The Sailing Club House near Panangad gears up to host the National Inland Championship in December. The Club House is also an ideal getaway

Read the wind, change the course and sail into the world of boats. The sport of sailing seems to be gathering wind in the city with the one-year-old Sailing Club House in Panangad witnessing growing activity. A small but die-hard community of lovers of the sport has more than kept the boats afloat. And now the tide is turning.

The picturesque Sailing Club House, eight kilometres off the National Highway from Panangad, on the pastoral island of Chathamma, is swathed by the vast Vembanad. It is one of the most breathtakingly beautiful spots close to the city. It is the venue for the upcoming National Inland Optimist Championship scheduled to be held from December 27-31.

O.C. Thomas, proprietor of the property, says that the club house has been spruced up. It also functions as the premises of the Ernakulam Sailing Association (ESA). “It is a good partnership. We park our boats and use the facilities provided,” says Commodore of ESA, Joe Nejedly, a former World Championship sailor.

The sailing club has all the facilities of a resort. By the water’s side is a stylishly done two-room villa, a thatched roof restaurant, an open kitchen that serves Kerala and continental food, a traditional ayurveda and yoga centre.

But that’s for the holidayers. The sailing buffs can go the whole hog with their sport. “We have our boats parked there and trainers to help amateur sailors enjoy the sport. We are encouraging sailing at all levels,” says Francis Mukkanikal, president, ESA.

Roel Vlemmings, a city-based Dutch national and a regular at the club, says that on Sundays the waters turn lively. “We have five to six boats out on the water. Actually we have a good group.” 

Last season his group undertook an overnight expedition to Vaikom, which, he says, was an “exhilarating experience”. They have plans for many more such outings.

The ESA has been imparting training to young children for the past many years. Dennis Luiz, senior trainer, stresses on the goodness of the sport that builds individual character. He says that the Vembanad waters are one of the finest expanses for sailing. The facilities and the boats provided at the venue are top class.

Rajesh D., the in-house trainer, says that approximately 40 to 50 children come for training. “It is one of the safest activities and encourages concentration and team spirit.” Francis adds that many IT companies from the city send across their staff for sailing in a bid to encourage team spirit. When you are in the water you need support and hence team work builds up naturally.

Despite these facets, sailing remains confined to a few lovers of the sport.

Joe, whose company builds boats and has been keenly following the sailing scene in Kerala, rues the fact that kids are completely bound by the school curriculum in which sailing plays no part. “There is a clear increase in awareness but we have to go a long way. Schools should encourage the sport as it helps build mental and physical stamina and is noiseless, pollution free and ecologically friendly.”

Bibin Baby, manager of the club-resort, says that they offer life membership, temporary membership as well as hiring of boats on an hourly basis. The club stocks a variety of boats ranging from leisure boats like pedal boats, kayaks to the Olympic class sailing boats.

In the children’s category the Optimist is the most popular. The twin hull catamaran, GO-cat, is for adults and one of the easiest to steer. The two-man international class sailing boat, Enterprise and the Olympic class Laser are also available for sailing. There are motor boats and a few rescue boats too.

The club plans to introduce the Topper shortly, which is a popular class worldwide and the Radial, which is used by women in the Olympics.

The sailing scenario in the State has been riddled with problems and has not received government encouragement. It has been kept afloat solely by a few interested individuals. It now seems to be moving out of choppy waters on to a good sail. “I am an optimist like the Optimist,” says Joe happy at the turning tide.