MARK Webley’s five-strong squad will be among thousands of sailors – including Olympic gold medallist Sir Ben Ainslie – from around the world to compete in this weekend’s iconic Round the Island Race.
The tenacious team, made up of members from Poole and Parkstone yacht clubs, will tackle the gruelling Isle of Wight-course for the seventh time hoping to make a splash in their new Bavaria Match 35 boat.
Webley, 52, who runs his own central heating and electrical engineering business, will be joined by Lido Badaway, Mike Lombard, Paul Craven and Scott McDonald for the event which is set to feature around 10,000 participants aboard more than 1,500 boats.
After preparing their vessel for what is regarded as the biggest race on the UK calendar, the quintet will be trying to better their best overall finish – 82nd in 2012 – as well as challenge for honours in the Bavaria Trophy.
“It’s a slightly bigger boat with greater racing capabilities so we are very hopeful of better race results,” said Webley. “The boat has had careful preparation over the past few weeks with a special sail trimming and advice from other local racing teams at Parkstone Yacht Club.”
With up to 200 boats beginning their voyage from the start line at any given time, there will be little margin for error, a fact not lost on Webley.
“I can only describe the start as being like the M25 at its worst,” he added. “There are boats of all descriptions everywhere and it is a nerve-wracking experience because you have sailors of varying abilities jostling for position in a very small space.
“It’s hard to predict what some will do but that all adds to the excitement and brings out your best. You have the likes of Ben Ainslie at the front of the fleet and, having everyone together in one big race, is a joy to be part of.
“Even when you get to the southerly tip at St Catherine’s Point, you look back and all you can see is more and more boats coming. It really is a sight to behold and a thrill that is hard to replicate.”
As well as competing, quadruple-Olympic champion Ainslie will present the prizes at the Island Sailing Club, Cowes from noon on Sunday.