Copyright 2022 - BBSC

Brighton Belle's Skippers

Brighton Belle will always sail under the command of one of our member skippers. They are all volunteers paying sailing fees with everyone else, but they also take on, with the assistance of the mate, the overall command of each cruise. They plan the cruise, looking out for the safety of the crew and vessel and work to create a happy ship where all crew can take part and experience the wonders of yacht cruising no matter what their level of expertise. Our skippers are not instructors, but are always keen to give crew a chance to develop their sailing skills. Crew members are encouraged to participate to the full and everyone is expected to help with the sailing tasks as well as with domestic matters including cooking and cleaning. Everyone will be expected to helm the boat, hoist, lower and trim the sails. Some may want to try their hand at passage planning, approaching and leaving moorings, anchoring and coming alongside, etc.


Read about our skippers and how they discovered Brighton Belle ...

Stewart HentonStewart Henton

I started sailing dinghies as a wee lad and progressed on to yachts as a teenager, sailing wherever and whenever possible. I spent a couple of gap years working charter yachts around the Eastern seaboard of the States, through the Bahamas to the Caribbean and across the 'pond' to the Mediterranean. RYA Yachtmaster since 1998.

Brighton Belle is a true blue water cruising yacht. She is well equipped and very comfortable but sails like a thoroughbred. What's not to like?





Phillip Ford

Phillip Ford

I started sailing just over 20 years ago with a friend, in the Solent, who owned a 34ft Moody. I fell in love with the activity from the first day and over the next two years took the necessary RYA qualifications to skipper a yacht myself.

I then spent the next 15 years 'bareboat' chartering all over the world including the UK, Mediterranean, Caribbean and Australia, mostly with my family, but also with groups of friends. Towards the end of this period, I started seriously looking at purchasing my own yacht, but for various reasons never got the final purchase.

When I heard about Brighton Belle, to me it was the ideal solution, a beautiful yacht, renowned for its open water cruising abilities, and even more important, the chance to join and learn from a group of like-minded sailing enthusiasts - the experience so far has lived up to my expectations. The highlight so far was skippering her last year from Plymouth to north west Spain across the notorious Bay of Biscay, which on this occasion gave exactly the right balance between exciting sailing without ever becoming a white knuckle ride. I have now accrued just over 5,000 sea miles, and when skippering I try to get a balance between testing and exciting passages while at the same time making sure we also relax and enjoy ourselves at local hostelries and isolated anchorages.


Fiona Bernard

Fiona Bernard

I bought my first boat in Sydney in 1989 and with my dinghy sailing experience, explored Sydney waters in my Top Hat 27 for the next 11 years before selling her. I have been delighted by the opportunities and experience since joining Brighton Belle Sailing Club and have had six wonderful seasons coastal cruising, building on my experience.

As a new skipper (2015), I have been building my sea miles and experience of skippering this larger yacht with an experienced skipper on each cruise in the 2015 season. This has enabled me to offer fun, adventurous and pleasurable cruises, while building on my seamanship.



Neil Hurrell

Neil Hurrell

Having enjoyed an association with sailing since my youth in dinghy's and crewing on 36ft cruisers in competitive racing in the tidal waters of the Blackwater River. I spent many years racing fast catamarans as helm on the national circuits learning much about sail trim and race tactics. Trying out a flotilla holiday in the Med with my family showed me that my skills were readily transferable to cruisers, and a chance conversation with Phil Ford introduced me to crewing on Brighton Belle - what a magnificent boat to sail, and you feel so special entering any harbour in her.

The members are all so supportive and knowledgeable that before I knew it I built up several thousand miles on her including crossing the Bay of Biscay to Spain and I now have the confidence to handle her well. I now look forward to sharing these pleasures and my knowledge and experience with other new members in future voyages as her skipper.

All this has encouraged me to take on the Clipper Round the World Race and next year I will be joining one of the 70ft ocean racing yachts to complete 3 legs crossing the Pacific Ocean, the West and Eastern seaboard of USA and home across the Northern Atlantic some 20,000 nautical miles. Having already completed the comprehensive training for crew for this event I was also selected to go on to specialised training to yachtmaster level as reserve skipper. None of this would I have contemplated without the experience that I have gained on Brighton Belle.


Paul Taylor

Paul Taylor

My passion for sailing started when a friend took me out for a sail in the Firth of Forth in an Enterprise dinghy. I was hooked immediately and began looking for opportunities to sail wherever I could. I continued sailing dinghies through my 30s, first learning the ropes in any boat I could get my hands on, later racing in Fireballs. I then turned to yachts and worked my way up through crewing in club racing, getting qualified (RYA Coastal Skipper), skippering my own yacht in inshore races and cruising, skippering bareboat charters in the Mediterranean, Australia and in the West Highlands, crewing for deliveries, regattas etc.

