Take to the waves with our guide to the sport in Abu Dhabi
The wind in your hair, the sun on your face and endless beautiful vistas as you drift along on the ocean…
Sound good? Whether you dreamed of being a pirate in your childhood or just love the open sea, it’s time to get on the water with our guide to sailing in the capital.
Finding your sea legs
“Ideally, the earlier you start sailing the better, but anyone can learn, it doesn’t matter what your age is,” says Miguel Contreras, professional instructor at Abu Dhabi Sailing Academy, who routinely teaches students aged from 16 to 67 at his classes.
“Generally speaking, you just need to be in good health and be able to move around,” he adds.
For first-time skippers, Miguel assures that no special equipment is necessary, and all you’ll need is some light clothing, rubber-soled shoes, a hat, sunscreen, sunglasses and a sense of adventure.
“The most important equipment, such as life jackets, will be on the boat, and schools must provide proper safety equipment,” he comments.
With several years cruising the capital’s waters, Miguel says that for new sailors, its calm seas and great weather make it the ideal place to learn the sport.
“This is an amazing place to learn how to sail,” he beams. “The waters are calm and warm year-round and we have great weather; there’s no cold season which is a huge advantage.”
And as for unexpected benefits, Miguel comments that if you want a full-body workout, you’ve come to the right place.
“You’re working your arms, legs and every part of your body without even thinking about it – it’s definitely good for your fitness.”
When it’s time to go out on the water and you need to choose a school, Miguel advises checking their credentials thoroughly.
“Any school you pick should be certified by a sailing federation,” he emphasises. “It doesn’t have to be from a specific country, but it’s important because you can be sure that the instructors will be professional and safe. Safety is paramount in any sailing school.
“You may have friends who will offer to teach you,” he adds, “but it’s one thing to know how to sail and quite another to know how to teach others.”
As for lessons, Miguel notes that there may be a bit of book learning ahead, but that the majority of teaching will be hands-on experience.
“Learning to sail can be complex and there’s a lot to learn,” comments Miguel. “Sailing schools will usually take a step-by-step approach; we’ll teach you the basic theory, but in the end, hands-on experience is very important and helps people lose their fear.”
Plotting a course
As you get more confident out on the boat, you might feel that now’s the time for a solo voyage, but Miguel advises that there can be a few pitfalls to watch out for.
“There are a few places that are restricted in Abu Dhabi, such as the oil rigs and refineries, as well as private islands,” Miguel explains. “Navigation charts are not always up to date, so it can be difficult to plot a course.”
So where can you sail in the capital for some scenic views?
“Saadiyat Island is great, as it’s open and the buildings are not that high. Another great place is near Yas Marina,” he says. “It’s in interior waters, but you can drop anchor and dive in.”
At the end of the day, Miguel’s advice to anyone curious about the sport is to jump in and get your feet wet. You never know, it might be your next passion.
“Every time I go out on the boat, I’m still amazed at this gift. It’s such a sense of freedom not seeing any cars, motorcycles or powerboats. It’s just you, the water and the wind to push you forward.”
Find your crew
• Abu Dhabi Sailing Academy: 050 404 7688, firstname.lastname@example.org
• Noukhada: 02 558 1889, noukhada.ae
• Abu Dhabi Sailing and Yacht Club: 02 658 3333, adsyc.ae
• Watercooled: 02 639 5997, email@example.com