The true essence of yachting is being-one with the ocean. Experiencing her moods and allowing her to enrich you psyche with her myriad touches. All you need to make the hustle and bustle of the city life disappear is to step on a boat and sail away. In a busy and stressed city like Mumbai, a boat is all one needs to find those few hours of peace of mind, where no tight schedules need to be adhered to, no rushing up and down, and freedom from the pressing crowds. There is hardly a member of royalty, captain of industry or an individual of note who doesn’t own a yacht. A tour of the yacht marinas around Costa Del Sol in Spain or the Cote Azure in France quickly reveal a number of classy Ferretti, Riva and other luxury yacht brands. This fascination is matched in equal measure by a desire for fast, racing yachts. The America’s Cup is the apex event that draws the ilk of Larry Ellison of Oracle and Ernesto Bertarelli of UBS to Duel in multi- million dollar, state-of-art yachts, crewed by the yachtsmen in world.
To the uninitiated, yachting can very simply be defined as mucking around in boats. The leisure boating pastime has grown, with people owning powered or sailing craft for pleasure. Some like to cruise the oceans and a substantial number just keep them as trophies. People like Paul Elvstrom of Denmark and Valentin Mankin of Russia have earned iconic status by winning series of Olympic sailing medals while Sir Robin Knox Johnston in the Suhaili (built in Mumbai) and Sir Francis Chichester in Gypsy Moth IV went on to become legendary yachtsmen who circumnavigated the globe single-handedly. On the other hand, there have been famous yacht owners like Richard Burton and Liz Taylor, whose priceless antique yacht Kalizma was lovingly restored by none other than our own Dr Vijay Mallya.
India cannot remain impervious to the global charisma of the yachting lifestyle. Sea- Faring Traditions have always been around. One can positively smell the sea salt in hallowed institutions like the Royal Bombay Yacht Club. The recently- con-cluded Vasco Da Gama Cup yacht Cup yacht race from Mumbai to Goa is one of the early initiatives towards popularizing yachting in India. The gensis of the concept happened a couple of years back when I was narrating my experiences as crew on board Samudra, the yacht that circumnavigated the globe, to my friend Harry Muller at the Kiel Week yacht regatta in Germany. Harry suggested inviting international yachts to race off the Indian coast and getting Indian boats to join in. We need events like this to get more people sailing and move the government of India to look towards building marinas and other necessary yachting infrastructure.
A cursory interest is all you need to join a club like the Colaba Sailing Club in Mumbai to learn the basics in club-owned boats and then move on to owning a locally-built, Seabird class boat that would cost a few lakhs or a classier, imported Jeanneau. People who wish to own power boats or motor yachts need not worry much as the skills required are considerably less and one handle the craft. With the right catalyst, yachting activities can rapidly expand on the sailing clubs across the country, bequeathed to us by the British. People gravitating towards yachting can look forward to savouring the magnificent coastline of peninsular India, including its enhancing backwaters and pristine islands. It is only a matter of Time before we get to see thousands of yachts along the waterfronts of Mumbai, Chennai, Cochin, Kolkata and Goa.