Love at First Sail

When were you first seduced by the call of the sea?

At Sunsail, our vacations are created for sailors, by sailors. As these stories from Sunsail staff and famous sailors below show, we all love what we do, and we want you to tell us about your sailing love story.

Heartfelt, touching and humorous, they tell tales of exhilaration, freedom, peace, and adventure. They chronicle the different feelings we sailors have towards our sport and reveal the emotional connection felt by all who set sail.

Sarah Ayton, OBE

I first fell in love with sailing aged 6. It was the sense of freedom and adventure that really captivated me. I can still remember coming home after that first experience, sitting in the lounge with my family yet still feeling like I was sailing.

Helena Lucas, Paralympic Gold Medallist

Although I learned how to sail when I was 8 years old, I didn’t fall in love with sailing until I was about 10 and we went on a Villa/Flotilla vacation in Greece with Sunsail.  I remember having so much fun sailing all the different dinghies with the friends I had made on vacation and spending most of our time mucking about and swimming in the beautiful warm waters. I couldn’t wait to go to Junior Helm Week at my local sailing club, Crawley Marinas, and I have never looked back!

Dee Caffari, MBE 

I first fell in love with the sea as a child. My parents had a motorboat we used as a floating caravan. Every school holiday and weekend saw us living on the water. I learned a lot about my seamanship skills from watching my dad and learning from him. Skills I still use today.

I first fell in love with sailing in the West Coast of Scotland. As a student, my major was in outdoor activities and we went sailing in the Outer Hebrides. It was stunning scenery and I loved the sense of harnessing the power of nature, something I still love today.

Liesl Nel, Sunsail South Africa Sales and Marketing Manager

A sailing vacation changed my life. In 2007, my brother and his family invited my husband and me to join them on a Sunsail vacation. This would be our first ever sailing vacation. We chose Croatia as our destination, and immediately after stepping aboard, I fell in love with sailing. After 2 weeks exploring the beautiful Dalmatian coastline and islands, I was convinced that this would be my vacation of choice from now on. I had been working in the travel industry in South Africa for almost 20 years and knew that many South Africans would love this type of vacation as much as I did. On my return, I started investigating opportunities to promote and sell Sunsail sailing vacations in South Africa. After speaking to many people, I finally submitted a proposal to open an office in South Africa to allow me to “spread the love for sailing”. I was at the right place at the right time and got offered the opportunity to open up a brand new office in Cape Town. Ever since I have been spreading the love and will continue to share my love with as many South Africans as possible! 

Oliver Kinchin, Sunsail Base Manager, Palma de Mallorca

I first fell in love with sailing at five years old.  The excitement of an adventure; the noise, and the feel of helming welded a love for sailing I have never managed to shake off.

Jess Lavery
Helena Lucas as a kid
Sarah Ayton OBE as a child sailing
Oliver Kinchin
James Foot
Karen Rawson
Johnny Adams, Sunsail Base Manager, Corfu

I fell in love with sailing later in life, it wasn’t until I was in my late thirties that I discovered the excitement of what challenges the sea and elements can offer on any given day. Since that discovery, I have given up my day job, my suburbia, my common sense and eloped to Corfu Greece, to the sea. She is not the tempestuous lady I once knew back in the UK, full of rage and challenge one day, then benign and soothing the next. Here she is sophisticated, relaxed, calm and clear with a gentleness that defies anyone to not fall in love with her.

Harnessing nature to move a yacht along; there is no better way to travel. Don’t take my word for it; it is best summed up for me in that well know fable “Zorba The Greek”:

“I felt happy once more in how simple and frugal a thing is: a glass of wine, a roast chestnut, a wretched little brazier, the sound of the sea. Nothing else.”

James Foot, Sunsail Global Content Manager

I have been on the water for as long as I can remember. I think mine is a love that has been nurtured over time and rooted in a sense of adventure and escape. To me, there is nothing better than spending a day at sea. I remember once, aged about 7, sailing the 30-year-old family Mirror in Chichester Harbour with my Dad, going to the beach for a BBQ. We picked up my little sister for the journey home (with the promise of post-sailing ice cream), and I was thrilled when we hoisted the spinnaker and started gybing to dodge the tide. The excitement of this strange new sail, the speed, and the zig-zagging route fascinated me, and I knew that I wanted to spend my life messing about on boats.

Karen Rawson, Sunsail UK Chief Instructor

I first fell in love with sailing when I was a young child – it was Swallows and Amazons all the way!

Anamarija Brkic, Sunsail Global Online Specialist

I started to sail when I joined the world of Sunsail back in 2009, and it was love at first sail. It was the perfect match for my adventurous spirit and sea addiction. The feeling of freedom, adventure and being in touch with nature, and the fact that you’re depending on right winds for the perfect sailing conditions is just an amazing thing. Sailing has also helped me to fall in love with the many beautiful islands and undiscovered bays of my country (Croatia) that I would probably never see otherwise.

Scott Farquharson, Sunsail General Manager

I was 9 years old, and I learned to sail with a school chum in a Cadet on the River Thames in Surbiton. It was then that I realized the utter freedom I had, that my actions had direct and immediate consequences and that the better I got at sailing the boat the more confidence and satisfaction I got. The thing that has kept me sailing my whole life is that every time I go out I learn something new, or have my skills challenged.

Emma Bamford, author, Casting Off

I first fell in love with sailing on catamarans when I joined one as crew in Borneo and spent six fantastic months exploring South East Asia and the Indian Ocean by sea. There was a lot of space and plenty of social areas, making it a real home away from home. Being able to put things down on a table and find them later in the same place was a revelation! But the best part was that with a shallower draught and bigger sails we could go faster and further and surf across the oceans, with dolphins playing in our wake and sailfish flashing across our bow. It was blissful.

Jess Lavery, British Development Squad sailor

I first fell in love with sailing on Chichester Harbour from Emsworth Sailing Club started when I was 3 getting to go sailing with my parents. However, it truly kicked in when I was 5 and able to sail my little Oppie on my own. Being able to go where you ever you wanted without your parents telling you what to do was amazing. The freedom, sense of adventure and being totally in control of where you can go definitely hasn’t disappeared, even now.

Hayley Bench, Sunsail UK Vacation Planner

I first fell in love with sailing a few years ago. I did my competent crew along the south coast of the UK and was so hooked I went to work for Sunsail as a hostess just months later. I caught the sailing bug completely, and have spent more time on the water than off of it in the last few years.

Mike Golding OBE, Vendee Globe Legend

I’ve been sailing since I was nine; I learned to sail as an indirect consequence of my father learning to sail, and I sort of watched him from the shore and became interested in myself. I learned to sail on the gravel pits all around London, and I’ve gone on to do 10 round the world races, so it doesn’t matter where you start, you can always go a long way. I love it because it’s a great sport, it’s a great team sport; it’s also a sport you can do on your own. It’s very technical, it’s as big as you want it to be, it’s as complicated or as simple as you want or need it to be.

Shirley Robertson OBE, Olympic Gold Medallist

I first fell in love with sailing when aged 6. My Dad built this kit boat and we launched it on the West Coast of Scotland – the adventures were endless – fishing, exploring the sense of achievement when you arrive somewhere under sail has never left me!

Mark Jardine, Online Editor, Yachts and Yachting

I fell in sailing and windsurfing at the same time at Keyhaven when I was 8, which is at the very western end of the Solent and sheltered by Hurst Castle. The key moment for me was just messing around in boats and having fun on the water! We used to go windsurfing as a family in a rusty Renault 4, with boards stacked high on the roof and sails packed in the boot. At the same time, I was sailing Cadets and at that age, I enjoyed the fun on the beach with the boat far more than the racing – that came later. I think it’s key to teach kids to love sailing before they learn to love racing. Once they know that just being on the water in a boat is fun then they’ll fall into the racing soon enough and enjoy the experience all the more.

Maeghan Sheehan

My first word after Mom/Dad was “boat”, and my Nana says salt water is in my blood. My parents had to come back from delivering yachts in the Caribbean because I happened.

I spent most of my childhood with the life aim of being a mermaid, and sailing fitted in well with that life plan. Out on the water, you feel fresh, healthy and get a solid sense of adventure. Plus there’s a permanent swimming pool around you, even in the Solent! I went out a lot with my Grandfather on his Freedom 33, and it was such good family bonding time, and even now going out with my parents and brother, it’s the same.

Sam Park, Sunsail UK Marketing Assistant

I was a complete sailing novice when I joined Sunsail and was sent out to BVI to learn the ropes. Not everything went smoothly!

Delays out of Gatwick missed connections and a night on the floor of St Martin airport, were nothing compared to an aborted landing in a storm. A rocky start!

When I arrived a day late, frazzled and dirty I was thrown aboard for an immediate cast off with scarcely an opportunity to put my bag down.

Sitting at the bow, exhausted, confused and tired, I began to cheer up as we gently bobbed along and I took in the clear blue water and unique landscape. The sound of the engine suddenly died away, and a whistling wind filled the sails, which flapped before snapping into position as our skipper trimmed them just right.

At that moment, when all I could hear was the sound of the sails and rigging simultaneously wrestling and working with the wind, I knew I had fallen in love.

For the rest of the week, I became the skipper’s shadow, learning as much for him as possible. But in ‘that moment’, I was content to simply sit cross-legged and at peace, thinking to myself that this was a life that I could certainly get used to.

Keith Harvey, Sunsail Base Manager, Dubrovnik

I used to sail from a young age, but never really got into the whole sailing ‘thing’. I started at the age of 5 and pottered around a lot on the water. My mind was at other places. I crewed for whoever needed a crew at our sailing club (ERYC in South Africa). However, the real love story came later in life, when I left home.

I fell in love with sailing when I was taken to a bus in Pretoria and thrown on board by my dad, and that was it. Military service here I come! But I discovered that on Wednesdays I could either be doing push ups and sit ups or go do a sport. Well, I knew how to sail, so I went down to DYC in Simons Town and registered for sports parade.

That was it; I was hooked and sailed for the South African Navy on Lasers, Bosuns, Centurions, a Fast 42 and the famous Voortrekker.

It’s been a great sail all of my life and I love it.

Simon Boulding, Sunsail Events Director

I was a relative latecomer to the world of sailing, having never sailed until I was in my twenties. My first experience was as a guest at a corporate racing event, which happened to be on a day with driving rain and F7 gusting F8. However, I really enjoyed the day and the challenging conditions and ended up taking a shareholding in the charter company that had organized the event! I love the competitive side of sailing and have competed in various events, such as Cowes Week, the Ionian Regatta, Cork Week and many other races. Sailing is a brilliant way to compete and build teamwork. 


Ian Pedersen

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