This article was originally published in September 2020.
While high-tech modern racing vessels can be seductively sophisticated, a classic yacht takes charm to another level
My absolute passion is sailing. I rather consider my 30-year City career a necessary distraction to keep me off the water. A distraction because a bad day on the water always beats a good day in the office, but a necessity because boats are expensive beasts to keep and maintain. (So, thank you to all my clients for the business that’s paid for those new sails!)
Until just a few years ago, She-who-is-now-Mrs-Blain and I spent all our free weekends racing on the Solent – the inland sea that divides the Isle of Wight from the real world – or charging up and down the south coast of England on offshore races. We’ve been fortunate enough to afford some very nice racing yachts – all named Batfish – and to have great friends to crew the boats. But it’s been the quality of our crews’ teamwork that has made our yachts successful.
In recent years we’ve discovered a new kind of sailing – cruising. Instead of sailing with eight or nine crew on the foredeck, stacking sails as sewer rats, trimming jibs, working the mainsheet and playing the various halyards from the pit, the pair of us clamber on board on a Friday night, hoist the sails, set the autopilot and trundle off across the Channel (standing alternate watches through the night so we don’t hit anything in the shipping lanes), before mooring up in some sleepy French harbour in the morning. We spend the next two days eating, drinking and meeting our Yooropean chums, before sailing back on the Sunday and heading straight for the train up to London on Monday morning.
Last year we sailed to Normandy and kept going, eventually ending up in La Rochelle on the Biscay coast after eating half the lobsters in France as we sailed port-to-port around the Brittany coast. Cruising means pointing and getting on with it. Who could have imagined that seaside towns had such great restaurants, excellent wines and interesting markets? Who knew?