Photos: Sailing clubs look to middle class India for fresh air

Despite having yacht clubs for almost two centuries, India lags globally in the sport. However, sailing clubs, schools and associations across the country are picking up the task of ridding the sport of its image as a pastime for rich old men and using events to introduce sailing as an activity for kids and the middle-class.

UPDATED ON MAR 12, 2018 03:12 PM IST 8 Photos
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India has had yacht clubs for almost two centuries, but the image of sailing as a rich man’s sport has stuck firm. Sailing clubs, schools and associations are now bringing fresh wind in an attempt to redefine sailing as an activity for kids and the middle-class. Over Republic Day weekend this year, 50 sailors from India, France, Sweden and the US wrested with local tides in Pondicherry to popularise the sport. (Arijit Sen / HT Photo)

India has had yacht clubs for almost two centuries, but the image of sailing as a rich man’s sport has stuck firm. Sailing clubs, schools and associations are now bringing fresh wind in an attempt to redefine sailing as an activity for kids and the middle-class. Over Republic Day weekend this year, 50 sailors from India, France, Sweden and the US wrested with local tides in Pondicherry to popularise the sport. (Arijit Sen / HT Photo)

UPDATED ON MAR 12, 2018 03:12 PM IST
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The event, labelled ‘Sailing the East Coast’ was one of the first regattas (a series of sailboat races) in a town that didn’t even have a sailing club six years ago. India has hosted regattas since at least 1830. But access to waterfronts was reduced after Independence, clubs restricted membership and license raj made getting equipment difficult. The Army and Navy have dominated the scene post independence. (Arijit Sen / HT Photo)

The event, labelled ‘Sailing the East Coast’ was one of the first regattas (a series of sailboat races) in a town that didn’t even have a sailing club six years ago. India has hosted regattas since at least 1830. But access to waterfronts was reduced after Independence, clubs restricted membership and license raj made getting equipment difficult. The Army and Navy have dominated the scene post independence. (Arijit Sen / HT Photo)

UPDATED ON MAR 12, 2018 03:12 PM IST
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Harshita Tomar, 16, is from Hoshangabad in Madhya Pradesh, a landlocked state where lakes substitute the ocean. She navigated her Laser 4.7 craft past 13 competitors along the Pondicherry coast, to victory. Tomar, who trains at the National Sailing School in Bhopal’s Upper Lake, is trying out for the Asian Games later in August. This is great practice,” she said. (Arijit Sen / HT Photo)

Harshita Tomar, 16, is from Hoshangabad in Madhya Pradesh, a landlocked state where lakes substitute the ocean. She navigated her Laser 4.7 craft past 13 competitors along the Pondicherry coast, to victory. Tomar, who trains at the National Sailing School in Bhopal’s Upper Lake, is trying out for the Asian Games later in August. This is great practice,” she said. (Arijit Sen / HT Photo)

UPDATED ON MAR 12, 2018 03:12 PM IST
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Sailing is tricky as every breeze or passing gust of air must be harnessed. Compared to the eastern coast which has bigger waves, stronger currents and cyclones, the west is calm, safe and well inhabited. “We have probably the best conditions in the world: warm weather and water – imagine sailing in Europe in 6-degree cold,” said Shakeel Kudrolli, a lawyer and sailor who set up Aquasail in 2007. (Arijit Sen / HT Photo)

Sailing is tricky as every breeze or passing gust of air must be harnessed. Compared to the eastern coast which has bigger waves, stronger currents and cyclones, the west is calm, safe and well inhabited. “We have probably the best conditions in the world: warm weather and water – imagine sailing in Europe in 6-degree cold,” said Shakeel Kudrolli, a lawyer and sailor who set up Aquasail in 2007. (Arijit Sen / HT Photo)

UPDATED ON MAR 12, 2018 03:12 PM IST
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A member of the French team participates in a regatta in Pondicherry. New clubs and schools are opening up from Goa to landlocked Madhya Pradesh. In Andhra Pradesh, efforts are underway to create a marina for docking boats. Sailing camps have been held in Visakhapatnam and in Navi Mumbai a local yacht club hopes to train tribal Agri and Koli youngsters. (Arijit Sen / HT Photo)

A member of the French team participates in a regatta in Pondicherry. New clubs and schools are opening up from Goa to landlocked Madhya Pradesh. In Andhra Pradesh, efforts are underway to create a marina for docking boats. Sailing camps have been held in Visakhapatnam and in Navi Mumbai a local yacht club hopes to train tribal Agri and Koli youngsters. (Arijit Sen / HT Photo)

UPDATED ON MAR 12, 2018 03:12 PM IST
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Among clubs offering lessons, the one at Hussain Sagar Lake in Hyderabad run by Suheim Sheikh (c-seated), coach and president of the nine-year-old yacht club, has been training children from low-income groups for free. The club aims to train 100 girls to build competition. “The perception is that this is a rich man’s sport. But access to water is less expensive than building a stadium.” he said. (Arijit Sen / HT Photo)

Among clubs offering lessons, the one at Hussain Sagar Lake in Hyderabad run by Suheim Sheikh (c-seated), coach and president of the nine-year-old yacht club, has been training children from low-income groups for free. The club aims to train 100 girls to build competition. “The perception is that this is a rich man’s sport. But access to water is less expensive than building a stadium.” he said. (Arijit Sen / HT Photo)

UPDATED ON MAR 12, 2018 03:12 PM IST
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People gather at the Promenade in Pondicherry to watch the regattas in January 2018. There are still rough waters ahead before India takes to sailing in a significant way. “To win at the Olympics we need at least 1 million sailors, not the handful we have,” said Aquasail’s Kudrolli. He estimates that competitive sailing makes up just 2% of activity globally, with the rest leisure sailing. (Arijit Sen / HT Photo)

People gather at the Promenade in Pondicherry to watch the regattas in January 2018. There are still rough waters ahead before India takes to sailing in a significant way. “To win at the Olympics we need at least 1 million sailors, not the handful we have,” said Aquasail’s Kudrolli. He estimates that competitive sailing makes up just 2% of activity globally, with the rest leisure sailing. (Arijit Sen / HT Photo)

UPDATED ON MAR 12, 2018 03:12 PM IST
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If India looks to be recognised in sailing globally the push needed is towards commerce rather than competitive participation. An entry-level vessel costs around 1 lakh rupees and even then, a lack of basic infrastructure to moor boats remains at most harbours. A change is perception for the sailboat as a luxury party yacht with also help. (Arijit Sen / HT Photo)

If India looks to be recognised in sailing globally the push needed is towards commerce rather than competitive participation. An entry-level vessel costs around 1 lakh rupees and even then, a lack of basic infrastructure to moor boats remains at most harbours. A change is perception for the sailboat as a luxury party yacht with also help. (Arijit Sen / HT Photo)

UPDATED ON MAR 12, 2018 03:12 PM IST

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