Small ships have rapid race

Steady Force 6 winds did not deter the vessels in Saturday’s annual Small Ships Race. Twenty entrants – from a 10 metre long yacht to a 33 metre ketch, and with 180 young trainees taking part – braved challenging weather in the Solent.

Split into four classes with three different starts signalled by cannon from the Royal Yacht Squadron, they all powered off to the Eastern Solent, most with sails well reefed and helped by a 2.5 knot spring tide.

The 25 mile course took the fleet through the forts, around Bembridge Ledge and back again. The first across the finish line was the ketch Rona II based in Hamble and last over was Cirdan Sailing Trust’s Queen Galadriel.

The race is an annual end of season event for the smaller vessels in the UK Sail Training fleet that provide week long adventures for young people all summer. Cowes has hosted this event since 2003.

James Stevens, ASTO chairman, said at the prize giving: “During the race the wind was force 7. Force 8 is a gale, so conditions were challenging. Thanks to the skill and professionalism of the Skippers and Mates everyone returned safely after a memorable and exciting day.”

The winner of class B (for gaff rigged vessels) and of the race overall was Dauntsey School’s Jolie Brise. Class C1 was won by Rona II and Class C2 by small yacht City Liveryman, racing for the last time as a Sea Cadet vessel. Class D winner was Combined Cadet Forces yacht Amaryllis.

And because this popular race is very much about the taking part there was also a prize for the ‘Most Fun Crew’ in the parade of sail, won by Alexander Fairey from the Discovery Sailing Project. Their ‘foredeck rowing’ outshone the Mexican waving, fancy dress and water pistols on other vessels.

Story by Max Mudie

Note: ASTO (Association of Sail Training Organisations) is a Gosport based charity that exists to promote Sail Training and to support the provision of Sail Training opportunities in the United Kingdom. We have more than 30 member organisations that operate more than 50 boats that between them take over 10,000 young and disabled people to sea each year. They include the Ocean Youth Trust, Tall Ships Youth Trust and Ellen McArthur Cancer Trust, amongst others.

The annual Cowes Small Ships Race is organised with assistance from the Royal London Yacht Club, Royal Yacht Squadron and Cowes Yacht Haven, as well as several Island based charities. For further information about ASTO, go to

Further pictures and full results from the event are on

ASTO has funding available for young people from the Isle of Wight to take part next year. Please contact for more information.

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