Eau Caprice

Sailing…..?It?s like standing under a cold shower while ripping up fifty pound notes? but judging by our bustling harbours it seems to have a following. Louise Hannah went and checked it out for all the land lubbers.

?We have a saying in sailing,? my instructor Peter Carnegie tells me. ?It?s like standing under a cold shower while ripping up fifty pound notes.?

Yachting?s definitely one of the more expensive water sports practised in the island, but for those without a robust bank account, there are the courses run by Jersey Sailing Club.

While not a complete novice, the last time I went sailing I spent the entire time lying in the cabin munching on salt and vinegar crisps to quell my stomach. So I was a little nervous about trying yachting for the first time. Thankfully, Peter immediately puts me at ease. He is a true sea dog: sprightly with tanned, weather-worn skin. He smells of the sea and talks in crisp, captain-like tones which make me think being sick on his boat, the 42-foot, magnificent Caprice, simply wouldn?t do. So I take a deep breath, and hop on board. First thing is a quick tour of the boat. It?s fascinating to see how every aspect of home living ? a kitchen, bathroom, dining room, bedroom, can be compacted so smartly into such a small space. Peter then quickly runs through safety details, hands me a life jacket and hurriedly instructs two other members of the crew (former students Laurie and Beverley) what to do so we can get cracking. You can sense his anticipation to get out to sea and it?s infectious.

As we motor towards the traffic lights to get out of Elizabeth Marina, he tells me to untie some of the fenders that are used to protect the outside of the boat. He then runs through various pieces of equipment and what they?re used for, and I quickly realise this is going to be an all action experience. Peter tells me this is why he?s so passionate about the sport. ?You?re pitting yourself against the elements as it?s all about using the right tools to harness the wind. You never know where you might end up. With power boating, you just point the boat and go. You?ll get there come hell or high water. With sailing, you get a real sense of satisfaction once you reach your destination because you?ve had to work hard to get there.?

Once out of the marina, Peter switches off the engine and tells us to let the sails down. He asks me to sort out the front one (the jib), which means frantically turning a handle until the sail unfolds completely and immediately stops the wind in its tracks. And all of a sudden, after the frenzy of getting the boat ready and out to sea, everything becomes incredibly calm. ?Holiday trippers always make that comment,? Peter tells me. ?They talk about how wonderfully peaceful and calm it is.?

After ten minutes of letting the wind quietly guide us towards Noirmont Tower, the action picks up again. It?s at this point that Peter starts talking in another language: ?Gybe! Standby to gybe! Gybe the jib! Gybe ho!? From what I can gather, this all means ?turn left?. The boom then comes swinging around to the other side of the boat. ?Watch out!? Peter shouts. ?This is when people get hit on the head!? As I duck, he sets off scurrying around the ship again, fixing the sails, while Beverley dashes after him and Laurie expertly steers (the wheel?s easily the size of a lorry tyre and needs the strength of both arms to manoeuvre). And it strikes me that this is what it?s all about for them: the adrenalin of being kept on their toes, the physical challenge of of it all. It?s sailing the hard way. ?It?s a way of life,? Peter explains when things quieten down again. ?It?s in your blood.?

As we head back to the marina, I?m allowed a go at steering. I feel nervous as I know I?ve got to stay alert to make sure I?m always one step ahead of the wind. When a sharp gust catches me unawares, it tips the boat at what seems like a forty five degree angle. It?s petrifying and electrifying in equal measure.

We get back having spent an hour and a half at sea, and I?m exhausted. With all the snazzy, whizz-bang boats that exist today, which can perform what you like at the touch of the button, yachting represents a different kind of challenge. And I definitely got a sense of satisfaction from knowing that I took on the elements and won.

For more information contact Will Carnegie at the Jersey Sailing Club, on 07700 719755

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