Tips & Advice for Sailing on The Solent
If you’re looking for a stretch of water to spend some time cruising on a powerboat, or racing a yacht, or enjoying a luxury cruising boat, The Solent off Britain’s South Coast is a great choice. Known internationally as a location for sailing throughout the year, The Solent also offers kite-surfing, wind-surfing and jet-skiing.
The Solent is a narrow strip of water in the English Channel located between the mainland coast of Hampshire and the north-western coast of the Isle of Wight. It stretches 15 miles east of The Needles – a group of rocks close to the Isle of Wight – to Southampton Water – an inlet of the port of Southampton – and is between 2 and 4 miles broad.
There are many sheltered harbours for sailing novices and some open water for more experienced yachtsmen. Many people charter luxury cruising boats and spend time exploring the charm of The Solent’s waters. For those who like speed, there are powerboats for hire, and for those who are skilled yachtsmen who have competition on their minds, they can charter a racing yacht and take part in year-round sailing events.
Events on The Solent
The Solent has numerous events organised by local clubs. Some of these are aimed at beginners and some are for the more competitive and experienced sailors. In August, each year, the well-known Cowes Week sailing competition takes place, and in September, people flock to the area to attend the Southampton Boat Show.
Another big attraction is the annual Round the Island Race, a one-day yacht race around the Isle of Wight. With around 16,000 sailors and over 1,700 boats, it’s one of the largest yacht races anywhere in the world. Competitors come from all over Britain, Europe and as far away as America to take part in the 50 nautical mile course. The race starts on the famous Royal Yacht Squadron line in Cowes, takes in The Needles, close to the Isle of Wight, then round St Catherine’s Point and finally back into The Solent to the finish line at Cowes. It’s a great event that draws vast crowds of sailing enthusiasts every year.
Tides and Weather
If you’re thinking of taking your family and friends out on The Solent on a chartered yacht or a powerboat, it’s important to check the weather forecast and tide times. The last thing you want is to be caught out in bad weather or in the wrong tides. Most of the local shops and the harbour authority can help with tide times. For more information visit QHM Portsmouth.
For weather forecasts, you can contact The Solent Coastguard, check the Radio 4 Shipping Forecast or Weather, or visit the Met Office’s website.
Check Your Equipment
If you’re sailing on The Solent, it’s important you have the right kit and equipment and check all the safety gear on board. Run through the checklist in your mind and don’t forget the simple things like Do I have enough fuel for the trip?
You can always contact organisations like the RNLI (Royal National Lifeboat Institution) and the Royal Yachting Association (RYA), who provide safety information for all the various types of water sports. If you’re sailing on your own, it’s vital to let a family member, or a friend, know where you’re headed and what time you should be back.
If you’re not familiar with the waters of The Solent and the course you’ll be sailing, then before setting off you should consult the appropriate maritime chart and local harbour authority handbook. Safety information such as which areas are restricted, which sections of water are difficult to navigate, and the local zoning schemes or speed limits that apply are clearly set out in the charts and handbook.
Another helpful guide is the Notices to Mariners, such as this one from the Solent Handbook. This gives you up-to-date information on local water hazards and any other issues you need to be aware of. You can get a copy of Notices to Mariners from the local harbour authorities, or the UK Hydrographic Office. It’s filled with information such as chart updates, warnings of activities like dredging, harbour closures, exclusion areas and byelaws, changes in buoyage, and so on.
Slipways or Launch Points
There are many public slipways dotted around The Solent that offer a varying degree of facilities. Some are very well-equipped and have car and trailer parking, toilets and are can be used at all tide times during the day. You should always read the accompanying notices at the slipway just to make sure that your craft’s launch will be safe and does not impede other sailors or boats. The local harbour authority provides information on slipways and any harbour charges that apply.