A view across The Needles, Isle of Wight, with many sailing boats in the water and countryside in the foreground

Sailing from the Isle of Wight

The Isle of Wight has an enviable reputation for sailing, with some of the most challenging waters in the world on its doorstep.  We caught up with Michael Howorth from The Howorths about what the Island has to offer.

“From the glorious bustle of Cowes Week to quiet backwater cruising, the Isle of Wight is the essential destination for sailors this summer.

During seven hectic days in early August, the town of Cowes plays host to 750 sailing boats, around 7,000 yachtsmen and up to 100,000 spectators. No one could argue that Cowes Week, which began in 1826, is an iconic sporting event and, with over 40 different races scheduled each year, the largest sailing regatta in the world.

But Cowes Week is just one of the many draws the Isle of Wight has for those who like to hoist the mainsail. June sees the Island Sailing Club’s annual Round the Island Race, and because anyone can enter the race, it regularly attracts over 1,400 boat entries and some 15,000 participating sailors. Billed as the world’s largest yacht race, it is in fact the biggest mass-participation sporting event in the UK after the London Marathon and the Great North and South Runs. Over 200 prizes are awarded on the day which sees boats of every size and class take part.”

A yacht sailing at sunset on calm waters off the Isle of Wight

Not that you need enjoy racing to sail in island waters: there is much to offer those who like to take it easy. Top of the list is dropping the hook in Newtown Creek on a brewer’s tide and making your way, by tender, up to the New Inn at Shalfleet for an evening pint or two before the ebb takes you home again. If the entrance to the river has your tiller hand gripped too tightly, then opt for the longer, but more serene, approach into Bembridge Harbour. Check your draught and, on the first attempt, do so on a rising tide, just to be safe.

Ashore, Bembridge Sailing Club, an RYA Recognised Training Centre, offers courses including dinghy sailing and other marine-related subjects, while Bembridge Powerboat Training offers RYA approved own-boat instruction and RIB charters. Head for Cowes for perhaps one of the RYA’s most diverse training establishments: the UK Sailing Academy (UKSA) has it all, with courses from Beginner to Superyacht crew.

With over 70 miles of pristine coastline and half of the island designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, the Isle of Wight is more than just a sailor’s paradise. Year-round, the island has much to offer visitors, particularly those with a hearty appetite. The islanders are justifiably proud of their food and drink heritage – from crab to samphire – and sampling these sea-sourced delicacies is a good enough reason in itself to cross the Solent.”

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