Ripon sailor takes on famous yachting race

Jonny Wardle. (S)
Jonny Wardle. (S)
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A Ripon sailor, schooled by some of Britain’s most revered 20th century yachtsmen, will put his knowledge to the test when he sails in the Round the Island Race.

Brigadier Jonny Wardle OBE DL will compete with his son James and third yacht partner Alex Seddon against 16,000 sailors around the 50 nautical mile Isle of Wight course on June 21.

Jonny, 70, developed a passion for sailing after learning the ropes under the tutelage of his godfather, the 1948 London Olympic Swallow class sailing gold medallist Stewart Morris.

The Queen’s former Sailing Master, Lt Commander Graham Mann, then partnered up with Jonny in 1966 and the pair narrowly missed out on qualifying for the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico.

Jonny said: “Both my partners had extremely good understanding of weather conditions, wind cycles, tidal streams and racing tactics – they had tremendous sailing intuitive.

“They can recall every race which they’ve ever sailed which makes them extremely hard to compete against.

“The experience of sailing with Graham was extraordinary and I think it was that that helped me win the National Swallow Championships in 1968. There were a lot of top-class riders in that race but, with his guidance, I managed to come out on top.”

Jonny shelved his sailing ambitions after his victory in 1968, focussing on his family and distinguished military career until his son convinced him to purchase and 
restore the Swan 40, Aelana, in 2011.

After finishing in the top 10 per cent of the JP Morgan Asset Management Round the Island Race in 2013 in their first race with Aelana, Jonny is looking forward to competing again this year.

He said: “We loved our Round the Island Race last year. It’s a lot like the Grand National because even those who aren’t particularly interested in racing will watch it because it’s so exciting.

“Anything can happen in the Round the Island Race. People say that as long as you finish and haven’t crashed into a rock then you’ve done pretty well.”

The Round the Island’s ‘Race for All’ ethos is unique as enthusiastic amateurs race alongside big names from sailing, sport and entertainment including America’s Cup hero and Britain’s most successful Olympic sailor, Sir Ben Ainslie, who will compete once again this year.

Sir Ben, a passionate Round the Island Race supporter, last year smashed the race record on his AC45 catamaran, JP Morgan BAR, going round the island in an impressive 2h 52m 15s.