This year, what with Brexit headaches and those workhorses of holiday charter flights, the Boeing 737 jets being grounded until July, it could make sense to seek a sailing holiday that is closer to home. If the season in British waters is half as good as last year, then it will be a superb summer to be afloat and there’s no better way to do it than on a traditional boat.
We’ve gathered ten operators which between them reflect the wide diversity of options available from small cabin boat holidays on the Norfolk Broads to fleet racing in yachts of the finest pedigree. There’s aventure sailing and cross Channel cruising in workboats as well as pampered passage-making, some of it abroad…
This Chichester-based company has a fleet of immaculately-kept wooden yachts for racing in select south coast settings. The fleet consists of four offshore Morgan Giles 43s (see main image above) – which were built for the Royal Navy in 1959, four West Solent One Designs, which are beautiful inshore race-horses sleek and easy to sail, while providing enough challenges to get the best from them. There are also three famous Eight Metres – all from the pen of William Fife, who arguably designed the most beautiful yachts ever seen.
You can hire these boats, together or individually overnight or for day sailing with a programme provided by Classic Sail. The company – founded by David Foster aims to provide an ultimate good-time sailing experience with a superb luncheon (honestly you can’t just all it lunch), in Chichester, or around the Solent or even out of Brighton, say. At present CS offers group bookings of up to 24. As a price guide hiring one of the 43s (which can take eight) costs £1500 for the day including breakfast, lunch and tea (all provided in a gourmet style which redefines catering on board boats like this).
Contact: +44 (0)1243 487 700
Nick Beck left his job in the city in 2009 and started life as a charter captain with his own newly-built pilot cutter – the Amelie Rose. She’s a superbly seaworthy vessel and comfy to be aboard – she is based on the Scillonian pilot cutters which were built to offer pilotage services to ships in the western approaches.
She is based in the Solent but the sailing programme extends around to the Cornish and Brittany coasts and Nick takes her to several trad boat festivals – which are about as much fun as you can have… on any kind of boat, but very cool if you’re on something like the AR.
Trips range from day charter to two weeks and Nick offers RYA Competent Crew and Day Skipper courses as well as sea-mile building adventures for those seeking qualifications.
Prices range from £295 for a two day weekend taster to six days out of the Beaulieu River for instance for just £495 from 4th to 10th of May.
Contact: +44 (0)800 773 4264
Tall Ship holidays – all over the world, is the promise of this Cornwall-based charter specialist team which have over 23 years of experience and 24 separate traditionally rigged
vessels on their books. Chose from West Country Coves to Irish and Scottish sea lochs or go further afield, exploring European coasts, Norwegian fjords, Greenland, the Antarctic, Azores or Cape Verdes. The vessels range in size from more intimate pilot cutters like The Agnes up to two and three masted ships like the barque Europa.
The company started with Adam and Debbie Purser buying and chartering a Luke Powell pilot cutter Eve of St Mawes, built in 1996 and the ethos of “life-changing adventures under sail” has been the same ever since.
We particularly like their “Inspire Me” page on the website: https://classic-sailing.co.uk/inspire-me From RYA practical and theory classes, Yachtmaster prep weeks or daysails from £99, there is an impressive choice on offer. You can even help deliver cargoes under sail with them.
Contact: +44 1872 580022
We love the venerable Excelsior! Like many traditional vessels she is a sturdy sea-goer and one of the last trawlers of her type (and occasionally she has been known to still trawl under sail!). She’s an ideal charter vessel doing sterling work with youth groups from tailor made school sailing trips to five-night cruises towards a Duke of Edinburgh Gold award.
The 1921 77ft (23.5m) ketch has a busy programme which includes passages to Holland, Bruges, Portsmouth and Paimpol – where she’ll be a popular vantage point from which to enjoy the traditional Breton music festival.
Excelsior is popular with young people who benefit from the deep learning experiences that sail training gives them. It’s as far away from the classroom as you can get as you’re not just told or shown how something is done, but you then do it yourself with a chance to repeat it ‘til you get it right. This embues self-confidence and the trawler has programmes based around this.
Contact: +44 (0)845 3082323
Sailing Vessel Irene 1907
In the same capable hands since 1965 Irene is an example of a once common vessel in British waters. Trading ketches evolved to be used by just three or four crew and plied their trade with cargos between the small and larger ports. Irene was typical for her time, built in 1907 she carried bricks and tiles from Bridgwater, Somerset out to other ports and carried a variety of cargoes, corn, iron and even pigs, on return voyages. Irene’s voyages recreate this with a full itinerary beginning in the South West with cruises from Dartmouth before heading to the Irish Sea and the Hebrides, Brittany, and the Scilly Isles. She will recreate one of her original trading routes, from Swansea to Newlyn in July.
There are still places on the Dartmouth Explorer for three nights from 24th April at £445 per person. And Classic Sailor readers are offered a 10% discount.
Contact: +44 (0)2380 011637 and quote CS.
Some of the most famous classic yachts are on the books of this Sussex-based company. From Wm Fife’s exquisitely-lined 1903 Moonbeam III to Nicholson’s 1899 ketch Black Swan or John Alden’s 1930 schooner Puritan – these are yachts that can take you in a time warp back into an age of grace on the water.
