UKLA visits Wildwind - A review by Masters Nationals Holiday draw winner Niall Peel
Wildwind have been supporting the UKLA and the Masters series for several years now, and at each event I have been mildly jealous that someone had won a holiday in Greece while the best I seem to manage is a mid fleet finish and a terrible hangover.
All was to change in 2021. I had had a good days racing on the Friday in the Pevensey breeze and waves. Saturday was wet with no wind and all racing was abandoned. It was looking very like I would be nursing one of those hangovers on Sunday morning as with no racing, the bar called!
Pevensey always put on superb socials and this weekend was no different, and was mid way through the meal with friends from Weirwood Sailing Club when someone shouted to me my name had been drawn in the raffle for the Wildwind holiday. I actually thought they were joking just trying to have me run to the podium to make a fool of myself, but as they convinced me more and more I could hear Alison calling my name and saying if you weren’t there to get the prize they would pull another name out of the hat, so I did run to claim the only victory I will probably get in a Masters Nationals.
When I won the prize, covid restrictions were in full force, and it was actually impossible to leave the UK for a holiday and as a result I would have to wait until 2022 to enjoy the trip, but Simon Morgan who runs Wildwind was very accommodating and flexible in helping organise my week in Vassiliki where Wildwind is located.
Wildwind holidays from the UK include a flight to Prevesa which is about 3 hours from London. I travelled in late May and left a wet and cold London to be greeted by 29 degrees and sunny on landing in Prevesa. Vassiliki is just over 1 hour coach journey from the airport, and not really thinking about what to expect on arrival all I can say is the scenery was stunning for the transfer. Nice bays, hills and small Greek villages.
I hadn’t heard much about Vassiliki and I was kind of prepared for Benidorm with boats, however on arrival I was amazed to find it was nothing like the hotel complex type of village some tourist resorts are, instead a nice small town with a few small hotels along the beach, and not at all over crowded with tourists. The only thing I found issue with was there was very little wind. There was enough to sail, but I had been primed for 20 knots every day.
The staff in Wildwind showed me to my room in one of the two hotels on their complex (which included a pool and two bars - instant fear this trip could turn into one of those hangover scenarios all ILCA events seem to be, although without the bad influence of my Weirwood mates I could be safe!).
Next, I thought I would check out the sailing set up. Having done several ‘dinghy beach club’ type holidays I have always been slightly disappointed that the boats have been old, average condition and the sails had no battens. I checked out the Wildwind fleet of ILCA’s first, and was honestly amazed. The boats were superb. Some were brand new built by Riotechna, and the sails were all new ILCA logo’s sails (which had battens), and on top of that they actually let you go sailing when it’s over 15 knots!
On top of this I was introduced to Cam Wallace who was the ILCA coach who had travelled all the way from Canada. At this point I needed to ask more questions, as having not booked the holiday in the normal fashion, I wasn’t aware of the training opportunities available. In short, Wildwind runs 3 weeks of dedicated ILCA training at the start of the season all included in the standard holiday package. I instantly checked that I could join in - what a result. I did suggest that they need to advertise this more in the UK, as many club mates were enduring the rain in the uk to get some pre season practice in, probably not realising this option is available in 29 degrees of heat with Wildwind!
I had a look at the rest of the boats available - again all in top condition ranging from Aeros to RS 100/200/400/500, 29er/49er and every catamaran you could think of. There was also mountain bikes available to explore further afield. Already I realised that 1 week simply wasn’t going to be enough for me!
As well as sailing, I am also a keen recreational average level windsurfer and Wildwind offer a ‘free as the wind’ package which includes full access to ‘Club Vass’ one of Europe’s best known windsurfing holiday companies. As soon as I saw this I added this to my package and after admiring the great sailing set up I walked about 100 meters to Club Vass to see a similar top of the range windsurf setup. Again, it was full of top kit and tonnes of it - over 100 boards and 200 sails - all ready to go once the wind appeared - and appear it did. In what I would class as a strange phenomena at about 2pm a breeze appeared blowing down the mountain range parallel to the beach at between 20-25 knots giving a flat sea near the land for the windsurfers and a little more of a lumpy sea for the Wildwind sailors. This is the wind that Vassiliki is known for every afternoon in high summer.
This was a water sports enthusiasts paradise which I managed to top off by sitting at the bar overlooking the sea enjoying a beer. I could instantly see why Simon set up Wildwind here.
The next day I joined the laser training with Cam, and all I can say is that it was superb set up. Very similar to the ILCA training days we do in the UK, well structured, with low wind practice in the morning followed by a civilised lunch at one of the Wildwind bars and a heavy weather session in the afternoon, and then for me a blast on the windsurf board before heading into the small old town for dinner in the evening.
Most of the Wildwind guests are club sailors, so there is an instant vibe that everyone is of the same mindset which makes the holiday very social, almost like being at a new sailing club, but one where the weather is ideal, however for the other 1/2’s that don’t sail, there is another side of Wildwind that I was not aware of that is called ‘healthy options’ and offers yoga and Pilates activities.
In my week as well as joining the ILCA training, in a moment of bravery in the light wind I rigged a 7 wondering if I could manage that, but realised when 20 knots came along that I still need to ‘bulk out’ a little before that rig will be required. I also have to mention that in a moment of weakness I was talked into trying some RS boats, which dare I say were very nice to sail and even nicer to hike in! But that is the benefit of a holiday like this is you can try so much that you wouldn’t normally try at home. Unfortunately due to a lack of time I never got a chance to try the bikes, but did manage to try most windsurf board and sail combinations as well as many great restaurants and two superb barbecues run by Wildwind.
The only disappointing thing about the trip, is that having done one week, I wished I could have done two or three, as this sort of holiday with all the activities is exactly the sort of holiday that someone like me dreams of.
Many of the sailors I met on the trip had either done two weeks or if they haven’t they were already booked in later in the season for another trip, so I have made it my goal to organise more leave and head back to Vass for another trip.
I would like to thank Simon and Steph and Joe (as well as the other staff at Wildwind) for a superb week, but more importantly thank whoever pulled my name out of the hat in Pevensey. I have always gone to the Masters Nationals thinking if I made the podium I would be happy with my event, but having won this holiday, all I can say is it was far better than getting on the podium, and I would encourage everyone to try and attend the Masters Nationals in the hope you too can win the trip to Wildwind which was one of the best recreational sailing holidays I have ever done.