Saturday, 20 June 2009

Russell Coutts and Ben Ainslie to Compete in JP Morgan Asset Management Round the Island Race

Triple Olympic gold medallist Ben Ainslie is competing on board the Extreme 40 JPMorgan Asset Management/TEAMORIGIN, while triple America's Cup winner Russell Coutts will be in the same class on board Chris Bake's Team Aqua. Image copyright Patrick Eden.

by Flavia Bateson

The JPMorgan Asset Management Round the Island Race, organised by the Island Sailing Club, Cowes, Isle of Wight, UK, is set to go. In just a few hours' time, on Saturday, 20th June, the 1,779 boats entered will race westward round the Isle of Wight providing an amazing spectacle for those watching from the shore.

Commodore of the Island Sailing Club, Bill Pimlott, welcomed competitors to the Cowes-based club for a press conference on Friday 19th June. He described the ethos of the event now as when it first began in 1931 as "a people's race". Grandparents race with their grandchildren, work colleagues and university friends line up with top professional sailors and internationally-renowned skippers.

Triple Olympic medallist Ben Ainslie will be competing on an Extreme 40 for the first time in JPMorgan Asset Management/TEAMORIGIN. He will be up against triple America's Cup winner Russell Coutts on Team Aqua, enjoying his first taste of the event. Early on Friday morning Francis Joyon's ocean-going catamaran Idec sailed into Cowes from France, ready to defend the race record for multihulls which he has held since 2001.

Mike Slade's supermaxi ICAP Leopard is top of the ratings list in IRC Zero. Through crew member Paul Stanbridge, Mike received an unusual challenge, in aid of The Anthony Nolan Trust. Mike Coburn is a sailmaker who prepared the sails for America's Cup Team Shosholoza. He was diagnosed with cancer four years ago. Through the Trust he received a bone marrow transplant and says it is now "pay back time". Whilst Mike Slade races round the Island on water, trying hard to beat the monohull race record by ICAP Leopard in 2008, Mike Coburn will be cycling the same distance on land. ICAP Leopard's time last year was 3 hours 53 minutes 5 seconds but she does depend on wind and tide, whilst Mike Coburn might just have to contend with a light drizzle.

Charity fundraising plays a large part in the race again this year. Four charities have identical Oceanis 37s for the day for the Charity Challenge. Olympic gold medallist Shirley Robertson will be the skipper on board Challenge The Ellen MacArthur Trust. Shirley said: "The start is the challenging time, searching for clear air with so many other boats around. Once you've got to Gurnard, you can relax a little. We are certainly going to take things seriously but will have the kettle on at some time too."

Singer Jonathan Ansell is the ambassador for Breast Cancer Care. His last experience of sailing was with the Sea Scouts, in a Topper dinghy, at Bognor Regis. "I've never sailed a proper yacht before. It looks enormous! We have eight on our boat two of whom are young mums currently continuing treatment."

Prostate UK is close to Comedian Dave Spikey's heart: His ‘kid brother' Pete died after a long battle with cancer last year, so he tries to help whenever he can. He remembers his last sailing experience only too well: "We were off the French coast and everyone was seasick. In the end there was only one utensil left to use. Have you ever tried to be sick into a frying pan? It doesn't work. Tomorrow I'd better take a pressure cooker."

Sailing for Leuka (leukemia research) this time, Edward Donald has won the Gold Roman Bowl twice. In 2008 his little Folkboat Madelaine also raised the best total for charity and he will be the first recipient of the new Charity Trophy. "We just hope we get back before the fish and chip shop closes. We're never in time for an a la carte. Winning the Gold Roman Bowl, we were back around 7pm. 10 to 12 hours for the race is pretty normal for us. We may be the tortoise of the fleet but we're happy to try and follow in the footsteps of Edward Heath and the Rogers family with a third win."

The meteorologist Chris Tibbs gave a forecast of light winds at the start - possibly 5/10 knots north-westerly with a slight drizzle, increasing to 10/15 knots south of the Isle of Wight, turning W/NW 8/13 knots in the eastern Solent as the afternoon wore on. As the temperature dropped in the evening, so would the wind strength.

The first start is at 0730. Idec and the X40s could well be back in four hours whilst the majority of boats would look to a finish some time during the afternoon. The line stays open for the final finishers until 2230.

JP Morgan Asset Management Round the Island Race 2009

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