Competition winner, Mark Minkley talks about his day on 'Spirit of Weymouth' with Steve White

As a child, all our family activities gravitated towards boats. My father was a passionate sailor and my cot was regularly strapped to the galley table on our 30ft wooden Hillyard yacht during trips to France. Many years ago I had the opportunity to go to Cowes Week and I have always wanted to go back; you get a real sense of adventure seeing these big yachts in the Solent.

When I heard I’d won the competition to sail with Steve White I was delighted. The 9th of August brought some glorious weather, well certainly for sun worshippers. With temperatures topping 25 degrees, the Solent was teeming with boats of all sizes. Reaching the boat via a rib, a group of eight of us were greeted by skipper Steve White and his crewmate, David Melville.

Taking advantage of the light winds, we all tucked into a gourmet spread, while Steve White ran through the safety briefing. As predicted, the winds picked up in the afternoon and we really saw what the boat was capable of. My own personal highlight was helming the boat – I couldn’t believe how responsive it was, like a very large dinghy. I was fascinated by the sheer breadth of the Open 60 and the attention to detail in its design. As you can imagine during Cowes Week, there was plenty of traffic and one of the biggest challenges was avoiding other boats!

What was truly incredible was watching a professional like Steve at work. He was totally calm, quiet and ‘in the zone’. It seemed he was wearing the boat like an accessory. Even though Steve was obviously used to sailing this boat single-handed, he also had a natural gift for getting the most out of the team. I did wonder how Steve sails the Open 60 solo though, since it took four of us to hoist the main sail!

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