You don't have to own a boat to get out onto the water during Skandia Cowes Week 2005.

The Skandia Try Sailing initiative is being run for the first time at Skandia Cowes Week. The aim of the project is to encourage visitors to the regatta who have never sailed to get aboard yachts and sail for the first time.

Many people outside the sport view sailing as an expensive or even elitist activity. To help communicate how much fun you can have on the water Skandia have teamed-up with the UKSA (United Kingdom Sailing Academy) to offer sailing for free. On offer is a 26ft ‘Colgate’ keel boat, a qualified instructor, all of the safety equipment and the clothing required. All that participants have to do is book a place, sign an insurance form, climb aboard and listen to their instructor.

Ed Heusser was instructing today and took us through the basics such as unfurling the sails, steering, tacking, gybing and keeping an eye out for the hundreds of other boats in the Solent. I asked Ed what the response has been like for the last couple of days and he said “After every trip at least one person from each boat comes ashore and heads straight for the UKSA stand in the Yacht Haven to find out more about the courses we run.” With two boats on the water at any time and five novices on each boat that’s almost 500 people trying the sport for the first time.

I was one of those novices and found the experience enjoyable despite the relative lack of wind. There were five of us on board and we shared the crews’ tasks and took in the view of the other boats from the water. The biggest single benefit you notice is how much closer to the action you can get when you’re not stuck on the quay. Despite having only logged 60 minutes at sea you feel part of the event as opposed to a spectator.

If you are in Cowes and you’re keen to try it for yourself go to the Skandia Set Sail marquee on the Parade in Cowes or the Gipsy Moth IV stand in the Yacht Haven. Alternatively you can find out more by clicking on 

The initiative runs every day 10:00 to 17:00 until Saturday the 6th of August.