An interview with Minka Armitage

19 May An interview with Minka Armitage

A sailing yacht with the sun setting behind.

Minka Armitage, Halcyon Yacht Deliveries Assistant Operations Manager, tells us a bit more herself and shares a few sailing stories.

Where did you grow up?

I was born in The Netherlands. I spent some of my early childhood on board a small ship, but have lived most of my life in Cowes, Isle of Wight. My Father was a Captain on cargo ships and would come into Medina Wharf in Cowes regularly, which is why we first moved here.

Minka Armitage running on the deck of a ship as a young child.

Who was your role model growing up?

My parents (who are amazing). I feel incredibly lucky to have the childhood I did. As the eldest of three (two younger brothers) with a Dad who brought me up to be self-sufficient, either that, or he thought I was a boy? I was taught how to use tools, how to fix things and to problem-solve.

When I bought my first car, the inevitable happened and it broke down. As most daughters would do, I called my dad for help. He took longer than expected and when he finally arrived, he rolled down the window, handed me a Haynes manual, wished me luck, and drove off! Consequently, I am the most practical of the three of us as he didn’t feel it necessary to subject my brothers to the same treatment!

My Mum is never fazed by anything. She was still racing yachts and packing spinnakers like a demon in her 70s.

Apart from them, it would have to be Wonder Woman…

An image of the original Wonder Woman

Do you have a favourite book or film growing up?

It was probably the famous five series, Roald Dahl’s Fantastic Mr Fox and Danny the Champion of the world. I like the fact that they triumphed over adversity. I’m a sucker for the underdog! As I got older I would read any murder mystery or thriller I could get my hands on.

What did you do before joining Halcyon Yachts?

I am a Mum of three and step Mum of two (now grown-up) children. I initially trained as a chef, before I had my kids. As they were growing up, I worked in restaurants, bars, shops and even as a Magistrate. When they were older, I joined Hampshire Constabulary as a Police Officer. I worked on response, as a beat officer and on the Marine unit until taking medical retirement following my accident at work. It was an amazing job, working with unbelievably committed (and funny) colleagues and experiencing the worst, the best and the funniest moments you could imagine.

Minka Armitage dressed in Police uniform.

Do you collect anything?

Fabric, lots and lots of fabric! I also have a large collection of Northern Soul music on vinyl.

Sports, hobbies or activities outside of sailing?

Sewing, crafting, painting and making things. I love creating something from nothing.

Travelling is another passion, learning about and experiencing new cultures.

My bucket list is still miles long. When my daughter was young, we used to watch documentaries about Egypt and this was one of the first things I wanted to see. The new 7 wonders of the world are on there, with Machu Picchu, Taj Mahal, and Christ the Redeemer left to do. I love planning a trip, learning about their customs and meeting new people.

If your house caught fire, what would you rescue first?

Dogs, sewing machine, records and power tools(In that order). I’d be that person running in and out of the house in pyjamas and slippers trying to rescue everything.

What couldn’t you live without?

Family is the most important thing in my life. Other than that, I couldn’t imagine living anywhere away from the sea, or without music.

Sailing qualifications/experience?

I’ve been around boats and yachts all my life, it’s in the DNA. Most of my childhood was spent mucking about in some form of boat/ship/dinghy/yacht. My Dad and I decided to start club racing in our Nicholson 32 in the early 90s and then take part in Cowes Week. Having got the racing bug, we settled on a Contessa 33 called Antilope. She was an amazing yacht to sail and was a lot of fun. It was a steep learning curve.

We moved on to a Grand Soleil 43 after that. My Dads yachts have all been called Antilope, so in 2009, I bought a 1989 Grand Soleil 34 and named her Gazelle (Small Antilope). I raced her with a group of friends and family, some who started off as novices. No egos, no shouting, just a lovely bunch of people. We had quite a bit of success, a few failures and a lot of laughs. It all came to an end following an accident at work in 2014. I still miss those days.

Minka Armitage with family and friends standing on a yacht.

What inspired you to start sailing?

Not what, but who. My Dad was the person who got me into sailing. He enrolled me as a cadet at the Island sailing club in the days where they would chuck you out in the fairway with a club members boat, dodging the sewage whilst the parents made the most of the club bar. It put me off dinghy sailing forever, but as soon as we got our first sailing yacht and started racing, I was hooked.

Hairiest moment at sea?

Broaching at the back of the Island off St Catherine’s during round the Island race. She was veering straight towards the shore before we managed to get the spinnaker under control. We carried on like nothing had happened and came second overall.

What is in your skippers’ bag and never leaves it?

Gin and a Gerber multitool. Mind you, the gin leaves empty and returns full!

Go to sailing brand for clothing/gear?

Not fussed as long as it does the job of keeping me warm and dry. I have a mish-mash of kit including Henri Lloyd, Gill, Magic marine, slam and Zhik. The new Zhik stuff looks really good, so may look there when thinking of replacing items.

