Many of my clients already know that I am a keen sailor (read obsessed!) and always have been.

For those who are interested I thought I would tell you a bit more especially as it is a locally important sport and I there are often crewing opportunities!

I have been fortunate to have sailed and raced all my life. The responsibility lies solely with my Father! He bought the boat I now own in 1934 in Falmouth, and brought her to his home village (as a child during the school holidays) of Itchenor. Not long after, the sailing Club became the Solent home of these classic yachts – the “Solent Sunbeams“.

There are now 30 in the Class and they are raced keenly 3 times a week, or so, from the end of March through to the end of October. Whereupon – they get hauled out and the winter is spent re-decorating! (Scrubbing, sand-papering, filling, varnishing, anti-fouling and painting). Many owners have the various boatyards do this for them.. Gayle does her yacht herself!

The Solent Sunbeams are 26’6″ long (8m) and weigh about 1.8 tonnes. Hull speed is approximately 7 knots but in a strong breeze and the right sea conditions they can reach 12 knots!

They are beautiful boats to handle in all wind conditions, designed as they are as 1920’s classic racing yachts for Gentlemen! but are equally manageable for women. Most of the crew are ladies but there are gradually an increasing number of Lady helms / owners too which is good for morale and egos!

The yachts have 3 sails – the main, jib and an interesting spinnaker – the coloured sail. Hull colours are up to the owners, with Class Captain’s approval but all the Itchenor Division boat names have to end in a “Y”. Gayle’s is called “Little Lady”, was built in 1924 and is bright yellow. She was originally part of the Falmouth Fleet (where the rest are still based) and was pearl grey but on being brought here her father changed her colour, though not her name.

Whilst we are blessed with moorings in the Itchenor Reach and race in the beautiful Harbour mainly, we also venture out to the Solent and Cowes in particular for the “big Regattas” – Cowes Classic Week and Cowes Week – end of July and early August.

Competition is close in all parts of the fleet, whether at the front or towards the back and there is always a good tale to tell back at base over a cup of tea or lunch or our Thursday evening dinner after racing.

Making a splash and on their way to victory, Gayle Palmer and crew from Itchenor Sailing Club come first in the St. Winfrid’s Yacht Challenege Sunbeam section.

Of course we race for many trophies during the season – and a bottle of wine on a Thursday.

If you are interested in coming out for a trial sail / race contact Gayle via the clinic. 01243 641665. You will need to be fairly strong and agile – this is no “sit idly and watch the view” sport! You don’t need any experience though, and you will be in safe hands as Gayle can happily sail single-handed if necessary! Trainers / grippy shoes are a must, probably some protective gloves and some light-weight waterproofs (I can’t always avoid splashes) plus a cap are useful. You can borrow a lifejacket.

Itchenor Sailing Club’s Sunbeam race at sunset in Chichester Harbour Aug 2013

Its a challenging and engaging sport all set in the fabulous harbour – enjoying the call of the birds or watching out for the Harbour seals heads bob up! No engine noise, ever (there is none). There is plenty of mental work to do as well as physical action.

So come and find out more…

PS I am usually at one or both of the Cowes Regattas in the Summer – so if you can’t get hold of me at that time – that is why! Check the yachting press for the race results or look up the appropriate Regatta websites for info 😉

© Gayle Palmer


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