It has only been half an hour since the last of the sailboats has arrived at Chennai harbour after the finals of the second edition of the Unifi Capital Offshore Regatta on April 7. The famished participants who have been at sea for over 10 hours are drinking tea at the Royal Madras Yacht Club (RMYC).
Among them are Praveen Kumar (29) from Rajasthan and Imo Lemnok (25) from Nagaland. They come from states in India that do not have massive water bodies, but are among those with the best command of the J80 class sailboats (racing keelboats) in the country. While Praveen’s team from the Navy is the defending champion in this offshore regatta, Imo’s team has placed third in this year’s close final.
“When I am sailing, I am not just competing with other participants, I am competing with the wind and water,” says Imo. Honorary secretary of RMYC, Captain Vivek Shanbhag, shares similar thoughts about the sport.
“On a stressful day, I only need to take the sailboat out for two hours. With only the ocean and the breeze by my side, I end up immediately refreshed. All the fatigue from flying disappears,” says the pilot, who has been sailing for over 10 years.
It is probably why he and other members of the club are encouraging novices to try their hand at the sport.
Taking the plunge
The 112-year-old RMYC is the first sailing club of South India. Though originally The Madras Yacht Club, RMYC got a charter on February 20, 1962 from Queen Elizabeth II, after which the prefix ‘Royal’ was added. Earlier, only the ‘captains of industry and trade’ were allowed to be members of the club.
Now, however, this club has opened its doors to all keen participants.
Besides access to the J80 class of sailboats, RMYC also has access to highly skilled trainers and the support of the Coastal Security Group (CSG) of the Tamil Nadu Police, the Indian Navy and the Indian Coast Guard, making the sport safe, says Vivek.
Everyone is given a life jacket. He adds that children specifically are given lessons on dealing with capsizing as part of their training.
RMYC has been able to produce champions and national-level competitive sailors within just one year of training. Jitendra Dixit, joint honorary secretary of the Yachting Association of India (the parent body of RMYC), says that they are anticipating anywhere between six and eight medals at the Asian Games in Japan in 2026.
Vivek says that sailing can be picked up at any time. The sport also helps understand the basics of engineering. It is a great workout as it exercises the full body, and mostly the core muscles, he says.
RMYC is in the process of training a civilian team comprising women from the Tamil Nadu Police department to sail to Rameswaram from Chennai. They are also coaching young students from fishing communities near the harbour.
“The Chennai waters offer a current peculiar only to this region. The contour of the coastline makes this current unpredictable. Hence, people need to have basic knowledge about it. With abundant water, it is only right to explore the waves and make the most of the expansive sea,” says Vivek.
For further details, contact Capt. Vivek Shanbhag at [email protected] or 9841030880. Membership is priced at ₹30,000 for three years and ₹1 lakh for life.