The smallest J-boat in the world’s largest yacht race
 – 80th Round the Island Race, Isle of Wight, UK, 2011

Never mind those lucky guys being sponsored to sail around the world in that Sunday night TV show Zee, Zout en Zeilen… Last weekend WE have sailed our dream! The Jabbadabbadoo Sailing Team consisting this time of Nadine, Audrey, Ludo and Stan including our J22 went over to the Isle of Wight to sail the 50 nm of the Round the Island Race!

Crew RIR

As opposed to many sailors that we know, we are not conceived on a yacht and not born in an optimist. Most of us are late starters. We do serious sailing only since 5 years on the Braassem and every year we’ve set ambitious goals for improvement, be it a RYA skippers course, progressing onto a 3-sail boat, or to participate with a new regatta on unknown waters. Last year we entered in the J22 class with competitive, close, round-the-cans racing on our own boat. This year it was time to take our boat and all those training hours in boat handling to sail one major trip.

It all began in January. Photographs of that biiiig regatta with hundreds of spinnakers served as inspiration. We booked a B&B in Cowes before race registration opened. We weren’t even sure we could pull it off in such small boat. In the months that followed we read up on the regatta, found a convenient ferry trip and we began to understand the preparation needed. The breakthrough was when we discovered a fleet of SB3s that appeared in the entry list. If they can pull it off, so can we!

rigging the Jabbadabbadoo

The preparation really took off as soon as the race organisation confirmed that we were eligible to participate as a dayboat. We drilled 8 holes in the stern of our boat to fit the engine support, applied for an IRC rating, read up on the course and tidal currents in the Solent, we inventorised the safety regulations we had to comply with and talked some Dutch courage into our regular team members to motivate their participation. We got some flares, a three-color LED, life vests, a rescue line, a radar reflector, we fitted jackstays, we test-drove our engine in 7 bft, we borrowed a depth gauge and tethers, and of course, we copied the idea for a camera stand to film the adventure.

All that preparation and the investments in flight and ferry tickets were almost for nothing. On the day of departure we arrived with our Jabbadabbadoo at the terminal of the night ferry… without my passport! They didn’t let us on! „This is UK customs! A serious country, under continuous terrorist threat! You can’t travel without passport. No, your drivers license is not a valid ID.“ Never mind that our crew that was already flying into Southampton and all the other preparation and expenses. Our adventure would not go any further than Hoek van Holland! We brainstormed on plans B but we were only 36 hours before race start… not many options! As a last resort, the customs supervisor suggested to have my passport faxed over. AHA! „Sir? If you let me check my hotmail I can print a copy for you immediately, as I keep it there for emergencies!“ Customs accepted my A4 printed pass and guaranteed my possible return.

Happy on board the ferry

After the night ferry we drove with our right-handed car on left-handed roads, over the infamously busy M25 round London to take another ferry in Portsmouth. Not much later we arrived at Shepards Wharf Marina in Cowes. What a warm welcome we got there! Specialised in dry-sailing, the guys at the crane took no effort to launch the boat and fully understood and respected the challenges we had behind and ahead of us. We spend the rest of the afternoon in lovely weather rigging the boat and discovering the town.

Race day. Done with the lovely weather. The wind was hauling all night through the open windows of our B&B. The night was short. In anticipation of what was ahead we took our breakfast, applied our anti-seasickness plaster, wandered in oilskins to the marina and started sailing at 5:30 h. It was tricky to leave the rafted berth and to motor among the large yachts to open sea. It was even more a challenge to get our sails up in the waves, with crossing ferries and trimarans zooming by on starboard tack. In breach of class rules, we were glad to use the reefing crinkles that we had fitted on our old main sail. The starting area was a mess. We couldn’t find the expected transit on shore that indicates the line. We followed an SB3 that was supposed to start with us and, finally, only 2 minutes before our starting gun we found the starboard mark of the line. Off we went, nicely on the Northern side of the Solent, benefiting from maximum tidal current with us.


However a south-westerly current with us and a south-westerly wind blowing 25+ kts against us delivered a sea state on the Solent that was…. well, the English say: interesting. Fortunately we trained in crazy wind and short choppy waves during the Spring Cup in Medemblik! In that regatta we experienced a crash-tack when we were feathering to keep the boat flat and the combination of a wave and a wind shift put us about. I didn’t want to repeat that on the Solent and therefore we didn’t quite point as well as we could have. We ducked some large racers and we put an old gaffer about that did not want to duck our small J22. We had to call for some emergency tacks when other boats seemed to appear out of nowhere. What a chaos: the wind, the waves, the fleet of hundreds of other boats, most larger and faster, and our own inexperience with sea sailing on our small boat.


By the time we got to the Needles confidence was back up and slowly turned into arrogance again 😉 The open sea threw 2 meter waves at us, but the period of the waves got longer, not the Medemblik-type. It became a joy ride! Nevertheless we saw some small boats returning to sail back home against the current. We did not need to discuss about cutting inside the wreck, we took the long way round and slowly we bore off as we rounded the lighthouse. Handling the waves on a beam reach took again some getting used to and the second wave that rolled over us (after 3 min. in movie) inflated the life jacket of Audrey, who was sitting on her usual bow. Fortunately we prepared well and carried a spare. The surf was amazing. On a reefed main and without a spi we did 10 kts, maybe more, but there wasn’t much time to look at the GPS. Our boat rolled violently when large waves picked up the stern, after which we headed up to a safer reaching course. We saw a few demasted boats, ripped spinnakers and catamarans gone turtle. Later we learned that there have been some 70 incidents that involved the coast guard, including man-over-board situations and t-bone collisions.

After rounding the southern-most St Catherine’s point we got some shelter from the island and the sea state decreased a bit. Wind was still up well above 20 kts but with the flatter water it felt more like home. We gathered our courage and dared hoisting the red monster. It was a difficult beam reach and many boats besides us broached. Ludo practiced weight trimming the boat and we managed to carry the spi over to the Bembridge Cardinal, where we changed to a beating course for the last leg back to Cowes. At that time we were cutting inshore to avoid the tide that was now against us and we were using a J24 ahead of us as depth gauge. Not a smart idea as we noticed some boats that ran aground and that were creatively using the spinaker to be pulled off the sandbank. Luckily all of us were directed back to the fleet by some of the volunteers in RIBs.

Nadine at RIR

The last stretch was behind some cliffs with trees and after 9 hours of racing Nadine on the main sheet needed to stay vigilant to the shifts and gusts. We finished just North of Cowes, dropped our beaten sails and slung the engine back on to get us back home. The guys from the Marina gave us their warm welcome once again. Knackered but satisfied we celebrated, hoisting our flags, drinking a few ales and enjoying pub grub on a, now again sunny, terrace.


The numbers: out of the 1900 registrations, 430 boats retired, most of them small ones like us. In our sportsboat class, some 10 boats retired, some without a mast left. In the 40+ fleet of SB3s more than half retired or did not start at all. We came 6th in our class, and something like 300th out of 600 IRC boats. Fits nice with our ambition of classifying mid-fleet. But our biggest accomplishment was to get out of this in one piece, and with a whole lot of confidence and experience under our belt!

A biiiig thank you to the team members for their confidence and patience and for donating the top layer of skin on their fingers… And now to our next trip: the Europeans in Travemuende…. Jabbadabbadoo!


J22 NED1360


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