The joy of sailing

Photo: Nicolas Claris

The joy of sailing

Photo: Nicolas Claris

Journeys

The joy of sailing

For peace, quiet and an unrivalled connection to the ocean, there’s nothing quite like a trip aboard a sailing yacht.

By Dominique Afacan | 3 June 2020

“One of the most common misconceptions about sailing is that it’s wet, uncomfortable and, to a certain extent, dangerous,” says Henry Hawkins, vice president at Baltic Yachts. To look at many of the photos that circulate in the mainstream press, it’s easy to understand why. Often photographed powering through the waves at hair-raising angles on a round-the-world race or midway through a regatta, the sight of a sailing yacht might look a million miles from relaxing. “The reality is that those images are so far away from the alternative experience of ‘cruising’ on a sailing yacht though,” says Hawkins. “When you’re cruising on sailing yachts, it’s not about getting there as quickly as you can; the journey is half of the pleasure.”

It’s an opinion that is shared by Andrea Micheli, commercial director at Southern Wind Yachts. “Sailing can be for anyone,” he says. “And it’s a ‘soft’ way of travelling, in that it’s slower and it forces you to appreciate your surroundings.” Talk to anyone who owns or charters sailing yachts and it is clear that this is one of the main attractions. Stephen Ebsworth, owner of Rascal Voyages, which operates three sailing superyachts around Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand, agrees. “For me, the main appeal lies in being able to explore remote and hidden spots only accessible by boat, away from the noise and interruptions of daily life,” he says.

The joy of sailing

Photo: Baltic Yachts

The joy of sailing

Photo: Baltic Yachts

As a father of three young children under the age of six, Ebsworth also relishes the unique experience of being on board with all of his family. “They regularly recount their experiences on Rascal,” he says. “Be that sitting with the captain in the bridge, snorkelling and spotting manta rays, or playing on the most pristine beaches in the middle of nowhere.” And there are further advantages to sailing with family, one of which centres around the crew. “Kids of owners tend to grow up having an excellent relationship with the crew,” explains Micheli. “That is a fantastic opportunity for parents because they get to have people that they have selected to influence the education of their children.”

And on a sailing yacht, it really is an education. “You’re not paying the crew just to deliver a service, you’re paying someone to help grow your passion,” says Micheli. “You get mentored by them if the relationship is good. Your crew are experts, so the kids are in the hands of experts.” Music to the ears of busy parents. Hawkins agrees. “You find that young guests start to look up to the crew – so for parents, it’s almost like free childcare! Kids can take part in anything; even washing down after a day’s sailing – it might be dull for crew but for a kid, it’s exciting.”

The joy of sailing

On board Rascal

The joy of sailing

On board Rascal

The same goes for adults, who can dip in and out of sailing as much or as little as they like. “The human brain looks for hobbies that keep us engaged,” says Micheli, “and sailing is perfect for that because it’s engaging and relaxing at the same time.” Southern Wind even operates a sailing academy for owners or guests who wish to learn the ropes ahead of time.

And then there are the travel opportunities, made even more magical thanks to a sailing yacht’s ability to power through the ocean silently. “You generally find that wildlife like dolphins will be attracted to sailboats because of the lack of noise,” says Hawkins. That can lead to the most memorable of encounters.

“When I sailed across the Atlantic, we got followed by a young whale for probably 36 hours,” recalls Hawkins. “It had possibly recently left its mother and just adopted us for a while and played alongside the boat. At the end, it did a couple of breaches while we were all standing watching during sundown and disappeared off. Moments like that don’t leave you.”

The joy of sailing

Photo: Nicolas Claris

The joy of sailing

Photo: Nicolas Claris

For those who want some speed alongside the serenity, the wide choice of superyacht sailing regattas and races means there is something to please most tastes. “For me, regattas provide bookends which people can plan trips around,” says Hawkins. “They take people to idyllic places like St Barths, Mallorca and Sardinia; places that people truly want to visit.”

Of course, the fact that sailing is naturally environmentally friendly is another draw for the increasingly eco-conscious customer. But in an industry that constantly tries to push boundaries, there’s work being done behind the scenes to make sailing yachts even more sustainable. “Sailing by its nature is more environmentally friendly than other forms of yachting, but there is more that can be done in terms of the materials we’re using and the way we use power,” says Hawkins. “I think that’s coming rapidly.”

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