Fanta-sea holidays

By Chen Ximeng Source:Global Times Published: 2014-9-24 20:48:01

Group sailing trips are starting to make a splash with Chinese travelers

Zhai Feng and his family are ready to sail away. Photos: Courtesy of Zhai Feng

Thirty-eight-year-old Jin Jiong can still remember the pleasure of sailing with a warm sea breeze in his face when taking a boat trip around the Greek islands last summer.

 "It was the first time that my wife and I tried a new way of traveling. The journey was very relaxing, but we still had to do the yacht work, rather than purely enjoying the scenery," said Jin, who works in the construction industry.

Exotic sailing holidays have become more popular in China over the past two years. More Chinese adventurers and travelers like Jin have started to experience new environments and cultures by means of sailing a yacht.

Rick Pointon, founder of Beijing Sailing Center, which has organized several sailing holidays since 2013 to Greece, Thailand and many other countries through their "Sail the World" trips, explained to Metropolitan why these holidays are attractive.

 "It's adventurous being able to explore different islands and passages, and yet still relaxing as we cruise almost silently, powered only by the wind," he said. "Everyone onboard learns how to handle the yacht, while also getting to visit uninhabited islands."

The biggest feature of sailing trips is that it is a chance to travel and learn about sailing, said Pointon, who is an experienced yachtsman and has completed a transatlantic passage in a 30-foot yacht.

On June 26, Jin and his wife, along with 28 other people, took off on their week-long sailing holiday around the Mediterranean Sea.

"Under the instruction of the skipper, we learned how to handle the yacht. When the ship is in full sail, I could feel the strong power of the wind and nature," said Jin, adding that most of time it was very relaxing, except one day when the ship encountered big waves, which he described as "thrilling".

All tourists onboard are assigned different tasks by the captain, and Jin worked on the port side of the boat. "I had to throw out, catch, and fix the ship's cables, while observing the rear left side and the stern of the support ship. I also had to steer the ship in calm waters," said Jin.

The popularity of sailing trips in the Mediterranean Sea impresses Jin most. Jin recalls that one day when they anchored the ship at sea, an elderly woman in a small boat stopped beside them.

"There were only two adults and their grandson on the yacht, which surprised us, because bringing a young kid sailing would be impossible in China," said Jin.

In the eyes of both Pointon and Jin, sailing trips are still not a mainstream style of traveling in China, but they are optimistic about the prospect.

"It is still new in China, but there is a well established market internationally," said Pointon. "It takes time to get the message out to people that they can undertake this type of travel, but those who try it are finding great enjoyment from it." 

Pointon also pointed out that a lack of harbors, and a poor market for yacht sales, can limit the base of sailing lovers in China.

"Currently, all the [sailing] trips are overseas. There are few sailing yachts available to charter in China and no established cruising grounds. The yachts that are available are over-priced and mainly available for only day trips," said Pointon.

"And there are no networks of harbors set up in China, so people can't cruise from one place to another," he added.

Zhai Feng, an experienced sailor who took his wife and 8-year-old daughter on two round-the-world sailing trips in his own yacht, agreed with Pointon that the lack of relevant resources is one of the biggest obstacles.

"There are no harbors and anchorages, so I had to start my journey from Malaysia, where I bought a secondhand yacht at 340,000 yuan ($55,374), said Zhai. "However, the price [of a yacht of the same type] would be millions of yuan in China, which is very expensive," said Zhai, who has sailed to 20 ports in nine countries.

"Compared with two years ago when I first bought my yacht, there are now more people who know about sailing and have tried it. But it is not enough," said Zhai, adding that the government should loosen the restrictions on harbors and anchorages for yachts, which will help spread a sailing culture in China.

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