Charters are as varied as you could wish, but Mediterranean and Caribbean waters dominate with some of the yachts attending the classic sailing events which are extraordinary to witness; so many beautiful yachts together multiplies manifold the grace effect. To take part in one of these events provides memories for life as professional crews race these boats much as they did a century ago.
Classiccharters.com is run by father and son team Nick and Dominic Meredith Hardy and Dom was telling us of one of the more unusual charters – with the luxury 98ft (30m) nine-berth motoryacht Conquest, built for the actor Norman Wisdom in 1966 and available to charter to the Cannes Film Festival. And that must be one of the most glitzy things you can do on a boat; what a way to see, and possibly meet, the stars! She probably has her own red-carpet gang-plank!
Prices are predictably impressive but charters here start at around £2,000 a week.
Contact: +44 (0) 7919430863
Driac Classic Sailing
Driac is a 46ft teak on oak yacht designed by Charles Nicholson and launched by Camper and Nicholsons in 1930. She was praised early on, by Uffa Fox in his 1934 book Sailing, Seamanship and Yacht Construction , where he wrote: “She is so near to perfection, with her seaworthiness, comfort and speed.”
Driac is run by her enigmatic owner, yachtmsater and adventurer Charles Lyster, who bases her in Milford Haven. Charles runs RYA courses and adventures like the Three Peaks Race, sailing the west coast from Barmouth to Fort William and running up Snowden, Scafell and Ben Nevis. It’s one of sport’s ultimate challenges and a very gruelling way to enjoy a yacht charter… For something more gentle Charles runs cruises to Ireland and around the spectacular waters of West Wales.
People speak very highly of Charles’ knowledge and his approach to teaching sailing: “I learnt an incredible amount from him, in a very relaxed way given the sheer volume of information he had to share,” vouches Toby, a Dayskipper candidate. ” The breadth of his knowledge relating to boats, sailing and safety is vast, and is always delivered with a real world example which is easy to relate to. Prices on Driac are from £100 per day, per person.
Contact: +44 (0)7515 387693
Broads Sailing is the name of a new partnership between the five yacht charter companies which offer bareboat sailing on the Norfolk Broads.
The Broads themselves offer 125 miles of some of the best sailing on inland waters in the UK, their magical allure was brought to life best by Arthur Ransome in his 1930s books Coot Club and The Big Six. The best way to experience the Broads is by boat and while Ransome’s “hullaballoos” still cruise around in loud motorboats – sailing is still definitely the cool way to experience the wildlife and peace of these natural (National Park) waters.
The five companies behind Broads Sailing are: Eastwood Whelpton, at Upton (16 yachts), Martham Boats at Martham (23 yachts), Hunter’s Yard at Ludham (14 gaff rig yachts), Swallowtail Boatyard at Ludham (four classic yachts) and Oliver’s Sailing Holidays at Martham Ferry (two traditionally rigged yachts).
Together with technical support from Waterways Holidays the companies now have a booking system with telephone support making booking a charter easier.
“Our fleets include yachts which can be handled by novices through to powerful yachts that were designed and built for racing on the local rivers and broads,” says Andy Hamilton of Eastwood Whelpton. “ A sailing holiday on the Broads is the ideal ‘next step’ from dinghy sailing as well as presenting a different challenge to experienced sea sailors.”
For novices qualified instructors are on hand to give a pre-charter weekend or mid-week “Start Sailing” course which is designed to give you enough confidence to then enjoy and get the most from your holiday. Sounds like a lot of fun! Prices on the wooden boats start at just £24 per person per night.
Contact: +44 (0)1252 796409
Zulu Yachting is the charter name of the Laurent Giles race-winning Bermudan sloop Cetawayo, based in the Solent. Launched in 1957 she was fast from the start winning five firsts in her inaugural season and continues to win with her current owner David Murrin at the helm. Murrin is a past commodore of the British Classic Yacht Club and Cetawayo has raced every season since the club was founded in 2001. Murrin has recently re-rigged the 48ft (14.6m) boat, with the help of top designers Giovanni Belgrano and the late Theo Rye to give her 25% or more power and much better performance in light airs.
He describes the day-charter experience as exhilarating yet comfortable with the professional crew of three able to pamper those who wish to relax or demonstrate her racing prowess for the more actively sailing-minded.
A day for eight guests includes breakfast, lunch and tea, drinks and wine and costs £2,500 (+VAT) for the boat and crew.
Contact: +44 (0)1428 656 966
If you are looking to step aboard living sailing history, then the Brightlingsea smack Priscilla is a pristine example of the 2nd class Essex smack skippered charter experience.
In 2000 she was rescued from Bristol for the price of £1 from being abandoned in a state of disrepair with a silver birch growing out of a stern quarter. Her time came again when she underwent full restoration by the Pioneer Sailing Trust apprentices, and was relaunched in 2017 by the Duchess of Wessex. She is now available for charter to give a taste of original fishing smack sailing.
Ideal for groups and individuals throughout the year, Priscilla can offer uplifting sailing experiences and back to basics accommodation for £75pp for a day charter.
Alternatively, for those who like a bit of an occasion and competitive spirit she can be chartered for local Essex regattas including Rowhedge Regatta (22 June), OGA East Coast Race at Stone (27 July), West Mersea Town Regatta (17 August), Colne Smack & Barge Match (5 September), and Maldon Town Regatta (21 September).