Updated: Mar 14
“I’m moving to Spain” utter those five words and people assume you are heading for a life on the coast, lay on a beach, gazing out to sea, a beer or wine in hand.
To be fair for the first few months that is pretty much all we did, then as time went on and the children headed off to school you begin to realise “this ain’t no holiday” and that you’d better do something a little more productive with your time.
My husband, being the competitive type, joined a padel club and began yet more tennis lessons under the expert tutelage of Scott Jenkins of SJ Tennis Academy in Javea.
Me? well, I’d always dreamed of sailing, though Khabarovsk my home city wasn’t exactly renowned for its sailing facilities and as for Manchester my adopted home in the UK, suffice to say the Manchester Ship Canal on a wet and windy day in October didn’t appeal.
I can’t recall exactly how it came about, however, I was introduced to the Costa Blanca Yachting Association, they meet twice a week, on a Thursday and Saturday in Calpe.
The boats that they use are TOM28’s specifically designed for race training, and so consequently they are light, fast, highly manoeuvrable, and a whole bucket load of fun.
No experience is necessary, and you can never be too old to start, at 43 I was the baby of the group, however, the only thing I would say is that you do need to be nimble on your knees to avoid the swinging boom when tacking, or changing direction to the uninitiated.
Generally, we’d set sail with a skipper and someone with experience in case we lost the skipper overboard, that's obviously a joke, we’ve never actually lost a skipper overboard… only a couple of beginners and clumsy crew members, by accident. This is the point at which I stress that CBYA is not a sailing school and everyone involved at the club are volunteers and are out simply to enjoy a day sailing. However, the life jackets and insurance (day 8 euro or year 15 euro) are mandatory.
I mentioned passengers, you can, in effect. just go along for the ride, but its much more fun and satisfying if like me you throw yourself into it. You’ll learn some fantastic new skills, how to rig the sails, learn which sails to use and which not to use, read the wind direction, navigate the boat etc…
Yet there is nothing quite like the experience of being sat at the helm of a TOM28, zipping through the water, with the wind in your face and the taste of sea spray on your lips. No two sails are the same, there has to be just enough wind, for speed, and the sea should be just a tad rough if you want to experience the excitement of the boat climbing a wave before it comes crashing down ready for the next one.
Sailing is a skill and it’s a team effort, even more so when the wind is light and it’s time to introduce the brightly coloured spinnaker. Hoisting it whilst lowering the jib and at the same time turning the boat without losing speed, at this point in the manoeuvre the skipper has little control and there is a danger of capsizing, but as the saying goes - it’s all good fun.
Seriously, I’ve been told TOM28 can’t capsize (or nobody at CBYA managed it yet), though it can lean enough to lose someone overboard, on the plus side even in January the Mediterranean is fairly warm. I have never tested the water myself, though we did lose a man overboard during a race.
The CBYA is a great club to start with, fees are 25€ - 30€ a year (plus insurance) plus 15€ for a day sailing, each month you’ll get the opportunity for a full day out on one of the big yachts, this sets sail from Denia and is about 50€ (to cover costs) also during the summer months events are organised where you can try out the dingy or catamarans AND last but not least are the various social occasions normally involving food and the odd glass of alcohol.
When I joined I really didn’t think I’d learn very much, yet within 2 years I completed and passed my day skipper exam.
Learn to sail in Spain - it’s experiences like that which leave you with memories, and make expat life all the more worthwhile.
For further information please go to www.cbya.org