Vendée Globe sailing star Alex Thomson will officially open the Gosport Marine Festival this Saturday, 27 May.
Invited to perform the opening, Alex said: ‘I’m delighted! I learned competitive sailing here and Gosport is the incubator for many of our finest ocean racers, men and women. 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.’
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. Here, at 10.00, 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. 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 there will be a display of model yachting and a chance for visitors to sail them too.
John Beavis, who organised the event with a team of volunteers, said: ‘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 added: ‘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.’
Details of activities and timings are at www.gosportmarinefestival.org.uk
Alex Thomson’s duel with Frenchman Armel Le Cléac’h was one of the highlights of the eighth Vendée Globe and will remain one for the history books.
Thomson finally took second place, four years after finishing third in 2012/13 edition of the race. He only has one place left to go and that is to the top spot, which is still his solo racing dream, and his sights are set on achieving this in 2020.
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After Thomson’s previous entry in the single-handed Vendee Globe (known as the Everest of ocean racing) he was made a Freeman of the Borough.
Councillor John Beavis MBE, former Mayor of Gosport, is the council’s adviser to Gosport Marine Scene – the marine business network behind the festival.
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.