1-Lymington-Pier-station. Courtesy of Phil-Marsh

South Coast sailing and trams by train

Published 20th May 2013

Round The Island Race Seaton Tramway Spectacular – all by train

The annual ‘Round the Island’ yacht race takes place on Saturday June 1 and this year has attracted 1500 entries for the 50 nautical mile race round the Isle of Wight (IOW).

The race is one of the largest yacht races in the world and claimed to be the fourth largest participation sporting event in the UK after the London Marathon and the Great North and South Runs.

The race starts at 5am from the famous Royal Yacht Squadron starting line in Cowes on the IOW, with competitors being attracted from across Europe and the USA. The fleet races westwards past Yarmouth and The Needles and into sometimes rough tidal seas by St Catherine's Point on the south of the Island. Then it’s past Bembridge and Fishbourne back to the Cowes finishing line.

Competitors vary from Olympic medal winners to first time racers and although the more experienced sailors can take around four hours for the course, others take all day and every boat completing the race receives a memento of the occasion.

Your watch?

The best way to see the race is from the beaches and piers at Ryde and Yarmouth but Fishbourne offers a safe beach to view the race from as well. These are served by Whitelink and Cowes is served by Red Funnel. Otherwise Island Line trains carry you to Sandown and Shanklin from where you can watch the race. Regular Southwest Train services connect with all these ferry services via Portsmouth, Southampton and Lymington Pier stations.

Old Gaffers Lymington 50th anniversary event

The annual ‘Old Gaffers’ event also takes place while the round the island race is on based at Yarmouth. An ‘old gaffer’ is deemed to be a boat with a gaff rig where the main sail has 4 sides rather than the triangles used on more modern boats. The 'gaff is the wooden pole across the top of the sail and these were common until a100 years ago or so.

During the Festival, Yarmouth's harbour is usually crammed with maybe 100 of these old vessels, including some steam powered ones as well as the purely sailing versions. There is a huge range of attractions for visitors around Yarmouth for the three day event.

South Coast Tram Gala and special train

The Seaton Tramway runs for about four miles between Colyton and Seaton, a jewel on the Devon coast. The tram line runs on part of the former Southern Railway branchline from Axminster along the tidal River Axe estuary.

It is normally a long day out by rail from London as visitors have to make their own way between Axminster station and the tramline. But on June 9, UK Railtours (UKR) is running a special train from Waterloo with onward connections to Seaton arranged for everyone. Seaton is a gateway town to the Jurassic Coast, a UNESCO World Heritage Sit and a classic English seaside resort.

Special workshop and depot access

Why visit on June 9th? It is the Tramway’s summer gala and visitors will be allowed into the Tram Depot and Works – normally out of bounds. The line carries passengers alongside the River Axe estuary through two nature reserves and giving an unrivalled view of the abundant wading bird life. Some of the trams are open top offering the perfect viewing platform.

Charter passengers will 'freedom to ride' for the afternoon trying out the single and double deck trams, some new and others restored from abandoned streetcars dating back 100 years. Others were built in the past fifty years for service at Seaton and the line's forerunner at Eastbourne.

Here is the news

On arrival at Axminster one of the Class 159 units (that forms the train) will be named: 'SEATON TRAMWAY, Seaton - Colyford - Colyton' by an invited guest, the BBC's Nicholas Owen the well known newsreader who is a lifetime railway and tram enthusiast and is a regular tram driver at the Volks Electric Railway in Brighton.

Passengers on the special train have tram rides included for their visit and electric trams spanning a century are booked to provide rides. Four hours will be available for visiting the coastal resort and there is also a Classic Car show by the seafront tram terminus to visit.

Waterloo to Swanage by direct train

Now that the line to Swanage from Wareham has been upgraded, excursion trains are easier to run and on June 29, one such excursion runs from Waterloo direct to Corfe Castle and Swanage. UK Railtours is promoting ‘The Purbeck Venturer’ which allows about four hours at the Swanage seaside resort – enough time to enjoy a round trip on a Swanage railway steam service.

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