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What is Sailing

The sport of sailing is all about maneuvering a sea-borne craft with the help of a sail (typically made out of a fabric). The purpose of the sail, which is propped up by a mast, is to power the craft (helped along by the wind). A sailor, through adjusting the rudder, rigging (and, also, the keel and centreboard), can use the breeze on the sails to guide the vessel.An experienced and successful sailor is one who’s able to navigate their sailboat in different, and challenging, wind and sea conditions (besides having good knowledge of their craft and an understanding of how best to maintain it).
Sailing – or sailboat racing – is also known as yachting, and takes place offshore or out in the ocean. Sailboat racing is done in two categories: class and handicap. In the former, all boats are roughly alike, with the first boat to the finish winning. In the latter, boats of differing types race against each other, with the scores decided according to each boat’s handicap (computed either before or after the race). The number of competitors in each boat varies from one (single-person dinghy racing) to crews of up to 20. Other types of sailing include kitesurfing and windsurfing. Among the classic ocean races are the America’s Cup, the Volvo Ocean Race, Barcelona World Race, Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race and the Vendée Globe. Sailing is also a discipline at the Olympic Games (the difference being, however, that competition is held on closed courses and not on open water).
Sailboats, which were used for transporting goods across seas and oceans, have given way to vessels powered by internal combustion engines. Consequently, sailing today is very much a recreational activity. But it is far from being the pastime of millionaires (which sometimes the images can make it out to seem), despite the presence of big- dollar events like the America’s Cup. Sailing is more than the glamour and the luxury yachts; it can be enjoyed even on a budget, and is one of the few sports in which people of all ages, and men and women, can participate. It is, above all, an extremely relaxing activity. Sailing doesn’t have to take place in open water. It can be done inland – rivers and waterways, bays and inlets are ideal for recreational sailing. There’s also long-distance sailing, which has lured many ordinary folk to spend weeks and months out at sea cruising in a sailboat, spurred on by the feats of heroic everyman and everywoman. There’s nothing more thrilling, or invigorating, than pitting oneself against the elements.

History of Sailing

Sailing has been around for as long as civilization has. The remains of the oldest ship found date to 2900 BC, while the earliest pictorial depiction of a ship under sail can be traced back even further, to between 5000 BC and 5500 BC (it was found in the tiny Gulf state of Kuwait). Man has traveled over sea for commerce, transport, exploration and combat – and also for food. The humble sailboat has played a major role in some of the world’s greatest discoveries. Thanks to new technologies, seafaring peoples have been able to voyage far and wide, successfully (sometimes not to successfully) battling the most extreme and inhospitable of oceanic (and meteorological) conditions. Of course, advances in navigation equipment have made the lives of sailors that much easier and safer. Over time, the Phoenicians, Arabs, Chinese, Venetians, Spaniards, Portuguese, Dutch and British have, through different – and unique – methods of boat construction, mastered the art of sailing and of navigation.
It was in the Netherlands, in the 17th century, that people first started sailing for enjoyment. The hobby caught on in England in the middle of the same century, and prospered through the establishment of yacht clubs – the first one was set up in Cork, Ireland (c. 1720), while the most famous, the Royal Yacht Club in England, was founded in 1815. The trend continued through the 19th century as the well-heeled took to the sport. But it was only in the first half of the 20th century that sailing really took off in popularity as a recreational pastime. The middle decades of the century can be said to be the golden age of yachting.

Sailing in India

With the Indian Ocean to one side (east) and the Arabian Sea to the other (west), India’s huge coastline (and her many rivers) has contributed to a rich seafaring tradition reaching back centuries. Coastal folk have used sailboats for fishing and for transport. And thanks to the influence of the British, sailing as a recreational activity also has a long history. Mumbai (then Bombay) hosted the first race in 1830, and before independence, there were five functioning sailing clubs – Bombay, Calcutta (Kolkata), Madras (Chennai), Bangalore and Barrackpore (Barrackpur, West Bengal). Today, there are sailing clubs in Mumbai (13), Kerala (6), Goa (4), Pune (4), Hyderabad (3), Chennai (2) and Bhopal (2). The Yachting Association of India is the governing body for the sport in the country (and for windsurfing and motorboating). There is also a National Sailing School, opened in 2006 and based in Bhopal (it is supported by the Indian Navy).


Sailing jacket
sailing vest
smocks/spray tops
lifejacket (also carry along sunglasses and sunscreen)

Best season in India

Sailing is a dry-season sport. Off Chennai, the summer months (June to September) are the best time of the year to take to the seas. Off the west coast, however, because of the progress of the southwest monsoon during the summer, sailing takes place during winters.

Sailing sites in India

West – Mumbai (Kolava, Marve, Navi Mumbai), Pune South – Chennai, Hyderabad, Kerala (Kovalam), Goa Central – Bhopal

Medical concerns

One doesn’t have to be super fit to indulge in a spot of sailing or yachting – unless, of course, you’re setting out for a race in the ocean! Do, however, bring a certificate from your doctor stating that you are medically fit.

Ecological concerns

Sailing is one of the most eco-friendly of leisure activities, and little harm is done to the marine environment in its pursuance. Still, always remember to respect the ocean – and if you see litter floating around, collect it and bring it back to land.

Where to go

Kerala ChennaiHydarabadPuneGoaMumbai Nainitaal NainitaalMumbai HydarabadPuneGoa KeralaChennai

When to go

Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec

Ideal Conditions

What to wear

Lightweight cottons

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