy around the back, some big waves and four or five knots of current at times, so it’ll be good fun, and some good, fast sailing for us.
As you get around the back, you get a bit more shelter from the island so some flatter water, but bigger wind shifts once you’re in the lee of the island so you’ve got to stay on your toes.
It’s a long slog and it’ll be a fast race. I think it’ll be interesting to see – you have different teams with different focuses. You’ll have some teams who are looking to win the thing, some who have just arrived on the block, and I think in our case we’ve just regrouped after some racing in the States, and what we’re really focusing on is the process, getting up to speed as a team and making big strides for the future rather than the end result of this race.
At the end of the day, we’re all competitive people, so as soon as we get on the start line, it’ll all be on! Everyone will be gunning for a good result and it strikes a big psychological blow if you can get first blood in the racing.