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Would you have what it takes to circumnavigate the Isle of Wight? Check out Jack Galloway as he does just that on his hydrofoil, beating the previous record set by Guy Bridge. It’s a distance of 64 miles that enjoys some powerful tides, big waves, chop and one of the busiest shipping lanes in the UK! On Thursday 2nd of June, Jack completed the circumnavigation of the Island in 3 hours 23 minutes 24 seconds, read his amazing story below!
I’ve always had a fascination with the Round The Island race. Having crewed it several times on yachts I couldn’t help but notice how much faster you could do it with a kite. There was a time when I was going to do it on a raceboard and boy am I pleased I didn’t! Can you imagine being on one tack for an hour with a raceboard bashing your shins to pieces? I couldn’t, so when foiling came along I knew it was the future for long distance challenges like this.
Another important stage of planning was getting the tides right. This is essential really as if you get it right you could have the tides with you the entire way round. Using tide times and a tidal flow chart I had decided that 12.40 was the best time to set off in a clockwise direction, meaning that by the time I got to the Needles around two hours later the tide would be pushing me back up to Cowes.
Race Day: choosing the right kite size is a piece of cake when you can come back to the beach and swap anytime. This was very different. As I stood on Calshot beach with about half an hour to go the wind was a solid 20+ knots, the forecast, however, said that in 4 hours time it would’ve dropped to 11 knots. Being underpowered half way round would be disastrous so I went with my 11m Ozone R1. As the RIB arrived (my support crew had had a very uncomfortable ride all the way from Poole!) I set off fully powered for Cowes and the famous Royal Yacht Squadron line; the official start line for the Round The Island Race.
I set my GPS watch as I sped past the RIB on the start line. It was a real buzz to be on my way, whizzing past yachts & small racing fleets. They must’ve wondered what on earth a kitesurfer was doing so far out in the Solent. I made a rookie error just 10 minutes in, I knew I had to go wide at Ryde Sands and stay in the channel, however as I reached it I thought to myself;
“I’ll cut the corner a tiny bit, looks pretty deep”, how wrong I was!
After face planting the water, a minute or two wasted & several loud curses I was back in deep water and heading fast downwind to Bembridge Ledge. This is a buoy that marks the Eastern most point of the Isle Of Wight and under the guidelines of the World Sailing Speed Record Council (WSSRC) you have to go round it to get an official time & enter the record books. Unfortunately, you also have to pay £1640 for the privilege and there was no chance my hard earned cash was going towards that; hence the unofficial nature of my record attempt.
Bembridge to Ventnor took no time at all, I hit a top speed of 27 knots and was hanging on for dear life at times but absolutely loving it! As I reached Ventnor I got a little close to the cliffs, put a gybe in and got well clear (or so I thought). It was gusty at this stage but I was about a mile offshore and still making good ground. My luck was about to change… At the Southern most point by St. Catherine’s Lighthouse I hit a hole in the wind like none I’ve ever seen.
I came to a sudden stop and before I could even attempt to loop the R1 it crumpled in mid air & hit the water. More loud curse words followed… It’s at times like this that you realise the importance of safety support, without them I’m sure I would’ve drifted off to Cherbourg. My support team Lizzie, Richard & Huw saved the day, getting a soaking wet foil kite in the air is no easy task, let alone from a RIB! Around 15 minutes later I’m on my way to the Needles and drying the kite as I go.
I reached the Needles still well overpowered and feeling the burn after spending the last hour on one tack. Wind against tide meant there was a serious amount of chop. Looking at my watch I was about 2 hours 15 minutes into my attempt, it was going to be really tight if I wanted to take the record. The final leg was really hard, the wind was still over 20 knots and I was genuinely knackered, the energy drink in my camelback definitely was a life saver. Pumping the foil over each and every wave was not only a test of my weakening legs but also my concentration – the views are amazing around the Isle Of Wight; I couldn’t look up for a moment to take them in!
It was a relief to get back to Cowes and cross the line in 3:23:24. Guy Bridge set the record last year with a time of 3:34:00, so I was cutting it really fine! I look forward to seeing how fast kites can go though as I lost a fair amount of time on the way round. Steph, Guy & Olly (Team Bridge) are back at the end of this month and hope to not only set the kitesurf record but also the outright record of 2:21:25 which is held by an MOD 70 called Foncia. With a dead Northerly or Southerly wind and the right tides it’s definitely possible, what I love is the price comparison between the two craft: kitesurf gear – several thousand pounds, MOD 70 – millions! Watch this space!
I’d like to say a big thank you to my support team Lizzie Coe, Richard Galloway & Huw Davies for enduring 8 hours and 110 miles on the RIB. The Watersports Academy for kindly lending a RIB that was more than capable of those conditions and last but not least Ozone & Moses for providing the perfect equipment for this adventure.
For the geeks amongst you check the GPS track & statistics: https://www.strava.com/activities/596227925
By Jack GallowayJack is a fanatically keen kiter from the South West of England, he loves riding just about anything with a kite from foil boards to surfboards and everything in between. He's competed in the Red Bull Ragnarok snowkite race on numerous occasions as well as some world class kite racing events. He's our Web Editor for the magazine, as well as one of our testers where his vast knowledge of the sport and different kites and boards comes in handy!