Round the Wight Rally 10th/11th Aug 2021

The annual Round the Wight Rally provides an opportunity for cruisers to escape the Solent and sail in less protected waters whilst amongst ‘friendly’ boats. This helps to provide a feeling of comfort and solidarity, especially if it is the first time south of the island.  From DQ to Yarmouth is around 28Nm and from Yarmouth anticlockwise around the island and returning to DQ is approx 45Nm. These are sort of direct distances, but avoiding land. Add a fair bit if you are having to beat into the wind!

Eight boats signed up for the rally this year and a booking for berths in Yarmouth was made early just in case it was really busy. This was a good move as it turned out. On the departure day, numbers had dropped to five boats due to engine problems, rigging failure and a fish hook through the finger. Ouch! These were much better reasons than given in some previous years.

Fairwind (Sue and Barrie), Moody Maid (Sue and Dick), Osprey (Chris and Julian) and Roussillon (Chris, Andy and Tim) departed from Chichester Harbour at widely differing times during the morning. Frith (Martin) sailed out from Portsmouth Harbour.


The voyage west was unusual in that the wind was on the nose, something we regular Solent sailors rarely encounter. I jest. Engines rattled away and the wind strength gradually increased. A voice on the VHF from the leading boat announced that F5 and steep seas were being encountered in the western Solent. Glad tidings and something to look forward to for those boats yet to reach Cowes.

The party leader, on board tail end Charlie repeatedly tried to obtain more information via the radio from the other skippers. In fact he tried all four different radios on board many times but not a single response was forthcoming. Some said later that his voice was drowned by engine noise but it was more likely that nobody wanted to talk to him. This has been noted and will be discussed at the next cruiser committee meeting.


All five boats finally made it to Yarmouth and were tightly rafted together. Just as well that berths had been booked; it was full to the gunwhales so to speak. More sailors using their boats on staycation rather than chartering a monster in the Aegean perhaps.

A plan for social interaction was hatched. We would have drinks and nibbles on a couple of the boats and then move on to The Bugle where they would welcome us (and our cash) with open arms (and hands) and ply us with huge meals. They no longer allow you to book in advance regrettably.

socialAt 1800hrs the wine and beer flowed and after the small talk about the Olympics and Covid we got down to the serious annual debate about what time we would need to set forth the following morning. This is always a good one. The idea is to depart Yarmouth during the final stages of the ebb west and arrive at the Needles just as the east going flood starts. Failure to do so could result in you being swept backwards with all sorts of ramifications too dire to mention. (Wind and/or an engine can help to avoid this though)

As always there were widely differing opinions ranging from the insomniac who thought that a 0400hrs start was necessary, to the sloth who thought that sometime after 0800hrs would be OK. Out came the tide tables, charts, tablets, phones etc. Back and forth it went until in the end a compromise of 0600hrs was agreed whereupon it was time to move on and sample the delights that we expected would be on offer at The Bugle.


Imagine our collective dismay when they refused to feed us. It was full of those staycationers who had got there before us. Grrrr. Can you believe that not one other pub in Yarmouth was serving food – it being a Tuesday?? Staff shortages perhaps. However, we were offered a glimmer of hope when we were told that a chippy in Totland did deliveries. Hurray! Orders were taken and our elected spokesperson rang to place our valued order, only to be told that we had been lied to. Even more dismay! Some of us stayed in town for a beer but we all ended up back on board our respective boats to feast on Fray Bentos pies, spam, beans, bread and biscuits – all the nutritious things that cruising folk keep on board for just such an emergency.

Up at the crack of dawn, the hygiene conscious amongst us made their way to the showers only to find them locked. A security guard was letting people singly into the outside disabled toilet. Bah, no time. Skipper Sprules vowed to pen a strong letter of complaint to Yarmouth as he is a regular and expert writer of such rants.

And so we all departed in orderly fashion and motored on a flat calm sea west towards the Needles.

needlesThere we did indeed encounter the slack water allowing us to slip south of the island and head east. Gentle motoring was the order of the day until as we neared St.Catherine’s Point a wind of sorts and from the opposite direction to the one forecast (of course) helped us on our way.  It was pleasing to encounter the dreaded overfalls off the Point having a placid day.


The sun shone and with a light following wind Ventnor, Shanklin and Sandown slipped by quickly thanks to the flood tide beneath us. 7 knots OTG soon eats up the miles. By lunchtime the leading boats were off Bembridge Ledge and bidding farewell to fellow ralliers. They even communicated with the party leader. Funny how the sun can cheer people up.

All boats apart from one headed home but Roussillon was determined to continue the fun.


However, Bembridge Harbour turned her away and she had to settle for the bright lights of Haslar Marina and a meal on board the Mary Mouse which was very agreeable.

For those cruising folk who have yet to try our RTW Rally, you’ve got to agree that it is a joyful and rewarding experience, haven’t you? Why not try it for yourself next year.