Despite that amazing sailing experience, and Tom’s parents and one of his best friends owning a boat, I’ve only been sailing a handful of times since that week in 2010. So when Sunsail got in contact a few weeks ago and asked if I wanted to spend the day going racing on one of their yachts on Cowes Week Ladies Day, and then attending a Liz Earle Reception in the evening, I jumped at the chance at a little nostalgia and the call of the ocean!
Immediately after arriving at Cowes we were introduced to the rest of our crew (Nick and Pippa, the two other Sunsail people who would be skippering our yacht) and given our lifejackets and wet weather gear. Unfortunately my visions of lazing on the foredeck in a bikini were hampered by the good old British summer, and instead of blazing sunshine we had clouds and drizzle. Another cruel trick that the weather played on us was the absence of wind. It doesn’t take a genius to work out that going racing in a sailing yacht when there’s not even a single knot of wind is somewhat problematic. The intention was to race the other Sunsail yachts in the fleet for the chance to win prizes at a later prize-giving ceremony, but the flat calm seas and lack of a breeze rather dashed these plans.
Instead, we had a brunch of pastries and fruit and were given a tour of the yacht before setting out into the Solent for a very civilised pootle around. We spied some rather expensive yachts and trimarans and had a good little nose at these, waving at all of the people on various luxury vessels (and trying to convince them to send us over some champagne). We had cups of tea and tried to avoid the incessant mizzly rain, constantly keeping our fingers crossed for a bit of wind and a break in the clouds.
After lunch, and a lot of pootling, we headed back into Cowes for a look at the Cowes Parade Village – a series of stands, exhibitions, bars and food stalls all put on during Cowes Week . Liz Earle was one of the official sponsors of the event – as well as of Ladies Day - (it has its Head Office on the island) and there was a fab stall offering arm and hand massages, skincare consultations, and a little shop where you could buy their various products. Cowes itself was also a real hubbub of activity, with lots of popup shops and food places serving the hundreds of people who had descended for Cowes Week.
After the puffing and prize giving was over we changed into our evening attire and took a car to Northwood House for the evening reception. The Ladies Day reception included the giving of the prestigious Ladies Day trophy, championing women in sailing and recognising the contribution of a woman who has played an integral part in sailing over the previous year. This year the trophy was given to Libby Greenhalgh, Chief Navigator for Team SCA in the recent Volvo Round the World Ocean Race.
We were lucky enough to be given lots of lovely glasses of champagne and canapés whilst we chatted to others at the Reception and helped celebrate the prize giving. We were also given some extremely generous goodie bags packed full of Liz Earle products.
Are you a seasoned sailor? Have you ever been to Cowes Week?