Round the Island Race

Next RTI date:

Saturday 3 July 2021


The Round the Island Race is one of the one of the largest yacht races in the world, and the fourth largest participation sporting event in the UK.  Organised by the Island Sailing club, the 50 nautical mile race is held annually in June or July and has been running since 1931 (full history of race on RTI website ).


Although the start and finish line and post entertainment is in Cowes, the rest of the island joins in as spectators.  The spectator guide details all the vantage points around the island, and what time you need to be there in order to see the fleet sail past, and Red Funnel also have a good spectator guide.

See our blog entry below for some quick facts (and a photo of Mr Firefly with Sir Ben Ainsley)

Taken from Firefly House blog 28-06-17

A few facts on RTI

What is the Round the Island Race?  


RTIR is an annual yacht race round the Isle of Wight.  It’s one of the largest yacht races in the world, and the fourth largest participation sporting event in the UK.  The startline is at the Royal Yacht Squadron in Cowes, then the boats race the 50 nautical mile course anticlockwise around the Isle of Wight, with the finish line back in Cowes.  Full history of the race is on the RTIR website.


How many boats are racing this year?  


This year the race is on Saturday 8 July, last year it was on Saturday 1 July and there are 1342 boats entered.  Each boat has an average of at least 6 crew, so whilst not all boat crews stay in the town, Cowes does get very busy after the race on the Saturday evening.


Where can I watch it?  


Don’t miss the start line at The Royal Yacht Squadron in Cowes.  This year the start is at 6.30am, but it’s worth the early alarm.  Don’t forget to take your binoculars.  Some of the cafes and restaurants will be open for early breakfasts, such as The Little Gloster at Gurnard.  During the day, Cowes quietens down, so it’s a good time to have a leisurely lunch and do a spot of shopping.


If you have a car, or are quite fit on a cycle, you can follow the race around the island.  The RTIR handy guide lists the vantage points and approximate times you will see the boats.  Note the broad time range as fastest boats will get around very quickly, whilst the slower ones have been known to take 12 hours on a calm day.

  • Cowes start  0630-0810

  • Sconce Point 0800-1030

  • The Needles 0830-1100

  • Chilton Chine 0915-1230

  • St Catherine’s Point 1000-1400

  • Ventor 1015-1430

  • Bonchurch 1030-1500

  • Culver Down 1100-1630

  • Ryde Pier 1200-1800

  • Cowes 1030-2200

How can I join in the atmosphere?


You don’t need to have sailed in the race to join in the atmosphere.  Cowes is buzzing both on the Friday night before the race, and on Saturday evening after the race.  If you want to eat out, make sure you book early, otherwise just wander around the streets or visit the Race Tent in the Yacht Haven, grab a beer and soak up the atmosphere.  Nearer the time, RTIR website will publish the schedule of live music in the Yacht Haven Race Village.


What will Firefly House be doing for RTI?  


One half of Firefly usually races around in one of the slowest boats, trying to beat his previous position of 3rd overall on handicap.  The other half of Firelfy House will be driving around with the spaniel, trying to get a glimpse of the slowest boats in the race!!


And after it’s all finished, we’ll be soaking some of the atmosphere in the Island Sailing Club, the Pier View, and/or at the Yacht Haven Race Village tent.

Taken from our blog 31-05-18

10 top tips for racing in Round the Island Race

  1. Sleep - Get a good night’s sleep before the race - and go easy on the rum!           

  2. Be prepared -There are some excellent guidance notes for the race on the race website ( Also make sure you have fully read the Sailing Instructions. Study and take note of all tidal flows around the Island on the day and the latest weather forecasts.

  3. Don't rush - Stay away from the start until it is your turn. There is no need to push your luck at being right on the line. If you are over then you will be given a penalty and your race is essentially over 

  4. Keep out of trouble - This is a long race and lots of time can be lost through getting involved in tacking duals and contests with other individual yachts (they might not even be in your class). 

  5. Keep spotting - Focus on spotting lanes through the fleet when tacking. Avoid having to dip and try to find clean wind. Dedicate a crew member to spotting other yachts and calling the tacks. 

  6. Keep trimming - Be proactive trimming the kite and avoid other yachts covering from behind. If it is not very windy it is easy to switch off downwind and lose a lot of time.

  7. Get some rest - Best rest spot is when running along the back of the Island. The last section of the race is the beat up to the finish against the tide and is the most challenging. This requires everyone to be alert.

  8. No paddling - Be careful around Ryde Sands. Have a clear strategy of how close and where your yacht can go. Keep a keen eye on the sounder and take note of yachts that are aground or touching the sands. In places the sands shelve very steeply often showing with a change of colour at the surface, don’t ignore this.

  9. Keep the end in sight - The finish can be chaotic, so be wary. Everyone is tired and wanting to finish, a bit of patience may be required. Having come this far it is important to finish safely and on good terms with everyone. (Make sure you cross the correct finish line for your class!)

  10. Get drunk - Have fun and enjoy yourself.  No matter where you come in the race have a great night out in Cowes.


Good luck everyone from Firefly House !