I became a skipper on Brighton Belle in 2016. I enjoy mixing relaxed cruising with longer delivery trips. Cruises I have led include the western Canary Islands; an ocean passage from Tenerife to Madeira; a North Sea crossing from Amsterdam to London; the Western Isles to Mallaig; Dublin to Plymouth; around the Channel Islands and across to Plymouth; and A Coruña to Baiona, taking in the Galician Rías.



Richard Ash Richard Ash

This is my 30th season cruising on sailing yachts and I have cruised the South and East coasts of the UK, Belgium, France, The Netherlands and the Baltic.  I have also enjoyed warmer cruising in the Mediterranean, Canaries, and Caribbean.  I am qualified to RYA Yachtmaster Offshore level and have done the theory for Ocean too, but so far have not made Ocean passages.  My wife Judith Hankey shares my enthusiasm for sailing, and we shared ownership of two yachts before moving to the South coast and joined a yacht club which owns two yachts in the Solent in 2008.   I was quickly identified as bosun material so now wander around with keys to “my” three yachts (including Brighton Belle).



Steve Benham

Since "dingy sailing in Greece" many years ago I have always come back from sailing thinking "I really really enjoyed that"! Then a friend of mine took me out on the Solent in a Spring. This set me on a path:  Competent Crew, crossing the North Sea, Day Skipper, chartering B36/37s for weekends with friends, Oban-Orkney-Losiemouth.   It was always a struggle to find crew for the B36/37 weekends and like minded people for adventurous sailing so I looked around and found the BBYC syndicate.  Problem solved! Perfect!

Oh, and here is a test for you! Why is my profile picture at 45 degrees? (a) Stewart was skipper and had every piece of sail up in an F7. (b) Debra our resident professional photographer took the photo (c) Too much fun the night before at the marina bar...



Matt Ledger Matt Ledger

I discovered I enjoyed sailing when we went sailing on a yacht for a day on a family holiday.  Being able to move the boat just by hoisting some sails and using the power of the wind was fantastic.  On our return I pestered my Dad to do more sailing and we went dingy sailing together.  Great fun, but where is the kettle? I spent time sail training, cruising around the Solent and crossing the channel before we moved to New Zealand.  I got involved in the Auckland sailing community and raced Etchells and a 45ft Beneteau First in the local racing Winter Series and the Costal Classic. Upon our return I was looking for ways to get involved in sailing in the UK.  A friend recommended Brighton Belle Sailing Club.  I’ve sailed on her for longer delivery passages as well as exploring interesting cruising areas such as the Channel Islands and the West Coast of Scotland.  Every trip is special in its own way, and every trip leaves you with a story to tell & friendships new and old. Never knowingly underprovisioned.


Matt Ledger Stuart Ritchie

My first real sailing week was 35 years ago as a novice crew member out of Fort William exploring the Hebrides off the West Coast of Scotland. Prior to then I had only occasionally sailed my Miracle & Laser when time allowed. Sailing heaven was a mid Summer overnight sail of 50NM from Rhum to Barra with a perfect moon & starlight sky, arriving at the Outer Hebrides as dawn broke. Gentle Force 4 beam reach with the masts of many fishing boats dipping below the lazy 5+Metre SW swell, I helmed for most of the Minch crossing and was totally smitten. The 26 ft 4 berth boat was a classic wooden real yacht with freeboard measured in inches that could point like an arrow, however bereft of any electronic navigation aids which introduced a real frisson.....where are we ? The Scottish West Coast continues to be my favourite sailing area and I have shared it's top delights whilst cruising with BB Members. I have also sailed in the English Channel, Eire West Coast, Channel Islands, Med majoring on NE Sardinia (my 2nd fav), Iberian Peninsula, Canaries, Baltic and the Faroes. My interest in Brighton Belle's Oyster 55 was kindled by my sailing on a Camper & Nicholson 55 and is how I came to fully understand the comfort & safety that a large traditional yacht has to offer. My cruises seek to embrace interesting sailing & isolated anchorages combined with good food & wine and great company. I actively encourage all to push their personal sailing skills envelope to the limit that they are comfortable with. Prior to sailing I used to ( throughout the year in Scotland ) sub aqua dive including collecting scallops, rock & snow/ice climbing and once canoed from Oban to Glasgow......I'm a down to earth Scottish OAP accustomed to making the right decision faced with water/ropes/heights. My Cruises always start & finish with Skipper's complimentary Fizz, as a way of facilitating getting to know each other and then reflecting on the week's sailing. My roughest night ever on a boat was on the Nic 55 in Vigo exposed to the delights of the Bay of Biscay at it's worst and with a difference the boat was on the marina Hard, the toilets went for an overnight long walk, severing all the Services connections and a 36 ft yacht sank.


If you are not yet a member of Brighton Belle Sailing Club but interested in joining, why not try an introductory day sail (only available while she is in Brighton).

For more details on joining the club, see About the Club and How to join.

f t m