THOUSANDS of sailors flocked to the Isle of Wight to experience the fun of Cowes Week on and off the water.

Among them were 13 of the 16 Olympic sailors, fresh from winning a five-strong medal haul at the London 2012 Games.

The Team Volvo members raced in an Open 60 yacht with Artemis and then took part in a sailing press day last Friday.

I jumped at the chance to join double Olympic medallist Nick Dempsey as he swapped his windsurfer for a 20ft sailing boat.

Although we weren’t actually competing in the official Cowes Week races, it was exhilarating to be out on the waters of the big event, enjoying ‘champagne sailing conditions’ of sunshine and light winds as my group members took turns to helm the boat and control the mainsail.

Far from taking it easy after his recent Olympic campaign that culminated with a silver medal triumph on home waters, Dempsey was determined to get the vessel sailing as fast as possible.

He described Cowes Week as ‘wicked’ and surprisingly, considering my team’s sailing standard, said his best moment was racing an Open 60 with Artemis.

He added: “We raced Mike Golding and during my time on the helm we caught him up and passed him.

“Then when our skipper took over he got a bit panicky and lost it. Mike went on to win the monohull record, that was a bit annoying as we could have won it.”

The Team Volvo guests and Olympic sailors including Dempsey, Bryony Shaw , Paul Goodison , Luke Patience , Saskia Clark , Stuart Bithell , Hannah Mills , Lucy Macgregor, Kate Macgregor, Stevie Morrison and Ben Rhodes, Annie Lush and Ali Young were treated to lunch at the hospitality lounge of event sponsors Aberdeen Asset Management hospitality lounge.

The Olympians then whizzed across by rigid inflatable boat to the island’s main parade to greet the public.

Double Olympic gold medallist Shirley Robertson, part of the BBC sailing commentary team, introduced the London 2012 Team GB sailors and put questions to them from the audience.

When asked what his guilty pleasure is, Weymouth’s Goodison said: “I guess Saskia!” Causing Robertson to joke that Clark was ‘blushing under her Essex tan’.

Goodison then revealed that Patience was both the ‘funniest’ sailor and the Team Volvo member who spent the longest getting ready.

He told how hard it had been to carry on racing hard until the end after suffering a back injury during the home Games and received huge applause when he added: “Although it didn’t go right for me to see all these other guys achieve their medals was a pleasure.”

Robertson said hearing Rule Britannia ring out across the Nothe spectator site when Ainslie won a fourth historic gold, was a moment that gave her ‘goosebumps’.

Shaw described the cheers from the crowd as ‘a really unique thing for these Olympics ’, she added: “Hopefully we’ll be able to put on a good show in Rio as well.”