One of Britain's most successful ocean racers, Alex Thomson, will be officially opening the Gosport Marine Festival on Saturday (27 May)

Gosport’s star sailor Alex Thomson says he is “delighted” to be officially opening the Gosport Marine Festival on Saturday.

The Vendée Globe skipper, who came second in the 2016-17 edition on board Hugo Boss, learned competitive sailing at the south coast port.

“Gosport is the incubator for many of our finest ocean racers, men and women,” commented Thomson, who was made a Freeman of the Borough of Gosport after the round the world race.

“With the Solent and the English Channel on our doorstep we are perfectly placed. If you just want to learn to sail for fun, or climb the ladder to world-class sailing, Gosport is THE place,” he added.

The festival begins at 9.30am with the parade of Sea Cadets from Gosport Town Hall and along the High Street to the Time Space.

A sailor dressed in yellow oil skins gives the thumbs up on board a black boat

Alex Thomson during the Vendée Globe

Here, at 10am, Alex Thomson will officially launch the event and invite everyone to get on board.

Throughout the day visitors will be able to get on the water free, to sail dinghies or yachts, rowing, kayaking, windsurfing and paddleboarding.

Advance bookings were high but there will be some places available to visitors who just walk up to the registration tent. All the waterborne activities are led and supervised by experienced and qualified people, and buoyancy aids are provided.

For those who want to enjoy themselves without leaving the shore, there will be all-day live entertainment in the Time Space.

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There is a food festival and displays from local marine organisations on the Green, together with an art and craft exhibition in Trinity Church, activities for children too young to go afloat, visits to historic ships and more.

A few yards away at the Cockle Pond/Model yacht lake there will be a display of model yachting and a chance for visitors to sail them too.

The event has been organised by John Beavis along with a team of volunteers.

“This free festival is for the community. It gives our young people a chance to go on the water and see the range of local marine activity for pleasure and for careers,” he explained.

A man wearing a red helmet in an orange and red kayak

Visitors can try a range of waterspouts including kayaking. Credit: Lamar Gore/USFWS

“The festival is a family event, with activities for young children, going afloat for older children, those in their teens and adults; Wet Wheels will be providing rides for disabled people. There is something for almost everyone,” added Beavis, who is the former mayor of Gosport.

The event is supported by Dean and Reddyhoff of Haslar Marina, Gosport Sea Cadets, Trinity House, Crewsaver, Marine Advertising Agency, ASTO, Wave 105, Radio Haslar, Andy Biggs Watersports, Lee-on-the-Solent and Stokes Bay Sailing Clubs, Gosport Model Yacht and Boat Club, and many other activity providers.

It takes place under the auspices of Gosport Marine Scene, the marine business network.