It was great to be back sailing at Grafham Water in Cambridgeshire during the Christmas holidays to take part in the annual Grafham Grand Prix. I learnt to sail at Grafham Water as a youngster, and it was my home club for nearly twenty years until I moved south to live near to the British Sailng Team base in Weymouth and Portland, Dorset.
The Grafham Grand Prix is an annual one-day event for up to 200 boats and always takes place at the end of December - this was the 38th edition of the event. Visitors travelled from all over the UK and the team at Grafham Water Sailing Club put on a great event with three races for everybody, followed by mince pies and mulled wine. The mild weather also helped - at some previous events there’s been freezing fog and snow, so we were quite lucky this year!
And these days we take it for granted that we can sail on reservoirs, but it’’s not that long ago that reservoirs had fences round them and didn’t allow public access - after all, their primary purpose is to provide water for drinking. When Grafham Water opened in 1966 my grandfather was one fo the people who helped encourage public access to the water, so I’ve a lot to be grateful for! Today, you can enjoy walking, cycling, sailing and windsurfing and bird-watching at Grafham so if you haven’t been there yet - make a resolution to go there in 2019. And if you’re interested in learning to sail, there are plenty of courses available at Grafham Water Sailing Club.
As far as the racing was concerned, I was sailing with my girlfriend Izzy and we finished 4th overall out of 80+ boats in our fleet - I was pleased with this result as we don’t get much time to sail together and it’s a sport where practice makes perfect. As a professional sailor with the British Sailng Team I spend most of my year travelling to different venues around the world for training and competitions, with a major focus currently being on Tokyo in preparation for the 2020 Olympics. But I still enjoy coming back home to race at Grafham with people of all standards and backgrounds from around the country - it’s where it all started for me, and I love it!