Fusing electro beats with luxury sailing routes, The Yacht Week is a floating festival for the exclusive crowds. Nicola Moyne hits the Adriatic to hop aboard
It’s 6am and I’m lounging on a 57ft sailing yacht watching the hazy, amber-streaked sky slowly turn a dazzling cobalt blue. My ‘hostess’, Charlotte – a bubbly brunette from Australia, hands me a freshly brewed coffee while preparing a colourful platter of fruit and eggs benedict for breakfast later. All I can hear are the waves lapping softly at the hull and the wind filling the sails. Then, dolphins emerge on the horizon. This is The Yacht Week, done right.
Established in 2006 by two sailing-mad Swedes, The Yacht Week is packaged as a boutique floating festival, where revellers sit astride flamboyant floaties in the azure rather than some random stranger’s shoulders in a mud pit; luxury catamarans replace a sea of identical panic-purchased Argos tents; and the beautiful moneyed crowd is more ‘Greek-island hopping’ than ‘Glastonbury’. Basically, think champagne, not cider.
I’ve hopped aboard the beautifully classic teak-decked Bella Regazza to sample the original Croatia route on Week 31, which transports you from the sun-drenched cobbled streets of Split (from where you can also explore ancient Trogir via water taxi), to the pretty ports of Vis, Hvar and Bol.
But the festivities pretty much take place all-year round with glamorous-spot-stopping routes in five different countries, including Montenegro, Greece, Italy and the British Virgin Islands. There’s even a ‘buzz’ boat to keep the party going when the yachts raft up into Insta-worthy star and circle formations – quite literally a floating DJ booth pumping electro-pop beats into the middle of the big blue.
It’s a vast operation. Our tanned Aussie skipper, Jake, tells me that the 49-strong fleet we’re sailing with is ‘actually pretty small compared to Ultra Festival’ – another Croatia-based route run by The Yacht Week that regularly sees up to 70 yachts join the Adriatic flotilla.
But amid the soundtrack of champagne corks popping and ‘raft raves’ as one glitter-drenched, GoPro-wielding guest dubs the ocean fests, there are peaceful, explorative swims in emerald coves and chic dinners beneath lantern-lit pergolas to be had.
Dinner at Fort George, a 19th century Croatian citadel crowning the island of Vis, offers up the most spectacular sunset and platters of fresh, salty seafood, while the Riviera Chic-themed party (pack your finest St Tropez stripes) at Carpe Diem is the most stylish event of the week. This open-air, ampitheatre-style soiree overlooks the rugged shores of Hvar while serving up kickass cocktails.
Mid-week, after boat-hopping starts to take its toll, I head to the white daybed-clad Laganini Lounge in Hvar to sweat off the night-before’s round of G&Ts at an alfresco yoga class, which gets you stretched under the canopy of fresh pines.
Once I’ve de-coned the forest floor underneath my mat, it’s surprising to see how many of The Yacht Week’s party people have come to join me in search of a restorative hour, before retiring to the cove-side bar for a refreshing smoothie and cool ocean dip.
We spend our last evening in Split, a beautiful mishmash of Roman, Venetian and Napoleon architecture that leads you from the mast-clicking riva and Diocletian’s Palace to an eclectic labyrinth of independent boutiques, where I splurge on hand-carved olive wood wares for the kitchen and printed silk scarves for me. Hit Aroma for olive-oil tasting, or Luna for gold trinkets and traditional Croatian jewellery.
Like Split, The Yacht Week offers up a layer of experiences that you can choose to ramp up or dial down: dine waterside and dance under the stars til dawn, or head out on your own adventure, exploring coves while stand-up paddle boarding and learning where the locals hang. Either way, you’ll be coming back to a luxury yacht each night and an iPhone full of new friends. That sounds like a pretty special kind of festival to me.
Prices start from about £500 per person for a 7-night stay and skipper. To find out more or book, visit TheYachtWeek.com.