How Southampton Sailing Week inspired me to take up a new hobby

If I lived next to a bakery I’d be in there scoffing cake on a daily basis. So why is it that I live next to one of the best stretches of water for sailing and I never go out on the briny blue?

That was the question I posed myself as I gazed at the yachts in Ocean Village from the office window a few weeks ago when, as if by magic, the phone rang.

Southampton Sailing Week was a brand-new event coming to the south and, as Lee Peck Media was handling the PR, the organisers were calling to give me the chance to try the sport.

Trying something new

Normally I’m much more at home working up a sweat on the safety of dry land. Boxing, spinning and running are my methods of choice so the opportunity to try sailing was something that both excited and terrified me.

Apparently I’m not alone. According to Southampton Sailing Week, less than 23 per cent of people in Southampton have been out on the water. Their mission was to change that statistic with the first ever official celebration of sailing in the city.

And so I found myself on the pontoons at MDL’s Ocean Village Marina, which looked more like Monaco than Hampshire in the blazing sun.

In safe hands

Hopping on board the Sunsail F40 I was in safe hands, with our team led by Conrad Manning. He’s a seasoned skipper, marine engineer and all-round sailing hero. As if that wasn’t enough, he spends his spare time helping kids get into engineering and is hoping to sail solo, non-stop around the world very soon.

Under his guidance our team learnt the basics of how the boat works, how to do some simple manoeuvres, and, importantly, how to avoid losing any fingers.

Getting to grips with the boat

Out on the water, what amazed me was how quickly we all fell into our roles. Southampton Sailing Week organiser Chris Rees took on what looked like the scariest task, taking control of the mast at the front of the boat. Keen sailors Sean and Keli Murphy, who travelled all the way from Detroit Yacht Club to take part, handled some of the other complicated roles.

Meanwhile I worked with fellow sailing newbie Dan Fitzhenry, throwing ropes on and off winches and before we knew it we were taking part in our first race.

The thrill of racing

The feeling of whizzing down the Solent and manoeuvring the boat to the right position is absolutely exhilarating. There’s something about combining physical graft, the power of nature’s elements and a knowledge of physics that makes it extra special. Sure, I love a 10k or half marathon but there’s something even more rewarding about a sport that combines teamwork, tactics and science with physical strength.

So while our team didn’t cross the line first in either of our races, I feel like I still won that day. I’ve found a new sport that exercises my mind, as well as my body. What’s more, it’s a team sport so it’s a great way to meet new people.

It costs less than you think

Some might think of sailing as an elitist sport but, as Southampton Sailing Week has shown, you don’t have to be a millionaire to enjoy it. Companies like Sunsail run whole-day taster courses for example for around £100 per person. Based on my experience, I promise you it’s worth every penny.

Find out more about Southampton Sailing Week at

  • Laura Downton

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