Cowes Dinghy Week – A Visitor’s Point of View
From crossing the Solent on the Red Funnel ferry to the slightly nerve racking experience of dragging one’s dinghy along the bumpy Isle of Wight roads, Cowes Dinghy Week is a bit of an adventure for the visitor.
Perhaps it’s due to the extra travel involved that there generally aren’t many mainland visitors to this excellent dinghy sailing event, but those that do make the effort are well rewarded. This year was our third Dinghy Week and we were eager to put our new RS500 through its paces in the challenging sailing conditions of the Solent.
One of the major attractions of sailing at Gurnard is that it rarely fails to be exciting and challenging. With good sea breezes, a strong tide and choppy water it’s always a rewarding sail, but it requires a significant gear-change for us after spending the season sailing on the Norfolk Broads. Thankfully this year we were given a gentle introduction to the week’s racing on Sunday. With the race spent close tacking up the shore in a moderate breeze, our inland sailing skills were of some use.
However, the same couldn’t be said for the rest of the week’s sailing, which became more and more of a physical challenge in the strong breezes. Throughout the week everyone was coming off the water with aching muscles, but huge grins. The racing was challenging and all fleets sailed to high standards, but most importantly everybody taking part was having lots of fun – we certainly were! And despite doing our fair share of swimming we managed to find ourselves at the sharp end of the fast handicap fleet.
It was also great to find there was no difference in the friendly welcome we were given by GSC members this year compared to the couple of years we’ve spent pitching up in an antique Fireball that we struggled to flog round the course when the wind blew.
All in all Dinghy Week is a fairly unique event and it’s really enjoyable to find both a high standard of sailing and management who are so keen to see anybody there who’s willing to ‘give it a go’. It’s a great event, with an ideal blend of full on racing, good socials and, most importantly (for the adults) lie-ins!
Our boat is now back at Hickling Broad SC, but it still sports the King Of Shaves logo and a set of foot straps on the gun whale, which we hastily fitted when the wind blew up to 25 knots and the swell grew. These look a little out of place on the Broad, but we wear them like a badge of honour and say to our fellow pond sailors ‘go and sail on the Solent – then you’ll see!’
Tim Wilkins and Heather Martin sailed an RS500 in the fast handicap fleet.