This year marks an unusual combination in the nautical world. The three oldest sailing clubs in Cowes all have Commodores who are members of the Bar Yacht Club, and indeed former Flag Officers of it. Sir James Holman, who retired from the High Court Bench in 2021 heads up the Royal Yacht Squadron; Shelagh Jones, until recently a member of Coram Chambers, is in charge at the Royal London Yacht Club and I am the Commodore of the Island Sailing Club. These clubs appeal to different segments of the sailing community. It is an honour for the Bar to be able to lead all three.

The Bar has its own Bar Yacht Club (BYC). Alex Charlton KC is the Commodore. It provides racing opportunities in the Solent and in the city throughout the year. The Bar v Bench match, usually closely contested, takes place each year. The BYC has no premises, and you don’t need a yacht to join. It meets in other clubs. Each year it reaches out to new members of the Bar to extend invitations to come sailing.

Members of the Bar Yacht Club tend to be invited to join other sailing clubs and the sailing calendar is pretty full, both in the UK and abroad. Since I joined the club, I have taken part in the Fastnet, North Sea, and transatlantic races, cruised in Scandinavia, the West Indies and elsewhere. In 2010 I bought a Contessa 32, and since then many other barristers have joined me to race and cruise.

During the lockdown in 2020 my wife and I went to stay in Cowes. I learned a lot more of the internal workings of the Island Sailing Club and joined its committee. The following year I was asked to be Vice Commodore, and in October 2022 I was elected Commodore.

Sailing attracts those who love to be out on the sea, and practical problem-solving. How do you make this boat go faster or get to a particular place at a particular time, and keep a crew working together while you do that? It calls for a level of fitness and courage, particularly offshore racing, as things can go wrong, weather can change, items break under strain and electrics, or engines fail from time to time. The worse the weather and the more experience you have the more you enjoy it in the future.

Having said that, nothing is nicer than to be out at sea on a breezy day, the sun shining and the sails full as you carve a course across the water. Words cannot describe the feeling of wellbeing. Even a storm in the Skagerrak at 3am is invigorating. Many happy memories result, and friendships across the spectrum, and across the world.

As a criminal barrister I find sailing an extremely relaxing alternative to my life at the Bar. It also gives you a sense of proportion. The feeling of water running along the rail certainly washes away the cares of the week. 

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Three Commodores: (L to R) Tim Devlin, Commodore of the Island Sailing Club; Sir James Holman heads up the Royal Yacht Squadron; and Shelagh Jones, until recently a member of Coram Chambers, is in charge at the Royal London Yacht Club.