To be honest, it was only because of the Olympics and watching the sailing events that I even had a clue what it might be like to race in an ocean yacht. Engraved in my mind was the Australian yacht that capsized with one of the sailors being yanked out of the water to safety by her team-mate. But my own ocean yachting experience would be more exciting and energising than I could ever have imagined. It certainly took me out of my comfort zone!
I was in Cowes on a press trip for two days with Visit England to get a flavour for the regatta and dip my toes into a sailing experience. Cowes Week is a corporate affair these days because of the money involved in keeping it afloat (£30m at last reckoning). Thus, Aberdeen Asset Management and Talisker whiskey branding is everywhere, but I don’t think too many really mind. Liz Earle and Gill clothing monikers are pretty conspicuous as well.
In fact it was Aberdeen Asset Management that invited us into their tent by the sea for a scrumptious lunch with colourful salads and burgers, too. They were very welcoming and everyone was geared up for the racing to come in the week ahead. Martin Gilbert, CEO joined our table for a lively chat.
Our first watery adventure was on a RIB (a large Zodiac type craft with odd padded seating that you straddle). After dressing head to toe in water-proof gear, the skipper of our RIB took us out bouncing across the choppy, green water of the Solent. It was great fun, though a bit jarring when we got up to speed as the RIB takes you over the crest of a wave…and then hits back down on the other side of it with a jolt. But seeing the verdant Isle of Wight coastline for the first time from the Solent was a real treat. And the colourful billowing spinnakers on the racing yachts were staggeringly beautiful.
We then had a very informative whiskey tasting at the Talisker tent with an entertaining expert named Colin. The brewery is based in the Isle of Skye and has been around since the 1800s though whiskey brewing originally came from Ireland with the monks in about the 6th century. Talisker is well known for its single malt and, apparently, the charred insides of the American oak barrels are what gives the beverage its golden colour. The brewing flame is fired by peat which has bits of saline, moss, bark and many other natural ingredients indigenous to the Isle of Skye. At 56 proof, it burned my mouth and gums and I coughed and spluttered when I finally took a swallow. But when I coated my mouth with fine chocolate or a strong bleu cheese, it went down a treat. We also tried it sprinkled on fish and chips along with sea salt.
After the tasting was an opportunity to try out an Atlantic ocean rower. Did you know that Atlantic rowers only sleep for 2 hours and then row for 2 hours, and so until they reach their destination. They must row naked because any clothing edges, combined with sun and sea salt in the air, would give the person a terrible rash!
After all was said and done, we were invited to the Royal London Yacht Club for beverages and canapés. I enjoyed spotting Martin’s tartan trousers (well done!). As we lounged outside enjoying the shimmering sunset, it was a lovely end to my first day on the Isle of Wight.
Press trip sponsored by @VisitEngland with thanks to Aberdeen Assets Management.
The Cowes Regatta is the oldest sporting event in UK history starting in 1826. Aberdeen Asset Management Cowes Week attracts around 1,000 yachts in up to 40 classes, and 8,500 competitors ranging from weekend sailors through to Olympic medallists and World Champions. Find out more at www.aamcowesweek.co.uk