Premier Sailing, a sailing holiday and training business based in Maldon, Essex, won the Experience of the Year award, sponsored by insight6, at the East of England Tourism Awards 2021-2022.

Established in 2009 by Colin Stracey and his wife, Jan, Premier Sailing has grown from a part-time venture into a successful business that offers Royal Yachting Association (RYA) training and unique sailing experiences around the UK and Europe.

Colin started sailing at the age of 10 with the 3rd Chalkwell Bay Sea Scouts in Leigh-on-Sea. He enjoyed a career in the Merchant Navy and went on to work for organisations such as the National Trust before being made redundant in 2004.

“When I was made redundant, my wife and I decided to take a year out,” said Colin. “We went sailing on our boat for a year, then I trained as an instructor and worked freelance, and then set this up in 2009.”

Premier Sailing has four classic cruiser yachts, one of which can be chartered out by people who have done their RYA training. The other three are used for instruction and organised trips to Ireland, France, the Netherlands, the Channel Islands and more.

Once a year, the business guides a flotilla of yachts across the English Channel for people who have their own boat but have never made the journey across the shipping lanes.

“The original idea was that I could take my wife, and we could have two weeks’ sailing,” said Colin. “As it happened, everyone ended up going everywhere that I went, so it was more like work! But we had a good time, and we've done it four times now. It’s been very popular.”

The experience that won Premier Sailing an East of England Tourism Award was ‘Sail for Macmillan Round Britain’, a seven-week sailing trip it has run for the past six years to raise money for Macmillan Cancer Support.

Setting off from Burnham-on-Crouch, the trip circumnavigates Great Britain with various stops along the way – including Newcastle, Inverness, Fort William, Milford Haven and Plymouth.

Premier Sailing asks businesses to donate £750 to Macmillan in return for advertising space on the side of one of the three boats. It also invites anyone sailing – and the general public – to make a donation to the charity, which is very personal to Colin, Jan and their son James, who was diagnosed with bowel cancer in 2013.

“Right from the beginning, Macmillan has cared for him,” said Colin. “They’ve just been really helpful, and James himself was particularly thankful for the financial support they offered at the start.

“His partner comes from Warsaw, so when he was in remission about five or six years ago, he cycled from Warsaw to Manchester – which is where he is being treated – to raise money for Macmillan.”

To date, Premier Sailing has raised close to £40,000 for Macmillan, with this year’s cruise due back at Burnham Yacht Harbour on Sunday, June 19.

The award judges praised the company for delivering an “exhilarating, fulfilling and highly engaging experience”.

“As far as the customer is concerned, from the moment they join us they're the centre of attention,” said Colin. “If they want to just sit and enjoy the view, that's fine. If they want to take part in sailing, then that's fine too. All of the skippers are instructors as well – so if people want to learn, they can.”

Commenting on the award, Colin added: “I think it brings recognition of all the effort we've put in. We try to be as customer-focused as we possibly can.”

And how did the business celebrate?

“We have a really nice tea room just up the road, so we went there and had tea, coffee and cake. Cake always goes down well!”

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Archant organise and host the annual East of England Tourism Awards to recognise and celebrate those businesses and individuals that contribute to the regional visitor economy. To register for more information on the 2022/23 competition please visit