It’s back, and this year it’s officially bigger than ever.
Tomorrow’s J.P. Morgan Asset Management Round the Island Race has burst through the 1,900 barrier with 1,908 yachts entered.
The record entry – easily beating the previous record of 1,875 set in 2008 – confirms the around the Isle of Wight event as the fourth largest sports participation event in the UK, after the London Marathon and the Great North and South runs.
As ever, the unique nature of the event pitches full-on professional sailors against weekend and occasional yachties.
Some will hit the 50-mile race track with one or more of the 60 or so prizes on offer firmly in their sights.
Many more will be setting out on an adventure, some for the first time, on their only race of the year.
Firmly in the first group is triple Olympic gold and silver medallist Ben Ainslie, who is on board a Ker 40, entered as J.P. Morgan Asset Management, with the 2003 World Cup rugby star Will Greenwood on board.
They will be joined by ace navigator Mike Broughton.
The event’s top prize, the Gold Roman Bowl, has escaped the Hampshire star’s clutches so far, but he may have the team to challenge for it.
Other Olympic and Paralympic sailors are also taking time out of their training schedules to join the 16,000 competitors in the race.
Paralympic sailor Helena Lucas and Nick Dempsey – Olympic bronze medallist and 2009 World Champion RS: X Windsurfer – will also both be sailing in J109s.
‘I’m pretty excited to be taking part in my first J.P Morgan Asset Management Round the Island Race,’ said Dempsey.
‘Getting to grips with competing in a J109 could take me a while as I have always windsurfed, but I’m really up for taking part and I’m looking forward to the challenge.’
Also taking to the water in a J109 is actress and TV presenter Denise Van Outen.
She will be starting the first classes away at 6am from the parapet of the Royal Yacht Squadron in Cowes, where she will be joined by Michelle Luke, a social worker for Clic Sargent at Royal Victoria Infirmary, Newcastle, who won the draw for the ‘Buy a Mile’ charity fund-raising promotion run by the Ellen MacArthur Cancer Trust.
Van Outen and her friend, actor and TV presenter Chris Parker, will then take to the water for their own start at 6.50am.
As complete novices to sailing, they will be in the capable hands of top British 470 Olympian Saskia Clark.
In all, there are 11 start sequences every 10 minutes from 6am to 7.40am, when the final yachts make their start.
Whenever competitors begin, all have a chance and the final results will not be known until much later in the day.
Let the spectacle begin.