I’m Hannah and have been at Regatta Sailing Academy since October. I am firstly a windsurfer but have been in and around sailing boats since I was about 8. I first started sailing with my younger brother and sister on the southeast coast of England. The weather there can be very diverse from beautiful sunny days with perfect breeze to pouring rain and gale force winds. Perfect conditions to learn!
When I was younger, I was sometimes worried about heading out on the water. Whether this was because the waves were too big, I didn’t trust the person I got put with or the wind was a bit too strong for me and I would probably end up in the sea! Things breaking on the boat was a big concern for me, and as I got better I used to get frustrated if I was racing and things went wrong.
These are all understandable reasons for not wanting to head out on the water. However, overcoming these was the best thing I did.
A lot of people are worried about waves, sometimes I am still worried about big waves! The force of water is huge. I have been taken by waves and tumbled many times… You do have to be careful, but here in Doha the waves are not a threat. They are tiny compared to other centres around the world!
My brother excelled quickly in the sailing world and began racing from a young age. I remember going to watch him in an event on the coast and the waves were massive! 6 men were around his boat, lifting the boat with him in and walked into the breaking waves to shove him over the top of the wash into the open sea. At the time I thought they were crazy, but they were just dealing with the situation safely for the conditions. In a sailing boat, power boat or windsurf board, you point the front straight into the wave and you will normally be ok, as soon as the boat or board turns sideways you will tumble. If you do get caught, try as best as you can to stay on the seaward side if not the boat or board will hit you. I have experienced this myself, and if it happens you learn quickly!
You need to trust the people you are sailing with. I know many of you will have sailed for the first time with someone and thought “what are they doing”? One of the scariest sails I have ever had was on a yacht. It was one thing after another, running aground, engine failure, no electricity or lights in the dark and eventually being towed to a jetty by a river taxi. I was about 12 on this trip and the other people aboard were a lot more experienced than me so I just had to trust them. On the dinghies, if you think you know something that the other person doesn’t then don’t be afraid to say. Once you learn to sail with others, it becomes great fun.
Sailing in wind is when sailing is the most exciting so don’t be scared of it! Like with the waves, you just have to learn how to deal with it. In a boat you have to learn to hike over the side and trust the boat. You are in control; don’t let the boat control you! One of the things I was worried about in windsurfing is a big gust of wind and not being able to control it. After catapulting over the front a few times, you learn! I remember my sister flying over the front of her windsurf board when she was learning, but after a small explanation of how to drop and push through the board, she was flying and has been ever since! You need to trust the wind, and lean back into the gust to fly over the water. It’s an amazing feeling if you’re in control. Learn to love the gusts, and if all goes wrong just let go of the sail- but that’s the last resort!
When sailing at centres around the world, there is safety cover- either on land watching you or a powerboat on the water. Therefore, if a mast snaps or you lose a rope it will be ok. Signal if you need a hand and we will help! There’s no need to worry. The only time you would be out without safety cover is on your own kit and having a blast. If this is the case, you should always tell someone anyway that you are going sailing. Use your common sense and most people with their own kit carry spare rope to bodge a job on the water to get back to shore.
Everyone will be frustrated at some point with his or her time on the water. Everyone will have a bad session. It won’t be the end of the world, so just remember all the amazing times laughing and giggling with friends and family on the water. I used to sit and laugh with my brother and sister about the experiences we had that day, good or bad, and still call and laugh about my days here in Doha! You will have a bad session on the water and maybe hurt yourself or break some kit, but if you love the water as much as I do, and trust me I have had some scary sessions and hurt myself before, you will plough through and enjoy this amazing sport.
Don’t let a bad session put you off!