I first started sailing when I was 13, and I joined the newly formed Maidstone Grammar School sailing club to learn on both Enterprises and Moth dinghies. My original interest had been stirred by Arthur Ransome, of course. In fact, I’d say he taught me sailing just through my reading of his books. After a long time sailing dinghies, the ‘breakthrough’ came over 30 years ago when I was introduced to yachting through a friend’s family. My very first experience of proper yachting was sailing off a mooring in Keyhaven and beating down to Studland Bay in Dorset, where we overnighted. Magic (or, rather, Madgic).
I wonder how many thousands have made a similar short voyage to this entirely new realm? Rapidly identifying this as another part of my slowly dawning understanding of the great big outdoors and my crucial place in it, I enrolled on a series of RYA courses run from the old Merchant Navy School in Stamford Street, south London. Combining the winter theory with spring and summer practicals around the UK and the Channel Islands, it all came to fruition for this tyro skipper in a first flotilla holiday in Greece, with the then Yacht Cruising Association.
After years of jilling about in this yacht and that, in 1988 I signed an agreement with Tracy Edwards to write about her successful attempt to skipper the first all-women crew in a Whitbread Round the World Race. The book we wrote about the project, Maiden, subsequently proved to be an international best-seller. In the past decade I have sailed across the Atlantic, in and around South America, Australia and New Zealand – and all round the coasts of Europe. I actually spent a honeymoon on a 40-foot Dufour sailing up and down the coast of Corsica.
And so that world trip draws ever nearer, if not yet my financial planning for it. Meanwhile, I sail when I can, the last trip in Greece in 2016, around Skopelos and Alonissos. And, in 2019, it will be back in Croatia with an all-women crew! Hasta la Vicky! (and the two Sues)