The annual 100km Randonnee seemed like the perfect opportunity to combine my love of cycling and sailing with a visit to my brother on the “South Island”
The plan to sail over to Yarmouth on Saturday, the Radonee on Sunday and some family R + R so a bit of passage planning for the sail showed an early departure from Gosport to catch a favourable tide around the Solent. On checking the weather on Friday morning the forecast for early Saturday was predicting a Force 6 south-westerly, this would be against the ebb so would give a wind against tide situation that produces a short steep sea so with no other commitments we decided to sail over on Friday evening in lighter winds.
The boat made ready with the Cannondale given its own cabin and with clear blue skies we headed for Yarmouth. The passage to Cowes saw one reef in the main and a slow beat against a weakening tide. We passed Cowes as the tide turned and headed down the Western Solent straight into a strengthening wind. After putting a second reef in the main and reducing headsail tacking back and forth in the short sea was painfully slow and eventual arrival at Yarmouth was very welcome. We picked a buoy just outside the harbour and settled down for a bumpy night.
Saturday dawned with grey skies and strong winds and we were pleased to take up our marina berth for a bit of shelter. The sun appeared and we spent a pleasant day walking the area, visiting my brother and carb loading for the big event.
Sunday saw sunshine with clear blue skies and an early morning nip in the air. I drew some very strange glances from other boat owners walking along the pontoon with road bike and lycra but soon felt at home as the ramp of the Wightkink ferry dropped and the invading army of cyclists stormed Yarmouth high street. By 8 – 30 the check in was doing a roaring trade and after the signing on formalities I joined the mass exodus towards Cowes.
Through the countryside of Thorley, Wellow and Newbridge the legs enjoyed a gentle warm up before turning north to Newtown and then Gurnard before the first climbs into Cowes. The chain ferry took us across the River Medina and the first checkpoint at East Cowes. From this point on the myth that the Isle Of Wight was flat was well and truly busted. A series of ups and downs preceded the second check point at Wotton and from this point on the road was just a constant procession of cycles much to the annoyance of several car drivers who displayed their displeasure by way of the horn.
The next checkpoint was at Bembridge but not before we were treated to the superb views of the pretty harbour. After stamping the card the route took us past the IOW “international airport” and just short of Yarbridge we were given a reminder of our vulnerability when a diversion to the seafront at Sandown was necessitated by a collision between a fellow cyclist and a car, later reports suggested his injuries were not serious.
The village hall at Alverstone provided the next control and feeding station and after the briefest stop I followed a faster group on the run to the last checkpoint at Whitwell village hall. From this point we were subjected to some long inclines but the spectacular views along the south coast made the riding seem easy, through Niton, Blackgang, Chale, Atherfield, Yafford, Brightstone, Mottistone and Brook before the final climb up the Military Road and a stunning view of the chalk cliffs. The fast decent into Freshwater Bay preceded the last leg on the cycle track alongside the River Yar. This short section saw more cyclists stopping to mend punctures than the rest of the route put together and the enterprising cycle shop at the end of the lane was doing brisk business with inner tubes and tyres.
The event was superbly organised, the permanent route signing was easy to follow and with the beautiful warm weather the first ride of the year in short-sleeved shirt was icing on the cake. After a shower on the boat and lunch we walked to the ferry terminal and watched many of the 2,000 participants enjoying a pint in the local pubs before heading back to the mainland.
We stayed on for another night before sailing back to Gosport on Monday in glorious sunshine, a great weekend, next week its the Lincoln Grand Prix Sportive.