The most popular sailing times for the 2014 Southern 100 races are already full up with the Steam Packet’s on-line booking system showing some crossings as sold out.
S100 Club clerk of the Course Phil Taubman said it was a reflection of the event’s continued popularity, which in 2013 saw around a 13 per cent increase in motorcycles carried over on the ferry.
‘I had heard some people were having difficulty getting boats for the 2014 event and it’s true it is getting more and more popular,’ he said.
‘It tends to be the weekend boats that fill up because eveyone wants to book on to the same ones then leave on certain sailings the following weekend. Part of it is the calibre of the riders we get with all the same big names as for the TT such as Guy Martin, Michael Dunlop and Ian Lougher, and the closeness of the racing has attracted the spectators.
‘The only people we don’t get are John McGuinness and Ian Hutchinson.’
Because practices and some of the races take place in the evening, he said the event was popular for people wanting to combine it with a family holiday and use the day for sightseeing.
‘It also takes place in a week in the year when there is not a lot else on,’ he added.
‘Certainly all the indications are it will be as good again this year if not better. Many people who heard Guy Martin interviewed at the NEC recently will have heard him refer to the TT as merely a warm up for the S100.’
An increased number of competitors, many bringing teams with them meant even in 2013 an extra field had to be allocated for parking vehicles to ease pressure on space in the paddock. Currently for 2014 the club is looking at providing another field for non competitors’ parking and camping.
A number of safety improvements are planned for the course in 2014 with the installation of extra Recticel barriers to replace straw bales, notably at Church Bends. But the work is part of a continuing programme and was not prompted by the deaths of three competitors during the 2013 event. Misadventure verdicts were recorded and no recommendation was made for any practical safety improvements which might have changed the outcome, none of the accidents were down to the condition of the road surface or safety equipment, Mr Taubman said.
In December, S100 sponsors the Steam Packet, reported a 3.2 per cent rise in bookings for the TT and double the bookings for MGP/Classic TT compared with this time last year.