Until less than five years ago, sailing was weekend leisure for the very rich. Today, it attracts an entire range of everyday enthusiasts, from schoolchildren to businessmen buyers, in it for the sport, adventure and challenge.
No more lazing in the sun while a professional does all the steering — today’s sailors would rather wet their feet and learn the ropes for themselves.
“Sailing is no longer seen as elitist, and it’s easy to learn,” says Cyrus Heerjee of Colaba’s Royal Bombay Yacht Club (RBYC), which did not raise its sailing rates even during the economic slowdown last year.
The city’s oldest boating club, with two sister clubs dedicated to sailing, the RBYC has seen a 25 per cent rise in the number of young Mumbaiites joining their sailing programmes in the last few months. Most of them are children in the 8-15 age group.
“This sport is all about anticipating the wind and the tide, about challenge and patience,” says Saif Sheikh (24), who has competed in national and international sailing championships for more than 10 years.
For publisher and creative director Virna Leslie Roy, it’s not about the competition — she’s in it simply for the thrill.
“Speedboats are fast but boring. Sailing is action-packed because I’m controlling the boat using only the power of nature, the way our ancestors did,” says Roy, who has sailed at the RBYC for 12 years.
And unlike speedboats, sailing is eco-friendly as well. “When the world runs out of fossil fuel, sailing is what we’ll all turn to,” she grins.