The round the Island countdown has officially began

With less than 24 hours to go before Katie Schuhster – representing the Ellen MacArthur Cancer Trust – fires the cannon as official race starter for the 87th edition of the Round the Island Race, the festive atmosphere in Cowes is in full swing.

Run by the Island Sailing Club in association with Cloudy Bay New Zealand, this quintessential British 50nm ‘race for all’ looks set to produce a fantastic day on the water for the 1100+ race teams taking part.

Although the light to moderate winds forecast means it is unlikely to be a ‘record-breaking’ year in terms of speed around the Isle of Wight, it could be one of the hottest on record, which means there is a good chance of sea breeze filling in to allow for some spectacular sailing.

Simon Rowell, British Sailing team and Round the Island Race meteorologist, who’ll be providing more detailed weather information at tonight’s Raymarine Live Weather Briefing at Cowes Yacht Haven Event Centre at 1800, says it is generally looking light, hot and sunny so don’t forget your sunscreen: “The wind is probably settling north of the Isle of Wight. This should bring a light north-easterly gradient wind to start, with the chance of a sea breeze later.”

As well as Katie Schuhster who’ll be competing and firing the start cannon on behalf of the race’s official charity, there’ll be a host of other celebrities taking to the water in the morning, including Cloudy Bay Ambassador Ben Fogle.

As he prepares for his early morning IRC Group 0 start at 0630 aboard Cloudy Bay (Farr Carroll Marine 60), Fogle says: “This will my second circumnavigation of the Isle of Wight with Cloudy Bay. Last year we enjoyed a perfect day, with some good breeze, to send our Farr 52 around in six hours. Like many participants, I will be looking forward to reaching the first mark at the Needles, before heading east along the bottom of the island. We’ll all be hoping for favourable winds to bring us back to the finish line and into Cowes for a celebratory glass in the Cloudy Bay Yacht Bar!”

Following her official start duties, Schuhster, from Haslemere, Surrey, will board Solent Hero, one of the five Ellen MacArthur Cancer Trust (EMCT) boats competing in the race. Schuhster sailed on the first Trust trip back in 2003 when she was 11, after receiving treatment for a brain tumour. Fifteen years later, now aged 26, she’ll be joining Team EMCT with Dame Ellen MacArthur, and 30 inspirational young people recovering from cancer treatment.

Highlighting the importance of the Trust, which is celebrating its 15th anniversary, Schuhster commented: “Sailing with the EMCT for the first time in 2003 boosted my confidence after treatment and consequently also reassured my parents. The sailing trips made me realise that I was not alone in the battle against cancer – I had other young people I could talk and relate to and every single trip was a blast! The friends I have made through the Trust over the years are still loyal and amazing friends today. Continuing to volunteer and support the Trust is incredibly important to me so that I can help give back and support others going through what I have.”

At tonight’s Raymarine Live Weather Briefing, Rowell will also be revealing how to enter a special prize draw for a chance to win a new Raymarine Axiom 9 inch and the new AIS700 – total value £2,390. The winner of the draw will be announced at 2100 at Island Sailing Club.

Those who go to the weather briefing will also be given a voucher for 15% off all drinks during the competitor happy hour at the Island Sailing Club between 1830 and 2100 hrs.

Competitors unable to make the 1800 Weather Briefing in person should sign up to watch the entire Raymarine Live Weather Briefing streamed live.

The entertainment programme at Cowes Yacht Haven Race Village kicks off this afternoon at 1600 and the first live band – Close to Home – is scheduled to be on stage at 1900, with Rockafellas making an appearance at 2130.