Sailor makes third bid to complete round island race

HOPEFUL: John Kirby in sailing mode

HOPEFUL: John Kirby in sailing mode

First published in News Dorset Echo: Photograph of the Author by , Senior Reporter

A WEYMOUTH sailor is hoping it’s third time lucky as he bids to complete a race round the Isle of Wight.

Retired racing car driver, John Kirby from Weymouth, is aiming to complete this year’s J.P Morgan Asset Management Round the Island Race.

Together with his son Colin and Castle Cove Sailing Club mates Kevin Combs and Graham ‘Bertie’ Beckram, the team will be among some 16,000 sailors set to tackle the famous 50 nautical mile course around the Isle of Wight, on Saturday June 21.

Now in its 83rd year the race, organised by the Island Sailing Club, is one of the world’s largest yacht races, regularly attracting over 1,700 boats.

Mr Kirby, who started sailing five years ago having raced on the Mighty Minis car circuit for 35 years, has entered the past three Round the Island races on his 27ft yacht, Iola, but fate has conspired that she has yet to cross the finish line without mishap.

In 2011 Iola lost her foresail just five miles from the finish at Ryde, in 2012 poor conditions meant they opted not to even start, and last year her rudder snapped at the same point off Ryde causing them to be towed back to Cowes by the Gosport RNLI.

Unperturbed, the Castle Cove quartet are back for another attempt this year. Retired Marine Engineer John has one aim, “Just to get past Ryde and finish without incident would be something,” he joked.

He added: “I’m very competitive and after I retired from racing cars I needed something to replace it. Even though I was new to sailing, whenever there was a boat in front of me I wanted to catch it.

“All four of us are relative novices and it’s been a steep learning curve but we enjoy it.”

The races ‘race for all’ ethos is unique as enthusiastic amateurs race alongside big names from sailing, sport and entertainment, including America’s Cup hero and Britain’s most successful Olympic sailor, Sir Ben Ainslie, who will again take part in this year’s race.

Last year Sir Ben smashed the race’s record by finishing in just 2hours 52mins 15secs. Most boats take between eight to ten hours to complete the course.

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