Sailing to Sunset and carving through waves
The Solent, a blink that our memory saves
The Race round the island before the light bathes;
The hungry adventure the traveller craves.
The yachtsmen see seaward horizons that gleam
They pull to the future, they work as a team
Each jive across breezes to catch that sunbeam:
The treasure is more than the glimpse it might seem.
The landmark ahead is a couplet of eyes;
a haystack discovery just where the third lies?
The jut from the surface - twin challenges rise:
To thread through the Needles, the ultimate Prize!
The Shores and their beaches so often left blank
Some sunsets are peaceful, the colours we rank
Like rainbows, the pebbles upon the left bank
Now coming the thrill, there are sailors to thank....
The great annual contest the sands of shore grace:
binoculars peeled for the spectacle case
The Wight of our eyes is so etched on our face
The splendours and sights of Our Great Island Race!
The Needles on the Isle of Wight is one of the most photographed groups of rocks in the world. This row of three distinctive chalk stacks features in all the classic views of the island, a truly unforgettable image. The Needles form the western tip of a band of chalk that crosses the centre of the Isle of Wight, stretching to Culver Cliff in the east. This chalk ridge continues west under the sea to Dorset’s Isle of Purbeck and is believed to have been connected at one time to Old Harry Rocks, about 20 miles away. In 5,000 BC this ridge was breached by the Solent River, creating the Isle of Wight with its jagged white rocks at the western tip. These unusually vertical rocks are a result of the heavy folding of chalk and the remaining stacks of hard chalk are extremely resistant to erosion.
In 1931 the Round the Island Yacht Race started, with The Needles its first important landmark. "Threading the Needle" was one of the most difficult and dangerous traditions. Until 1955, a Bridge buoy had to be left to port and then there were years in which it was possible to ‘thread The Needles’, passing between two of the chalk pillars. Jack Knights did so with great success in a Yachting World Diamond winning the race in 1961. But the practice was frowned upon and from 1963 until 1980 then a buoy was dropped offshore of the infamous hazards, Goose Rock and the wreck of the Varvassi.
The Needles is also the first major Landmark of The Admiral's Cup yacht race, what is now The America's Cup, which started in the Solent and then passed the Needles. For many years this was the unofficial world championship of yacht racing.
In 1764 the missing Needle, known as 'Lot's Wife' crashed into the sea. The stump of this 120 feet high pinnacle can still be seen at low tide, and forms a dangerous reef.