Isle of Wight
Carefree short breaks & holidays
Spinnakers on the Solent © IW Tourism
The Isle of Wight is an internationally renowned sailing and yachting destination. It has an illustrious seafaring history, and was one of the locations where the sport of yacht racing was originally developed. The Yacht Club founded here in 1815 is now known as The Royal Yacht Squadron.
Between the Island and the mainland lies the Solent. Varied coastlines and fierce tidal streams combine to make an ideal training ground for world-beating sailors, and the sheltered waters are a hub for cruising yachtsmen. The Solent stretches about 20 miles from end to end, ranging in breadth from three miles in the centre, to less than half a mile at its narrowest point near Hurst Castle.
In the summer months, all manner of pleasure craft descend on the Solent, from gleaming ocean-going yachts to pocket cruisers and powerboats.
Whether you want to meander up the Island's quiet rivers, thrash around the buoys, or just sit back with an ice cream and watch all the action, the Isle of Wight is the place to be.
Regarded as the spiritual home of yachting, Cowes is the world's premier yachting port. A famous week-long regatta is held here each year during the first week of August. Thousands of yachts compete in the annual Cowes Week and there is a fantastic line-up of shoreside entertainment day and night. Cowes Week forms part of the British social scene but it also attracts many overseas visitors and those who simply enjoy the spectacle.
A popular overnight stop in the summer, Yarmouth Harbour is often packed with visiting cruising yachts. It is a pretty town with a variety of pubs and eateries around the town square. Every June, Yarmouth hosts an annual maritime festival, where traditional craft and craftsmen celebrate their maritime tradition. Good food, drink and music in convivial surroundings are the order of the day, as well as some sailing. Located just a few miles up the coast from the Needles, Yarmouth is frequently the last stop before crossing the English Channel to Cherbourg.
Home to many mainlanders who travel here for rest and relaxation, Seaview has a strong community built around the Seaview Yacht Club. One-design clinker-built wooden dinghies are raced here on evenings and weekends. In addition, there is a fleet of Seaview Mermaids which are used for regattas by visiting organisations. Seaview is ideally sheltered from prevailing south-westerly winds and usually offers calm water. Tides are less severe here than the Island's north and west coasts.
A large drying harbour prevents Bembridge from being too crowded as it can only take shoal-draft craft. There are two active sailing clubs, Bembridge Sailing Club, which race the unique Redwing class, where the sail area is restricted but the sailplan is not. This has produced many innovative designs including a rotating windmill rig.
Bembridge Sailing Club also race a fleet of tiny one-man keelboats called Illusions, in which the helmsman lies prone, steers with his feet and just has his head protruding at deck level. At the top end of the harbour lies Brading Haven Yacht Club, which primarily races dinghies. The harbour largely dries up at low tide.
A wide sandy bay with little tidal flow located on the south coast of the Isle of Wight, Sandown Bay provides a completely different sailing opportunity. Catamarans and windsurfers fly across the water. There are no facilities for keelboats, but dinghies and powerboats are launched by tractor from Yaverland Sailing and Boat Club in Sandown. There is also the nearby Shanklin Sailing Club further along the bay.