By Michael Smith in Mui Ne
A kilometer offshore… The fishing port to my left, the flat blue horizon on my right with a couple of fishing boats working their nets within waving distance… I’m heading just to the right of the point at Mui Ne. The sail pulled on tight as the boat beats upwind. My sailing coach and one of his staff are couple of hundred meters ahead in separate dinghies. The Lasers they are sailing are much faster than my RS Feva and they have a lot more experience than me. It’s my first time out in a boat on my own. It’s magic.
I can hear the boat hum when I find the wind and it tilts and picks up speed. I keep my gaze on a fixed point ahead and steer for it. If I take my eyes off it for more than a few seconds I will lose my bearings – the boat will go everywhere – and I could end up in the drink again. A quick look up at the sail, then back at the water churning around the rudder, it’s time for my next tack. I push the tiller slowly across the boat and duck under the sail.
A minute later my boat’s on the edge of the fishing fleet. A brown-faced local sailor in his hammock after lunch opens one eye to watch me go slowly past his anchored wooden boat. I can see my coach, Nick, and his off-sider, Tung, pulling up on a beach just short of the point. Getting there against this wind will be a nice challenge to apply my new knowledge.
Sailing has been a dream for years. So when I found out about Manta Sail Training Center in Mui Ne, I went for it. Living the dream – isn’t that what life’s about.
On my first day, one of the coaches, Nick Newman, sat me down in the club house for a bit of theory with a diagram about beating, running, reaching and some safety stuff. Then showed me how to rig up a boat with one sail and we hit the water. No longer a spectator in the sport, I was straight-away learning hands-on how to set the sail with the mainsheet.
After half an hour of studying the wind and sailing together, he takes his hands completely off the controls when he hands me the tiller and moves to the front of the boat. All of a sudden I have both the sail and the tiller in my hands and we capsize for the first time with about five dunkings to go. I don’t seem to have enough hands. The strong wind lost me, I don’t know where it is coming from, so Nick resumes his place in the stern.
About five more sessions over the next few days with the two Vietnamese assistant coaches and I am ready to go solo. The feelings range from exhilaration when the wind is strong; to a gentle ease and oneness when the boat is steady.
The sailing center only opened in November. A British sailing instructor, Julia Shaw, opened it and equipped it with about 20 boats including RS Fevas and Teras, Laser Radials and Standards, 420s, Flying Fish and Bics. There has been a steady trickle of customers since the boats became available.
One customer, Phil Clandillon, who’d been sailing small dinghies since he was a kid, said he’d searched online in London for sailing in Vietnam before he came, but couldn’t find anything.
“When I found this place it was perfect. Good sheltered conditions, nice new boats, warm water. Couldn’t be better for learning,” said Clandillon who was using an RS Feva to teach his girlfriend, Dulcie, to sail.
The introductory price is US$30 an hour for a boat or US$50 an hour for a boat and coach.