A nautical oasis near Beijing
As far as recreational activities are concerned, Beijing is a city that serves its expats well. But when Rick Pointon upped sticks and moved to Beijing from London, he was disheartened to find there was nowhere within commutable distance from the capital where he could indulge his passion for sailing. A committed mariner since his teens, Rick knew that there was plenty of suitable coastline but was frustrated to find none of it nearby was being utilized for sailing. So rather than waste hours on trains and planes going back and forth to Qingdao, he concocted a plan to build a sailing center of his own.
During his search for like-minded individuals to join his venture, Rick came across Simon Liu, a Chinese man with a wealth of sailing experience. Simon had a clever idea for the perfect place to set up a sailing center: Nestled between the cities of Qinghuangdao and Beidaihe was the venue for the 1990 Asian Games sailing events. The expert construction had remained unused in the years since and was now home to a few overgrown weeds and a few pleasure cruisers.
Rick and Simon spent their time installing an infrastructure to create the perfect sailing environment: a clubhouse with facilities for those content to watch the boats going by, brand-new equipment imported from the UK and a teaching staff equally equipped to divulge the intricacies of a reef knot in English and Chinese. All that remained for the pair to do was encourage Beijingers to sail in a place less than two hours away by train. The sailing environment itself is self-contained, offering protection from the elements on more tempestuous days.
The weekend sailing course for kids is designed to get them confident with the equipment and have them sailing solo by the end of the first day. Rick is a qualified Yachtmaster with the Royal Yachting Association and has created a course that gives students a grounding in theory but also ensures they spend as much time out on the water as possible – even for those who come with no previous sailing experience.
The first session of the day is spent in the classroom, getting to grips with the fundamentals of turning the boat and learning the mechanics. Then it’s time to put these basic skills into practice. Courses run every weekend and also during the week. Level 1 covers the very basics and hopes to get people sailing a boat comfortably around a triangular course under supervision. Level 1 is ideal for beginners or those looking to refresh those long-forgotten seafaring skills. Level 2 aims to get the participant fully qualified in maneuvering the boat without supervision. Once Level 2 has been completed, participants are welcome to return to the center and hire boats for solo sailing.
The selection of equipment at the sailing center is varied enough to suit children of most ages and sizes. The Topaz Omega is a competition boat and is used to compete at international levels. Smaller dinghies are also available for the younger kids, and there’s something heartwarming about seeing them setting off into the sunset in something no bigger than a bathtub. Safety is of the utmost importance – before you hit the water, the center provides instruction on what to do if you encounter trouble, and all relevant safety equipment is provided.
This summer, Rick plans to offer weeklong sailing courses, available to schools or interested parties who can gather enough people. By the end of this residential course, kids will have completed both Level 1 and 2 but will also have had a lot of fun on the water, playing games specifically designed to hone their skills. Those who absorb enough salt water into the veins can take the plunge and purchase their own boat, which they can store at the center. With the arrival of the Olympics, Rick hopes to provide a place for Beijingers (both temporary and permanent) to set sail on the open sea.
Beijing Sailing Centre (open May-Oct)
22 Wenti Road, Haigang District, Qinhuangdao
0335 856 0916, www.beijingsailing.com