Published Author, magazine and newspaper article writer. Healthy foodie trekker traveller sailor skier and scuba diver and golf lover. Wellness Coach by day (wellnesswoman.com.au) and writer reviewer in my spare time.
Published February 13th 2013
Sail like a millionaire for the day - FREE
Have you ever dreamed about going sailing but thought it was way out of your league and your pocket budget? Well here's a little secret I wish someone had told me years ago.
Whether you have no sailing experience or you've done Sydney to Hobart before, and have no yacht of your own, you can still go sailing at the lovely Middle Harbour Yacht Club.
MHYC sits neatly in the valley of the Spit Bridge between Balgowlah and Mosman; the connecting wonder between the Northern Beaches and the Lower North Shore. The bridge, which has a timetable of being opened to allow large masted boats through, is often bemoaned by locals waiting in traffic, but still manages to achieve a look of awe from those who are seeing the bridge reaching for the sky for the first time. It is reminiscent of a scene often seen in action movies, where the speeding hero manages to clear the gap and land safely on the other side. With the Yacht Club in 'spitting' distance of the bridge, you may get to witness its giant jaws opening.
Thursday nights are Twilight Race sailing nights, which is aptly named as the race normally begins around 6.30pm and ends at the light begins to fade. There are over 50 yachts that take part and due to the differing categories and sizes of yachts they are grouped into Divisions. Each Division has a First, Second and Third prize every Thursday night. The Twilight season runs from November to around the end of March; this is when you can join in.
If you are keen to try sailing you can put your name on the Crew board and a kindly Skipper may be pleased to give you a ride. You will probably find yourself fascinated, as boats seem to come so close to one another on the starting line that you may see the colour of the bowman's eyes on the adjacent vessel. The most that will be expected of you if you have not sailed before is that you wear the right gear, such as suitable footwear that does not have dark soles, for example volley shoes are fine. Take some wet weather gear in case of showers and don't wear jeans as they take so long to dry. You might be asked to sit on the rail, and no, there isn't a train at MHYC, but this means that the crew sit out on the edge of the boat to help balance her and keep her sailing more efficiently.
It is an absolutely awesome evening and a great sport to try. Boat owners are often looking for good crew and if you decide you love it, then there are plenty of opportunities to learn at MHYC. Most courses are run over the weekends and cover beginners to advanced sailing skills and Sea Safety.
To prepare yourself for the first time you should get to know a little terminology so that you can feel like a sailor from the get go. Left and right and front and back don't exist on a yacht. The front is the Bow, the back the Stern. Left side looking towards the bow is Port (is there any Port left?) and the right side is Starboard. Have a look at Leeward and Windward on Google to see what you can find.
Tacking is the main thing to be concerned with as a newcomer, as you will have to move your weight from side to side with the boat as she turns direction into the wind and heads on a new course. Gybing is a downwind change of direction when you need to move to the other side of the yacht as well. It can be very exciting and your weight will be very important on a windy evening, so don't worry about eating that extra sausage roll, as it all helps. A great crew on the rail can mean a nail biting finish with only seconds in it crossing the line. Naturally a certain level of fitness is required.
Middle Harbour Yacht Club is a wonderful club. It's incredibly family orientated and has lots of fun things to do for everyone. They have junior sailing from tots to teens, and Flying Fish have a sailing school there too. The Club itself has a beach bar and cafe, Cala Luna for fine dining on the Waterfront and Sea Breeze for more casual eating with fabulous fish and chips. It is also available for functions, weddings and parties and even has its own little beachfront if lovers want to tie the knot there. Last weekend was the Annual Barefoot Ball with a Mexican theme, which was just fantastic with around 300 members dancing the night away.
If you are curious you must go and have a look, it's a great place to be and anyone can join. For Twilights, you can attend 3 times for free with your ID such as driving licence but for safety reasons you need to then become a member for subsequent sailing as you need the Yachting Association Insurance. You can join MHYC as a Crew member for $49 per month at the moment until August when the new memberships are due. The membership entitles you to discounts in all the eating areas and sailing schools, as well as including your YA Insurance. It's a price that is pretty reasonable and not beyond the reach of most people who dream about going sailing. Being a member ensures your name is at the top of the available crew list until you find yourself being asked to be regular crew on a boat you've got to know well.
There is a year round calendar of events, yacht races almost every weekend and lots of social events and regattas. For more information visit www.mhyc.com.au for all the details of sailing, events, dining and memberships. For an experience you will never forget that might just change your life as it did mine: call 02 9969 1244, ask to have your name put down for the Twilight Crew and tick off that dream of sailing on a yacht. You never know, you might be off to Hobart before you know it!