Is a family day out to Weymouth during the Olympics worth it? My answer’s a definite yes, even if sailing’s not normally your thing
If you’re wondering whether to come to Weymouth during the sailing Olympics I can tell you the categorical answer: yes. Get down here.
You don’t have to be a diehard fan of yacht racing. You don’t even have to be interested in Olympic sailing other than as a backdrop. Because Weymouth has really nailed it.
This is an absolutely fantastic day out.
Even leaving aside the sailing Olympics, this is the quintessential English seaside family day out. With some sunshine it’s hard to beat. It’s a million miles away from a sterile marina-based event. The town is alive with activity: bands playing, fishing boats coming and going, waterside bars and cafes, children crabbing from the quayside.
Today, people were swimming in Newton’s Cove, families were picnicking while watching the boats and – add the soundtrack of seagulls – it was the perfect summer’s day by the sea.
As for the Olympic racing, the Finn and Star racing today was visible from the town beach only as a distant fresco, but you could follow the TV coverage on the big screens at Portland and Weymouth Live, a fenced area of the beach nearest the town.
It’s free to enter, has a holiday atmosphere and was a great way to watch Ben Ainslie’s two races. There are turnstiles to prevent overcrowding, but that isn’t likely to be a problem. As you can see in the photo below, the fenced area has plenty of space and there was lots of room today for kids to run around, play cricket and swim from the beach.
Beyond that, close to the Pavilion, is the Bayside Festival area. This costs £2.50 to enter before 1700 and there are numerous food stalls selling cakes, fish and chips, sushi, crab cakes, mackerel baps, a bakery tent, plus exhibitions with painting and activities for children.
There is live music on stage here throughout the day, with no press for seats nearby, as you can see from the photo below:
Everywhere you go there are phalanxes of purple and pink uniformed Olympic helpfuls giving out free maps and answering queries. There is a very strong presence of police all over town as well, though in friendly bobby-on-the-beat style rather than SWAT team mode. It feels safe to me here.
In fact, although there seem to be plenty of people in town, I wonder if Weymouth may have over-estimated visitor numbers. The peak trains arriving before the first race start today were not crowded and busy only from Poole.
The eastern part of the beach – the area not fenced off for live screen viewing – is not exactly rammed, as you can see although more people arrived in town during the afternoon.
Meanwhile, in the Dorset Media Centre in Weymouth today, I was the only person at work for most of the day. This was how it looked during the Finn race today.
Weymouth media centre
As to the ticketed area for the Olympics, which look out on the race course (the windward mark was close today), I’ve been told there were several hundred tickets available for today and that may be the case later in the week, so check the Olympic site if you are interested.
Not that you need a ticket to enjoy following the racing here, though. There are plenty of other good vantage points.
I shouldn’t really say this (“very constructive” is the phrase routinely used at Yachting World when returning from jobs like Caribbean regattas) but the buzz here is so infectious feel like I’m on holiday myself. Needless to say, I’m loving it.