Senior Yacht Broker (and working on Solaris New Yacht Sales (UK)) Alan McIlroy grew up in Mid Ulster, which is not an obvious place to develop a love for the sea – but to be fair, in his early years he was more keen on equestrian pursuits.
He writes: “My father was a keen amateur boat builder and constructed a number of heron & enterprise sailing dinghies and cabin cruisers. These were mainly used on Lough Neagh – so sailing must have been lurking somewhere in my genes.
I was introduced to coastal sailing as a teenager, when asked one Friday afternoon if I would like to race from Bangor to Crinan, on the west coast of Scotland. At short notice (that evening), I jumped aboard a 28ft yacht and we set off in a freshening north westerly into the North Channel. Not an ideal introduction you might say but to a naïve teenager this was the height of adventure and I was hooked.
The following years were spent club racing punctuated with annual trips to Scotland to the Scottish series and West Highland week.
A move to the south coast UK in the late 90s prompted me to make sailing a full time job. Yacht Master obtained – I spent a couple of seasons teaching and racing in the Solent. An invitation to join an 80ft Farr as mate in refit in Fort Lauderdale was too good to refuse so I spent a couple of seasons aboard. We sailed from the States to the Caribbean. Having had enough sun I was offered a job, back in the UK, running a yacht on the west coast of Scotland for an educational trust. This was a bit of a dream job. I was paid to sail in one of the best sailing grounds on the planet.
In the early 2000s, settling ashore again was becoming an issue. Much as I loved the Isle of Mull – my then girlfriend (now wife) was not convinced (might have been the weather). In a throw away remark made on a wet and windy November evening I suggested we move to the New Forest and I approach Berthon. I started here in February the following year. 17 years later, we are truly settled – with our two children, enjoying the Solent on one side and the New Forest on the other.
My love for the water and yachts remains undiminished.”