What is important before entering a sailing course? The trainer? The type of boat? The language? Your fitness? The proper information? Your co-sailors? All and everything I can tell you!. My first dinghy sailing course with a Hobie Cat was in German. The second with a Laser in Greek… I am going to join a third course with a Lightning next month in English… And most important is that I have finally located a dinghy sailing academy in Athens! Something which is unfortunately not so obvious in a country with thousands of miles of coast.
Nikos’ Training Class
First Dinghy Sailing experience – The Hobie Cat
First time I registered for a sailing course …. I realised I didn’t know what I had registered for! In my ignorance, I thought that a Catamaran (Hobie Cat) was a normal dinghy, or better say in my not sailing terminology ‘a small, stable and comfortable to sit in boat with a small sail”. In fact I had an Optimist in mind til I found out (too late) it was only for children
It was a sunny, innocent day when I saw that little devil waiting for me half in the sea, half at the shore: the training Hobie Cat! “Oh my God!” was all I managed to think in a shock! This thing waiting for me was no ‘boat’ at all. I wouldn’t sit in but on it! The boat in my mind was in reality just a fabric stretched over two slim hulls.
I looked around me at the rest of the sailing course participants. Young men and women, some a little older, some thin and some a bit overweight… Even three children were among them. Now I confess! I didn’t dare to admit I was scared by “this thing there”, took a deep breath and joined the course! The terminology (trapeze, trampoline) made me think I was up for a circus performance and carrier. But after all, everything was less frightening than I thought. Too bad the pictures I have are not digital and cannot upload them here.
I was lucky to have a German guy, Horst, in my group, who had already some sailing experience, so I felt quite secure. I did enjoy the course and the excitement of being on a racing dinghy with out any motive for racing. I did enjoy the excitement trying to keep the Cat balanced and act quickly at every wind change. Most important I enjoyed the close contact to nature and my most beloved sea.
I am proud to announce that I was quite good at holding the tiller and command the rudder. I could perfectly ‘park’ the catamaran at the shore.
My worst experience was the exercise “man-over-board“. Thank God it was a Boyer and not a real man. Then I “killed” him and left him been eaten by blood-thirsty sharks (kidding…) six times before managing to save him. Poor guy… Finally I got a small diploma certifying that I had learned the sailing basics and that I could sail … well… not that far away.
The Laser experience and a bad sailing course
Some years later, I tried again, this time with a Laser. Another speedy boat! I could have been informed in advance, couldn’t I? I didn’t… Laser is another boat, inappropriate for me, primarily due to its weight. Plus I was given a far too tall sail mast for my weight. When it capsized once, I wasn’t able to turn it up! No matter how hard I tried! My weight was 25 kilos less than it should. So game over! Oh, the trainer wasn’t good either and I got no diploma. All in all wrong dinghy, wrong mast, wrong trainer = bad sailing course.
Try a Lightning? I do…
Now I consider give it a third try with a Lightning! A friend of mine, Nikos, has a Lightning Sailing Academy in Voula, on the eastern coastal road of Athens, some 14 km from city’s downtown. Lightning dinghies look comfortable to sit in, stable, and you have to share with two other sailors. Nikos is has been sailing since 18 years and has been a professional trainer for the last eight years. He has participated in many international sailing racing and can also give courses in English. I’ll give it a try in September, when the new courses will start.