First impression: yacht racing / by Jessica Lee


Today was cold, rainy and practically windless: a perfect day for sailing.

Just kidding.

Ha ha. What a dry joke for such a wet day.

It was terrible conditions for sailing, but I ended up heading down to the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia (CYCA) anyway to participate in the Winter Race Series.

It was my first time sailing on a yacht and I definitely was not ready for it in terms of being dressed for the weather. By the way, I am definitely buying a dry suit at some point after this.

I came to Australia on the false assumption that it would be warm and sunny year round and did not expect to need warm clothes. Since being here for four months, I have already purchased two hoodies and am considering getting another jacket.

The above photo is the only photo I have from today as it was raining the entire morning and afternoon when we were yacht racing. It was pretty cold. I snapped a photo from the dock and then hurried to get ready for the race. I didn't bring my camera aboard the yacht since it was raining. Thus for this post, I am going to try to describe the full experience of yacht racing through words.

I met the crew through mutual friends. What many people don't know is that you can sail for free if you show up to a race day and be accepted onto a boat if a boat is looking for crew. Sometimes you don't even need experience, just a good attitude and a solid work ethic. 

For our yacht, we were a group of six. This is a good size so that there isn't too much work for one person pulling ropes and throwing on sails. Also, there needs to be enough weight on the boat to keep the boat flat. There were really large boats out there with maybe twenty people in them. Ours was a medium-sized yacht. I don't even know how to describe what kind of yacht it was, but it was beautiful.

Just being on the harbour surrounded by all the other yachts in their different coloured sails was lovely despite the grey weather. There were maybe a hundred boats out on the water? Possibly more. It was like being in a movie, you know that one cinematic clip where you see the main character flying in the air in a hot air balloon or a dragon and you see all the other hot air balloons or dragons- it was exactly like that but on water. Since it was grey and rainy, there was even a nice fog around the harbour bridge and the opera house.

Sailing on a yacht is pretty much just like sailing on a dingy (small boat) except less intense. Everything moves slower. Moving on a small boat from one side to the other requires speed but things are less affected if you take longer to run from one side of the boat to the other on a yacht. Also, in a yacht, the whole team works together to make turns or put up a spinnaker. It was pretty cool to watch everything happen and contribute as well.

The crew was pretty experienced and I got a kick out of them using sailing lingo such as "pressure", "bullet" and "zero". There's still so much I don't understand in sailing and it's great to be able to hang out with pros. Sailors are pretty laid back and easy going. The first beers were cracked open before noon on the boat and after the race, there's a nice camaraderie at the club where all the sailors talk about the race and meet people over food and more alcohol. Sailors take the "drunken" stereotype pretty seriously it seems.

Today wasn't all sunshine and rainbows (far from it) but honestly, I'd take this cold and rainy sailing experience any day over an overpriced touristy rehearsed sailing "adventure". It's just more genuine.