Favourite cruising spot?

British Virgin Islands.

A lone sailing yacht on the blue seas of the BVI's - Caribbean.Dream cruising spot not yet visited?

Thailand.

First proper yacht sailed upon, where and when?

Nicholson 32, in the Solent with my Dad early to mid-90s. A good solid boat, but you would need half a gale to get her moving!

Top 5 favourite waterside drinking holes?

Living in Cowes, we have many; Coast, The Anchor or Pier View.

Foxys in Jost van Dyke and Cooper Island, British Vigin Islands.

Favourite moments during sailing?

Too many to count.

Stand out moments include the first time you get a gun as you cross the finish line, racing the boat short-handed and totally nailing it, watching novices become (very) proficient (and the confidence gained), the camaraderie with other crew members, lots and lots of laughing….

One particular moment comes to mind. Tuesday night racing was cancelled due to lack of wind, we decided to go to Osbourne bay, anchor up and enjoy the evening. Sailing back as the sun was setting was sublime. It stands out as much for the (short) sail back as it does for the amazing people on board.

A sailing yacht with the sun setting behind.

What do you love most about sailing?

I love the freedom sailing gives you; the wind in your hair, the sun on your face (sometimes) and the smell of the sea. Yacht racing is one of a few sports where you can compete on a level playing ground no matter what age you are. Sailing a boat can be enjoyed with as many, (or as few) as you like and at all ages.

How did you get into yacht deliveries?

My son Will. He has raced with my Dad and I since he was 10 and has always been a keen sailor. Will went on his first delivery at 15 and got his RYA Yachtmaster Offshore at 18. He was skippering a yacht down to Gibraltar and needed an extra pair of hands, so I went along and loved it. I have since crewed on a number of yacht deliveries not only with him, but also with Halcyon Yachts.

Sail or Power?

I just enjoy being out on the water and am happy with sailing or powerboats.

Dogs or Cats?

Dogs, every time. I have 2 Shih Tzu who are like my babies. They like being on a boat too and have their own life jackets.

2 Shih Tzu dogs on a yacht wearing life jackets.

Tea or Coffee?

I like Coffee before 1 pm, Tea after 1 pm.

PC or Mac?

Mac any day of the week. Once you convert to a Mac, you’ll never go back!

Monohull or Catamaran?

I like both for different reasons. I like a monohull for sailing, but a Catamaran is more social. When we charter a boat for a holiday, a Catamaran with a group of people is great. Easy to sail and the social space works well so that everyone can sit together, or find a quiet spot on their own. The sailing on a monohull is much better, feels less like a floating caravan and more like a sailing boat!

White or black sails?

Colour isn’t really a factor, performance is, however, black looks pretty sleek on a racing yacht. Definitely white for a cruiser.

What’s Your Favourite hull colour?

White – easier to keep clean.

The favourite yacht you’ve ever sailed?

Has got to be my GS 34 Gazelle. She was like a wolf in sheep’s clothing and would go like a train upwind. The rougher and the windier it got, the more she would love it. When you got her in the sweet spot, she would hum like she was loving it!

Name of yacht closest to your heart?

Gazelle.

Foils?

Not to sail, but have to admit that when they were racing off Egypt point in Cowes last year, it was impressive to watch. It was good to see so many non-sailors out spectating

Favourite binge watch?

Line of duty.

Current binge watch?

I don’t tend to watch much TV, and can be found in my ‘she cave’ aka study.

Favourite at anchor tipple?

That’s difficult. If its hot, I like a Rum and Ting (Caribbean) or Rum and Ginger beer or Prosecco in the day and a nice dry white wine in the evening. If its cold, you can’t go wrong with a Gin and Tonic or a fruity red wine.

Do you have any advice for anyone wanting to get out sailing?

You don’t need to be wealthy or part of a clique to sail. All you need is enthusiasm, eagerness to learn and to put yourself in the right environment to get involved.

If you want to go racing, join your local sailing club. Club racing boats/teams are always looking for regular crew. Most clubs will have a forum or notice board with crew wanted.

If you want to learn, gain experience, mileage and qualifications, you can:

  1. Complete a sailing course like RYA Competent Crew and RYA Day Skipper with an aim to progress to Yachtmaster level. Most sailing schools offer mile building weeks to get the required sea miles for specific qualifications.
  2. Sign up with a yacht delivery company like Halcyon Yachts. This is the ideal way to gain experience on different boats and gain mileage. You can learn, get experience, build mileage for qualifications, see new places and make new friends. By joining a company like Halcyon Yachts as a member you will also get discounts for RYA courses and sailing clothing.
Yacht Delivery Crew

If you are unsure of the best way to go about it, or want advice on how to progress, feel free to drop me an email, or call. I’m very approachable and I don’t bite!

   
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