When my wife and I bought a little cottage in the West Wight, we were invited by our new neighbours to an open day lunch at the Royal Solent Yacht Club in Yarmouth. I imagined that it would be a rather staid and imposing place, where people in white hats and reefers would be looking down their noses at any potential newcomers. Nothing could have been further from the truth. The welcome we were given was warm, enthusiastic and genuine. Indeed, we were surprised to see many people we already knew relaxing in the bar and enjoying the incredible views across The Solent. Lunch was delicious and impeccably served, local sea bass washed down with a crisp, dry Pouilly Fuissé burgundy. It was a perfect, sunny Saturday with just a hint of breeze pushing the weekend sailors gently on their way. I thought, “it really doesn’t get much better than this”.

It took no persuasion at all for us to join as members, along with our six year old daughter Lucy-Kate who loves the water and is itching to learn to sail herself. My wife Jo was already a keen sailor, and although a little apprehensive at first, I was keen to give it a try myself. A host of generous invitations, from erstwhile strangers, came my way to join them for a club race or a simple jaunt and I was immediately hooked. From April to September there is club racing on Wednesday evenings, followed by a relaxed and convivial supper, a lovely mid-week interval. Whatever your experience and ability level, there are always crew places on offer with some of the nicest people you might care to meet.

The club was founded by a dozen well-connected enthusiasts in the summer of 1878 to promote both their passion for yachting and the social graces associated with the pastime in those days. Respectful of the club’s rich heritage, proud history and expected decorum, the membership now draws from a wider social spectrum, members involved in both waterborne activity and other social engagement. Besides the extensive sailing and motor-boating events calendar, there are a host of other activities that are enthusiastically supported throughout the year. These include golf, rowing, clay pigeon shooting and fun days. Scottish dancing is held once a fortnight, there is a bridge club, and the well attended wine society meets regularly to sample the latest vintages. The club regatta is a highlight of the season, with opportunities for everyone to get involved on the water or enjoy the land based entertainment and daily barbecues on the front lawn.

The clubhouse itself boasts one of the most enviable and uninterrupted views on the South Coast, to the east of Yarmouth’s Victorian pier and harbour entrance. What could be better than enjoying a full English breakfast whilst watching the Round the Island Race? Also in June, the club is a focal point for the Old Gaffer’s Festival, where thousands descend on Yarmouth for the spectacle of the racing and a weekend of fun, street entertainment and frivolity.

Since joining, as well as regularly indulging in the fine, freshly produced menu, Jo and I have spent many an hour at the club simply relaxing with other members, and putting the world to rights. The trials and tribulations of life seem to melt away in this place and we are happy to regard many of our fellow members as our ‘newest old friends’.

The club is holding another Open Day on Monday, May 31st. If you would like an invitation to come and explore possible membership, please follow the link on the club website to (www.royalsolent.org/openday) or call Lucy Sales on 01983 760256. You will be most welcome.