The Solent is known internationally as a location for sailing and other watersports. There are sheltered harbours for novices and children and safe open water for the more experienced. Large numbers of both local people and visitors take part in recreational boating throughout the year. Southampton and Portsmouth host many of the world's long distance sailing races, Cowes on the Isle of Wight welcomes the world's racing yachtsmen, and the Solent is filled with leisure boats all year around. There are many businesses both large and small that generate revenue and jobs around the Solent.
Data from the RYA shows that 72% of all coastal berths in the UK (almost 37,000) are in England and the majority of these are in the south eastern or south western regions (around 27,000). The Solent alone accounts for 25% of the coastal marina berths in England.
The RYA estimates that the average annual economic contribution arising from marina based boats is between £9,500 and £19,000. In addition to the economic contribution from recreational boating are the social benefits the sector brings to people and communities, both directly and indirectly. SportEngland research highlights improvements in social cohesion, positive influences on numeracy and literacy in young people and reductions in antisocial behaviour as just a few of the benefits that sport and recreation bring to society.
The Green Blue initiative works with the boating community to help the marine community reduce their impact on coastal and inland waters. They have a range of excellent resources.
The British Marine Federation is the trade association that represents leisure boating and its associated businesses. It represents the UK leisure, superyacht and small commercial marine industry. Its 1,500+ members come from a broad range of businesses including boat builders, chandlers, brokers, marinas, passenger boats and engines.
In total there’s an estimated 24,000 moorings in the Solent, both afloat and ashore, ranging from full-service marina berths or low-key drying swinging moorings, plus on-shore drystacks for RIBs and other motorboats of up to 30ft length. The biggest concentrations are in the River Hamble and Southampton Water, in the northern part of the area, Portsmouth and Chichester harbours in the east, Cowes on the Isle of Wight and Lymington in the west.
In Southampton, there is an estimated 1,000 alongside berths in Southampton itself, including Town Quay, Ocean Village and Shamrock Quay marinas, plus many more at the various Southampton yacht and sailing clubs and at Hythe Marina on the opposite shore of Southampton Water. The city hosts the Southampton Boat Show in mid September each year. Lymington is home to two large marinas, both with big boat yards, plus a large number yachts, motorboats and dayboats on river moorings. The lower river Hamble is highly populated with moorings and marinas, and is home to more than 3,000 yachts and motor boats. The river has five main marinas, including Hamble Point near the mouth of the estuary, Port Hamble in Hamble Village and Swanwick, two miles further upstream on the opposite bank.
Portsmouth harbour is home to a similar number of boats as Southampton city and the River Hamble combined. The biggest marinas are Haslar and Gosport with some 1,300 berths between them. Further north on the western shore is the smaller Clarence Yard Marina. Port Solent at the top of the eastern branch of the harbour, three and a half miles from the entrance, is a 300 berth marina sheltered behind a lock. The boat yard here is one of the largest a Solent area marina, with space for 500 boats on shore. Nearby is Trafalgar Wharf, the former Portchester Vosper Thorneycroft facility. Smaller boat yards in the northern part of Portsmouth harbour also include Wicormarine at Fareham. There are also many other smaller marinas, mooring providers and yards in the many smaller estuaries and harbours in the area.
On the Isle of Wight, Cowes Harbour and the River Medina are home to four marinas: Cowes Yacht Haven, Shepards Marina, East Cowes Marina and Island Harbour marina. Home to the oldest and biggest sailing regatta in the world, Cowes is the number one destination for sailors during the summer months. Yarmouth has 200+ berths available on a daily basis for visiting seafarers.
The Watersports and Leisure Participation Survey is a national annual survey commissioned by BMF, MCA, RNLI, RYA and BCU. In 2018, the highlight figures were: