Seasoned sailors will remember the exploits of sailor, mountaineer and writer Bill Tilman, the participants in the original Sunday Time Golden Globe Race, and those that followed in their footsteps, including the Reverend Bob Shepton whose 33ft 1970s Westerly Discus Dodo’s Delight has carried her owner and crew to dramatic peaks within both the Arctic and Antarctic circles.
However, many in the baby boomer generation sought comfort and luxury over hardship – hence the explosion of charter holidays in both the Mediterranean and Caribbean in the 1970 and 1980s when a combination of cheaper air travel and the advent of mass-production fibreglass yachts made such holidays affordable to vast swathes of the middle classes.
In today’s world there are other forces at work and the lure of adventure sailing is again more appealing to many than relaxing in the sun with a string of cold drinks. For some young people this spurs them to find an intrinsically seaworthy old boat to restore on a budget and sail away to the Canary or Cape Verde Islands – or across the Atlantic to the Caribbean and the Pacific Ocean beyond. However, the number of people doing this is dwarfed by the many that are buying adventure sailing experiences from small scale companies that typically run one or two boats.
In the past few years, adventure sailing has become a booming business. Part of the demand is from those for whom sailing across an ocean, competing in an iconic race like the Royal Ocean Racing Club’s Rolex Fastnet Race, or visiting the Antarctic peninsula on a yacht is one of many desirable experiences to tick off their bucket list. However, there’s also a growing number of long-standing boat owners and sailing enthusiasts that recognise buying an adventure sailing package offers opportunities that are all but impossible for most boat owners to achieve in their own vessels, however experienced they might be and however well prepared their boats.
Given that sailing from your normal cruising grounds to an adventure destination could take six months, it’s easy to see the appeal of flying directly to the location and then joining a boat that’s already set up for that kind of sailing with a skipper and crew that already know the area, the most stunning places to visit, and the best bolt holes in bad weather. The best-known example of this is former Whitbread Round the World Race skipper Skip Novak who runs two yachts based in Patagonia for high latitude adventure sailing and is able to ensure his guests remain safe even in the most inhospitable conditions.
Photo credits: Pelagic Expeditions/www.pelagic.co.uk