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GJW Direct SailFest14 a Solent affair

by Brenda Hoult 26 Jun 2014 17:55 BST 22-25 August 2014
Dart 16 sailing at Calshotcats Sailing Club © SailRacer

Local youth academy testing the water in advance of this year's festival of sail

GJW Direct SailFest will bring together a number of local organisations in the 2014 edition, running from 22 to 25 August. The festival will feature a 3 day sailing regatta from Saturday to Bank Holiday Monday, preceded by a coaching day. An amazing schedule of activities will be available from the extensive Calshot Activities Centre facilities, together with meals, match racing, boat displays, demonstrations and of course a variety of accommodation packages. Entrants are invited to extend their stay at the edge of the New Forest for a week or more.

Calshotcats Sailing Club is the hosting authority, based between the Calshot Activity Centre hangar and Calshot Castle. Not being a racing club, they have appointed Peter Knight and his race management team from SolentXtra, who were responsible for the RSX course at the 2012 Olympics.

The British Marine Federation put the organisers in touch with the UK Youth Marine Training Academy (UKYMTA), based just around the corner at Lepe. They will be working with the event safety team, providing some of the rescue cover and will be the featured charity of GJW Direct SailFest 14. The UKYMTA is a National Charity based just a stone's throw from Calshot. They equip their youth members with a diverse range of skills and qualifications in marina activities, focusing around seamanship and the sport of power-boating.

However Martin Bennett, Chairman of the UKYMTA, is keen to point out that their activities are about a lot more than driving a RIB. "The Charity is about developing the younger members of the community into well-rounded individuals with a whole host of skills from citizenship to life-saving and first aid" and he explains how as they turn 18 there are further opportunities available "our older volunteers man the Lepe Inshore Lifeboat, providing a valuable service in the Solent. Many of our trainees are now working in the marine industry in the surrounding area, as well as continuing with their volunteer activities." Find out more about the Academy at

Calshotcats and the UKYMTA chose a stunning summer evening to get together and check out the facilities and conditions at the 2014 SailFest venue. Race Officer Peter Knight was also on this piece of water he knows very well – sailing his Blaze from Warsash SC for the Wednesday evening race. Although many of the young adults involved in the UKYMTA have an array of marine and safety qualifications which would dazzle a sailing club rescue co-ordinator, the group who met at Calshot had never been in anything like the boats they were to step aboard.

Garry Hughes, Commodore of Cashotcats SC, and Ann Osman, the club's secretary, were amongst the members who took the novices out for the evening sail. Daniel Carter of the UKYMTA went out in Garry's Garmin VIRB equipped Hobie Fox and Garry had him out on the trapeze within minutes of going afloat. See footage of their sail here and check out the speedo fed by the VIRB's GPS function. Ann took out Erin Avery and Gabby Pierson in her Dart 18 and whilst Erin couldn't take the smile off her face Gabby declared it "the best thing I have ever done in my life."

Alongside her experience gained with the UKYMTA on small powerboats, Isabella Bennett has been lucky enough to crew on the 72ft ketch the John Laing on a number of occasions with the Ocean Youth Trust. The smallest sailing boat she had previously been on was 54ft until her trial on the 18ft Dart. Not content with sampling just one catamaran she was the last UKYMTA member off the water as the breeze died "I am set on a career in the marine industry but had always envisaged it being on bigger boats." said Isabelle "This has really opened my eyes and I can't wait to try more small-boat sailing at SailFest in August."

Social (non-racing) entry - a reduced rate entry of £49, exclusively for Catamaran sailors. As catamaran sailors cannot this year be included in the regatta racing, Calshotcats SC will be inviting other catamarans to join them as they make a number of Solent dashes from their own slipway on the eastern side of the spit. As a non-racing club, Calshotcats also welcome membership from monohull dinghies - find out more at With focus usually including beach-side ice-cream parlours, the cruises will no doubt involve a level of competition to the destination. Top speed to be verified by the SailRacer GPS trackers that they will also be equipped with, as for the regatta racers!

Entrants to the SailFest Regatta will be using Calshot's large, wide slipway to the North of the spit, with sheltered launching into Southampton Water. The slipway vista is straight up Southampton Water and the mouth of the River Hamble. On the evening of this gathering the Wednesday evening fleets from Warsash and the Hamble River sailing clubs adorned the view.

Glen Wallis, manager at GJW Direct's Hamble Point office, is delighted with these developments and the fact that the event has moved closer to his home base. "I am really looking to bringing my teenage sons across to Calshot during SailFest to try out some of the activities, as we've not yet had chance to explore that corner of the New Forest." Glen heads up the Southern region of the company's operations – the UK's largest direct boat insurers, specialising in dinghies but covering most craft from Optimists to luxury yachts.

GJW Direct SailFest runs from Friday 22nd to Monday 25th August 2014, with the regatta racing from Saturday to Monday. The regatta represents the final round of the Garmin Summer Series, also supported by Gul and Trident. Find out more and enter at

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