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On the water with HKU Sailing Club

January 11, 2016 / by / 0 Comment

HKU Sailing Club was founded last September to serve a growing number of sailors at HKU – students, staff and alumni alike. The club promotes sailing at HKU by providing resources and opportunities to those who have never sailed before and also those who would like to sail again.

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On 20 Dec 15, the club hosted a taster session for students at Kellet Island in Causeway Bay. That gloomy Sunday morning, we dragged ourselves out of bed and to Kellet with no idea what to expect.

 

When we got to the docks we were greeted by a fleet of eleven yachts and their owners, crew and friends. The ice was quickly broken as champagne, wine and beer were passed around. An HKU alumni and sailor named Eugene gave us a lively and concise crash course on the docks on the fundamental concepts in sailing, before handing the group over to another sailor, CK. CK taught us about the parts of a sailing vessel as well as how it was rigged (the ropes), and how to tie some basic knots.

We were now ready to get on board. Each boat was manned by three able sailors and took on three students. The fleet motored out into a cloud-shrouded Victoria Harbor for our first experience of a wind-powered boat. Once out in the harbor, the rattling motors ceded to flapping, hoisted sails.

 

Between chit chat and more champagne, they taught us how to trim the sail in order to catch the wind in the most efficient way. The wind turned out to be quite stale that day, which actually worked to our advantage. Gentle gusts came intermittently, providing calm and manageable sailing conditions and allowing us to focus on learning about the complexities of sailing. We were taught how to read the water’s surface for wind conditions and water currents, and how to watch the sails, telltales and the windex in order to gauge the wind condition – a luxury only afforded when the wind is calm.

In later outings we would learn just how hectic a sailboat can be. Even beginner-friendly monohulls are capable of tilting to quite dramatic angles with a moderate wind, and sail faster than their fat bodies indicate they can go. Being onboard a yacht going 15-20 knots can be a hectic experience – under good racing conditions, being on deck becomes rather frantic (think Pirates of the Caribbean, minus the flogging). The skipper will bark orders, the foredeck dodge whipping sails, the trimmers pull in ropes, grinding gears while everyone ducks as the ever-threatening metal boom swoops around like a violent poltergeist with every tack and gybe (change of direction). Even the helmsman doesn’t have an easy job. When the boat tilts, it can get quite hard to stay on balance while ensuring that the boat keeps its course. If 20 December had bestowed strong winds, our mentors would have had their hands full controlling the vessel.

Looking back to our first day out in Victoria Harbour, our session seems almost anti-climatically serene. For beginners this was deluxe sailing instruction under the most luxurious of conditions. In comparison, we had all the time in the world to digest new information and focus on learning how to sail, whilst socializing along the way. In between conversation, we were shown what various sheets (ropes) did to the boat and the sails, and took turns taking the helm and pulling, releasing different ropes. Being instructed at a leisurely pace by good company, we spent the day not only of making new friends, but having our minds ampley challenged by everything we were being taught – hands-on. Every input to the sheets and helm caused the yacht to stir and react in a different way, as if it were its own being. Having the ability to sit still and watch the wind catch the sails, champagne in hand, marveling at how we sliced through the water, pushed by nothing but the breeze: such was our first taste of sailing. And we were sold on it.

 CONNECT WITH HKU SAILING CLUB 

HKU Sailing Club was founded last September to serve a growing number of sailors at HKU – students, staff and alumni alike. The club promotes sailing at HKU by providing resources and opportunities to those who have never sailed before and also those who would like to sail again.

The club has kindled warm support from experienced sailors at the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club (RHKYC), many of them HKU alumni, who take students on board their craft to learn more about the sport. Their support has given students the opportunity to access a range of different sailing craft from small dinghies (Laser Picos and Bahias) to larger yachts such as Impalas & Ruffians which take 3-4 people to man. And more – like this Sunfast 3600 seen below.

Personally, getting out on the water with the club has been a lot of fun. My friends and I plan to keep going back for more. I think that sailing is a pretty special sport – especially yachting, which is not an activity commonly available to university students in this city. But there is much more meaning to it than that. As the adage goes; smooth seas never made a skillful sailor. The club has many ambitions planned for the upcoming annum – and sailing will for sure take us to new horizons, bringing new joys and challenges with it. If you’re up for it, you should join us on board next time. :-)

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Written in thanks and support of HKU Sailing Club and my buddy Kingston, a dedicated sailor and the club’s founder. Thank you for introducing me to the world of sailing – and many more HKUers to come.

 CONNECT WITH HKU SAILING CLUB

 Check out #HKUSAIL on Instagram for more photos




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