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With the sun shining, what could be a better way to spend the day than a spot of dinghy sailing? My colleague Nick and I travelled the short distance to Brighton Marina where we first enjoyed the view, then walked down to meet the friendly staff at Lagoon Watersports.
Our instructor, Anna, was quick to get us kitted out and ready to set sail. After ‘showing us the ropes’ (sorry), it was time to gently manoeuvre out of the marina, and into open water. The weather made it the perfect day for sailing, and we were all in very high spirits. Nick had sailed before, so I really had to pay attention to make sure I didn’t knock myself out of the boat – easier said than done!
First thing we had to learn was the names of the different sails and ropes and poles all over the boat. Obviously, being already out in open water, we had to learn fast, otherwise a small mistake could have us flying into the icy depths! We identified the boom (the long pole going horizontally across the boat), the mast (the tall one going vertically up from the centre), we learnt how to let out the main sail and the jib sheet using the ropes and tacks, and how to steer the boat with the tiller. There were many more ropes and manoeuvres to name, but they were the important ones!
After getting to grips with the steering and the control of the sails, we started cruising up and down the Brighton coast, catching the wind and really gaining some speed. It was great to see the famous Brighton pier from the water, that was an experience in itself! We learnt a sailing technique called ‘tacking’, which is the process of turning the bow so the wind catches it from the either side, used when sailing directly in to the wind. Probably the hardest manoeuvre to master because of its unpredictability! When a strong wind comes, (known as a ‘gust’), it can really tip the boat on its side, which is scary but so fun! Most of the time we managed to keep our balance when the boat tipped (when I say ‘we’, I mean ‘I’), but unfortunately there was one gust that got the better of me, I lost my balance, grabbed the boom and capsized the boat! Anna kept her cool and crawled on to the topside panel while me and Nick bobbed gently in the water, trying to figure out what had just happened. According to Anna, these boats are “impossible to capsize”, so I got a high-five for being the first.
Once Nick started to trust me again, I took the steering while he got attached to a trapeze – a harness used to allow people to dangle precariously over the edge of the boat. It did look very fun, but I just didn’t trust myself! Nick was a natural though, and with only his feet on the edge of the boat he looked like a real professional.
The sun continued to shine as we sailed up and down, and the end of the session came all too quickly. We had to be towed back into the marina by Anna’s colleague because if there was salt in the engine, turning it on could be disastrous (oops), then we were back on dry land – though we were far from dry ourselves! The donation of a few Experience Days t-shirts to the Lagoon Watersports team concluded our day, and it was time to relax in the sun for a bit to dry off, admire the views, and head home.
All-in-all an absolutely fantastic day, sailing is a great experience for people of all ages and skills and I would definitely do it again – maybe next time I won’t throw us all overboard! The staff were extremely friendly and we learnt a lot throughout the day, a highly recommendable and enjoyable experience.
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At Experience Days we are excited to provide you an exclusive interview about the roots and future of Lagoon Watersports in Brighton with one of the founders- Harvery Dawkins. Lagoon Watersports offers a wide range of exciting Watersports such as: Wakeboarding, Kayaking, Sailing and SUPing which can be found via our webpage here.
1) Please explain a bit of background on Lagoon Watersports and the different activities you offer.
My initial passion was for windsurfing, in particular wave sailing. This passion led to the development of my love for being on and in the water as much as possible. So with my business partner and friend Seb Rouse we started the business in 1994 with just 6 windsurf boards and it grew from there. The increasing popularity of the business meant we began to expand – introducing sailing and kayaking. Seb is a very keen sailor and so specializes in the sailing side- the yachts and powerboats, opening our big boat-sailing and power boating centre in Brighton Marina whereas I manage the centre in Hove Lagoon.
Lagoon Watersports offers a variety of exhilarating water activities including: Wakeboarding, Windsurfing, Kayaking and Dinghy Sailing which is brilliantly run by our team of up to 40 employees (during peak season). Since the centres' opening in 2001, the thrilling Zap Cat powerboats immediately became a very popular extreme power boating experience, but personally I prefer a more rustic approach and enjoy the sail and human power rather than the engines.
Wakeboarding has been a sport the staff and I have always been keen on; however it tends to be impractical and expensive due to internal and external factors such as an appropriate boat, driver and a calm sea. But as soon as the new generation of straight line wakeboard cable systems arrived we knew that this was the way to go and invested to become the South Coast's first cable Wakeboard Park.
In the last couple of years, the standup paddle boarding scheme has exploded and this is something I love. It is so accessible yet has the diversity to make the sport as challenging and extreme as you like.
2) How did your passion in watersports turn into a career?
I wanted to go windsurfing when it was windy not when my boss said I could, which was often enough. I just wanted to be completely independent in what I loved to do. Obviously the reality is very different and there's a lot of hours involved but throughout the years I've managed to do a lot of windsurfing, SUPing and wake boarding so it has pretty much worked out as planned.
3) Do you have any exclusive information you can share with us?
We are finding more and more people want to get onto the water. When people visit or even residents of Brighton, everyone wants that connection with the water, it makes you feel good. A recent trend that we are delighted to see seems to be that more and more people are looking for health activities that are more interactive to do outside of the gym, and that is what Lagoon Watersports offers. To coincide with this, we have been adding new classes like SUP yoga, SUP race training, coastal sailing cruises and more advanced training courses to help customers stimulate their passion and reach that next level. Also look out for SUPing (Standup paddleboarding) it's the next big thing!
4) What makes your experiences unique and special for customers?
Our focus is to offer people the chance not just to try a sport but to go on and practice it on a regular basis; whether that experience is sailing a yacht all the way to France, wake boarding every night after work or going to SUP race events. We try to remove as many of the barriers as we can so that the clients interest can be driven e.g. we provide everything including: equipment, storage space and a team of staff to help train and give advice. Our close team of staff is the spirit to the business and this passion easily translates to the customers. Our staff members enjoy meeting customers and are keen to share their knowledge with the customer and as keen to get out on the water with them. The venues also make a difference. We are very lucky to have such great venues and Hove Lagoon is one of the best centres in the UK to learn such a range of watersports. Whilst Brighton Marina gives us the opportunity to sail sight out of sea.
5) What's your most frequently asked question from customers?
It would probably be either 'Do you provide wetsuits?' Which we do! Or 'what happens if it rains?' As we are already getting wet, we do still run the activities. Watersports have that advantage of being great fun despite the weather; because you are active your body is able to stay warm. We also have a great café you can wind down in après Surf!
Group Size & Spectators:
Spectators are welcome to watch the dinghy sailing from Brighton Marina.
The Brighton dinghy sailing RYA Level 1 Course is run most weekends at Brighton Marine, all throughout the year.
This is a 2 day course, taken over weekends. Days are about 5-6 hours each.
The Brighton dinghy sailing course is a weather dependent activity and in extreme conditions, the course may be affected. Please check with the center prior to leaving for the Marina if you are concerned about the weather. If necessary you will be able to reschedule.
Bring a swimming costume, and non-slip shoes that you are prepared to get wet. We recommend that you wear a long sleeved top with full length trousers.
Please do not wear jeans during the Brighton sailing course. A change of dry clothes is also recommended.
All specialist equipment, including a life-jacket is provided for you at the Brighton sailing club.
Minimum Age for the Brighton Marina sailing course is 16.
Under 18's must be accompanied by an adult.