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Ben Meakins sums up 25 years of amazing RTIR memories!

Ben Meakins is a Test Engineer at race sponsors B&G, and has been taking part in the Round the Island race for over 25 years.
We asked him why he keeps coming back…


I love the Round the Island race. It might be hectic and exhausting, with more snakes and ladders than any other race I’ve done, but we keep coming back year after year. It’s got it all – a huge fleet, challenging tactics, a variety of sailing conditions  - and it’s a boat-spotter’s dream to see the spectacle of over a thousand sailing boats of all shapes and sizes.



I’ve lost count of how many races I’ve done – I think the first was back in 1999.


My boat is a 1979 Impala 28 called Polly. I grew up racing and cruising on her before my parents sold her and bought another boat, but eight years later, in 2009, my now wife and I bought Polly back along with good friends Adrian and Jo, and we’ve raced all but three Round the Island races since. The best result in our ownership was 13th overall in 2010, but we haven’t quite matched the boat’s best position, 2nd overall and missing out on the Gold Roman Bowl by only a few seconds in 2000 – I was on the bow for that one!


No two races are the same. One thing we’ve learned is that you can’t rest easy even if things appear to be going well – we’ve had a few races where the wind has shut off at Bembridge Ledge and turned what was a commanding lead to a scrabble at the back of the fleet.

Some years you can be buried under seemingly the whole 1,000+ boat fleet and fight to get clear air, and in others you can do the whole first beat in your own patch of wind and water. There’s the nerve-wracking decision as to go inside or outside the wreck of the Varvassi and the often tense short-gybing along the shore at St Katherines to keep out of the tide. Flashes of previous races keep me up at night in the week leading up to the race, but once the starting gun fires it’s all forgotten and you’re immersed in the race.


For years in a row we lost out to our competitors on the final leg from Ryde Sands to the finish – but have now realised that that leg is when we were flagging both mentally and physically - we now make sure to swap helms regularly around the back of the island and to stock up on flapjacks at Bembridge to make sure we’re as fresh as possible for the final push.


It’s a strange relationship – we can be saying ‘never again’ after a punishing race, but a few days later that’s all forgotten and we’re looking forward to the next one.


Last year’s was a classic, with a windy beat to the Needles followed by a long, exciting spinnaker leg all the way to Bembridge where a strange quartering sea played havoc with the fleet, but we managed to sail past most of the chaos to a decent result in the conditions of 30th overall. We’ve had races spent all but becalmed, races spent clinging on as the boat surfed down big waves and others where we swapped positions with fellow Impalas all the way around the Island.



Our crew of family and friends has been sailing together for years, and between us we have built up quite the file of reports and notes on the race. This year we’ll be back on the startline in the early dawn once again for another crack at what is a uniquely rewarding, frustrating and fascinating race – see you out there!