'Fresh but great fun' says Olympian Andrew Simpson

It may have been snowing and minus two degrees but racing at the UK Star Championships got off to a ‘surprisingly enjoyable’ start today.

Gold and silver Olympic medallist Andrew Simpson was among a crop of top British sailing talent who took to the water of the Royal Victoria Docks in 10 Star keelboats.

Other big names included Luke Patience, Stuart Bithell, Mark Covell, Bryn Vaile and coach David Howlett. Triple Olympic medallist Iain Percy is expected to join the line up from tomorrow.

The first-of-its-kind collaboration between world class sailing and

internationally-acclaimed fine artists made an impressive sight outside London’s ExCeL exhibition centre.

Under the Fine Art Sails initiative, each of the former Olympic Star-class boat sails were decorated by one of the UK’s leading artists, including EINE, Jaime Gili,

INSA, Eley Kishimoto and MEAR ONE.

The CNM Estates UK Star Championships will continue tomorrow and Sunday, January 20 at the Tullet Prebon London Boat Show.

A few spectators braved today’s blizzard conditions to watch the hardy sailors take to the water, and it is hoped more will turn out over the weekend as the weather warms up.

Sherborne’s Simpson, who is known as ‘Bart’ to his teammates, said: ‘It was horrendously cold.

‘We were out for about an hour and a half and managed to get some good, fun racing in, everyone was quite surprised.

‘Today I was sailing with my coach Nick Harrison, I’ll be sailing with Iain tomorrow.’

He added: ‘There weren’t too many spectators, because it was minus two degrees and snowing.

‘Sadly it wasn’t the best spectator event I’ve ever known but if they did it again in the summer it would be great.’

The sail Simpson raced under today – white with black lines – was designed by artist Julian Opie.

If this weekend’s experimental sailing regatta is a success, organisers hope it will spark a world tour.

Simpson added: ‘It’s been great fun to see some friends I haven’t seen for a while and get the Stars out on the water.’

Tonight the event’s charity dinner will be taking place at the Royal Thames Yacht Club, Knightsbridge.

To find out more visit the Fine Art Sails website.

Check out all the sail designs and details of each artist by clicking here.