WITH A forecast of scorching sun and winds of no stronger than 15 knots, there will not be any records broken as the Round the Island Race progresses into the afternoon.

Acclaimed British actor, TV producer and Round the Island competitor, Michael Kitchen had the honour of firing the starting cannon from the Royal Yacht Squadron in Cowes at 7.30am to mark the start of the 88th annual event, before he headed back to his yacht to prepare for his own start.

As he stepped aboard his Starlight 35 for his 7.50am start, Kitchen said he was honoured to be the official race starter of the Island Sailing Club’s iconic 60-nautical mile annual race around the Isle of Wight.

“I couldn’t feel more honoured with the invitation of being the official starter of this iconic race," he said.

"It is a huge privilege. I have competed at the event many times and we've always had a cracking time. It is a brilliant event.”

Commenting on his aim today, Kitchen said he and his four-strong crew hope to improve on the second place they achieved a few years ago.

“Naturally we are hoping to do well. We are surprisingly competitive in its most attractive form," Kitchen added.

"The idea is to beat our position from three years ago when we came second and won a bit of silverware.

"That would be fantastic, but we are being realistic, of course.”

Some 1,253 entries started the race — not quite the 1,500 predicted — but with an ebbing tide and an early morning east-south-easterly breeze, for a downwind spinnaker start, the first leg to The Needles was fairly swift.

Giving an idea of what competitors are likely to expect as they head off round the Island, Simon Rowell, the British Sailing Team's Round the Island Race meteorologist, said it is going to be fairly complex later this afternoon.

“It is going to be quite interesting with the wind coming from the east-south-east — not too light, about 10-14 knots," he explained.

"That will gradually ease throughout the day and, sometime this afternoon — and this is where the uncertainty lies — it will start to go right.

"It is going to be quite a complicated weather change — and not a steady move. “The ones who do well are going to be the ones who work hard during that changeable period — when it changes from east to the west any time from about 3pm and 6pm.

"Those who work the hardest and really keep their heads out the boat, are the ones who are going to make big gains.

"You will be able to see the race won or lost, depending on what tactical decisions are made during the change.”

A decent working breeze for the spinnaker start allowed all 11 divisions to enjoy an exciting start and created a spectacular sight as they headed off the line west towards The Needles.

To follow the race in detail, go to the race tracker on the Round the Island home page: www.roundtheisland.org.uk