You’ve watched keelboats sashay around buoys, their crews pinching lines and pulling off well-choreographed manoeuvres.
There’s no denying the appeal of commandeering such beasts, and the feeling of exhilaration and a heightened sense of satisfaction this super sport promises.
While sailing can appear mind-numbingly complex and incredibly intimidating, fortunately, you don’t need years of practice and ten million rand in your bank account to get started.
Here we tell you how to minimise the learning curve and maximise on the fun.
Go with the flow
Although the False Bay coast tender’s a few favourable vantage points such as Milnerton and the V&A Harbour, sailing is not a spectator friendly sport for obvious reasons, which is why Cape Town based yacht clubs encourage new comers with the latitude of courtesy voyages.
If you’re completely fresh off the boat, we’d suggest you book a day’s sailing with a trained professional, where initially, the only input required is keeping the crew company and become acquainted with the rising and falling of the swell, which is an art in itself no matter how determined you are to sail.
The biggest and most active sailing club in the southern hemisphere is undoubtedly The Royal Cape Yacht Club (on our doorstep), followed by more modest, yet equally welcoming clubs such as False Bay Yacht Club in Simon’s Town, the Hout Bay Yacht Club and the Gordon’s Bay Yacht Club.
Royal Cape (RCYC) sail all year round, regatta in the summer and race most weekends, and although they have over 2000 members on their register, only 369 actually own keelboats, and naturally, these fortunate custodians need crews to sail and race.
From October through to March, RCYC invites non-club members to participate in their complimentary Twilight Racing Series weekly on a Wednesday evening, which sees between 50 and 70 boats on the evening waters.
In addition, RCYC has a thriving Academy aimed at non-club members between the ages of 16 and 23 wishing to try their hand at sailing. With the focus on disadvantaged youth, the pro bono programme facilitates young adults from all backgrounds, with beginner trips on Sunday, and the more advance trips on Saturdays.
For children below the ages of 16, who are not yet physiologically mature enough to man a large yacht, dingy sailing on dams is the best way to get started.
Non-members can visit RCYC up to six times before joining; at which stage they require member endorsement in order to join the club. The joining fees are subjectively calculated depending on a number of criteria such as whether one resides locally or abroad, and whether they own a yacht, etc.
In addition to the hands-on deck approach, but not imperative to becoming a club or crew member, amateurs can opt to study for their skipper’s license at a number of sailing schools in Cape Town. There is a multitude of institutions that offer both short and long training courses accounting for a range of abilities. The Good Hope Sailing Academy and Yacht Master School are among them – both conveniently located at RCYC yet independently run.
Cool Hot Spots
With thousands of kilometres of coastline, Cape Town’s sailing locations are a plenty, with the most active area being Table Bay for Keelboat sailing, Langebaan for cruising waters and Zeekoevlei and Zandvlei for youngsters wanting to dingy.
Unique locations along the Cape Coast give way to the discovery of ship wrecks, mystical kelp forests and reefs, not to mention the diversification of marine life off shores which invariably include sightings of dolphins, tropical fish, penguins and whales.
With Cape Town being home to the largest manufacturer of Catamarans in the Southern Hemisphere there has also been a significant increase in the demand for young sailing enthusiasts to train as crew members for yacht remittance to overseas patrons.
Rocking the boat
The False Bay yacht club hosts the largest and most spirited event namely the annual Spring Regatta. Growing in popularity over the past five years, the event that takes place around the end of September each year is supported by all the local yacht clubs. In addition, the Cape Town Boat Show at V&A in October is also worth a visit.