‘Why do I sail? The light, the movement of the boat, being in touch with and harnessing nature. I love the escape provided by the necessity to completely focus on the race. Immersion in to an environment that requires absolute attention, a sense of peace when it is all working…’ Avia Willment (MD)
Avia Willment, passionate metre boat sailor and entrepreneur bought Universal, a very run down shipyard in 1997. Hidden down a tunnel of ancient trees on the east bank of the Hamble, Universal built naval vessels throughout the war and had subsequently changed hands many times. By 2007 Avia’s architectural flair and passion started the reinvention, transforming it into the elegant and vibrant Marina that it is today.
During the ongoing development of the marina, Avia believes her ultimate responsibility is to create a legacy to pass on Universal to future generations who can enjoy its tranquil ambiance and feeling of freedom.
At the centre of this ethos is her commitment to building a modern marina with sustainability and eco-friendly values at it’s heart. Avia and her team strive to protect the delicate banks of the river and the surrounding lush vegetation and prolific wildlife. From the wellness centre, Nature’s Quay, to the other leisure facilities such as Man Over Board, Five Oaks Fishery and the new Retreats which will be available soon at The Lodge, it’s all about resting the mind and body, having fun, realising one’s passions – and being at one with the world.
‘I am driven by the process of creating physical objects and spaces, whether they are boats, buildings or cars. I am someone who needs to be immersed in projects. I am creative, courageous and have an instinctive awareness of the potential of all things in life. Including people.’
In Summer 2017, Avia and her race team proudly brought the 8 metre World Championship Cup home from Hanko in Norway. On ‘Miss U’, the team members were Avia at the helm, Rich Burlingham – trimmer, Neil Harrison – tactician, James Hemingway – bow, Marcel Herrera – pit and Ian Smyth – trimmer. ‘Miss U’ will race again in the 2019 8-Metre World Championships; to be held at home in the Solent. No doubt the strong community spirit and abundance of local supporters will look forward to cheering the team to success again.