With more and more expat families choosing to spend some – or all – of their summers in Beijing, it’s essential to find activities for all ages to enjoy. When you need a break from the city crowds, there’s no better place than the waters of Beijing Shunyi Olympic Water Park.
Host to the rowing and canoeing events in 2008 Beijing Olympics, this refurbished venue is home to Aofan Sailing Club, a professional sailing club aimed at “[promoting]and [encouraging]the sport of sailing in China, whilst providing the perfect environment to share the experience with friends and family.” The name “Aofan” is a combination of the Mandarin words for “Olympics” (aoyunhui) and “sail” (fan).
General Manager Molly Meng co-owns the sailing club with her sailing husband, Yang Lixin. While Aofan has been open since May of 2010, the club is still developing and tweaking programs to suit demand. Currently, there are Saturday lessons for children (ages 7 and up) and adults, as well as intensive courses and camps during the summer months. Both Chinese and English speaking coaches are available and training must be completed before you can captain your own boat (unless you can prove your sailing competency).
Four types of boats are available for rent: the Optimist, a small boat ideal for ages 6 to 14; the Far East 11, a one-person boat; the OMEGA Monomer, and the WATA Catamaran, which hold 5-6 and 4 people respectively, including a coach.
A variety of courses and memberships are available for individuals as well as families. Sailboats can be rented by the hour or day (ranging from RMB 120-600 per hour to RMB 500-1,800 per day), while memberships (ranging from RMB 3,500-6,000 for a family, plus certification training) are valid for the entire season. Coaches cost an additional RMB 150-300 per hour. Membership is the more economical choice once you’ve given sailing a try and have decided you enjoy the thrill.
The Toribio family lives in Chaoyang District, but traveled to Shunyi for one of the club’s free springtime trial weekends. Alexander and Helga Toribio are from Brazil and had never been sailing before with or without their sons: 9-year-old Nicolas and 4-year-old Igor. They’ve lived in Beijing for five years and, like many, didn’t even realize that this serene boating location existed.
Intensive five-day summer camps begin on June 18 and run throughout the summer for children aged 7 to 18. Day camps cost RMB 3,000 and include lunch, snacks and all activities; overnight camps cost RMB 4,900 and include all meals, a nearby hotel stay and a 24-hour guardian.
Safety is the number one concern for all sailing activities, training and courses. Aofan follows Yachting New Zealand (YNZ) training guidelines, adapted for lakes rather than oceans. Participants should be prepared to get wet and bring water shoes and a towel.
While sailing season officially opened on May 1, the season runs from mid-March to the end of October, depending on the weather.
Sailing is just one of the many water activities on the lake. Aofan Director Elizabeth Gasson adds: “We also offer other water sports, so while children are in the sailing lesson, parents can wander up the original Olympic course on kayaks, and then sit on the bank for refreshments. [It’s] great for bonding, relaxation, and exercise!”
So while the sun is out and the wind is up, head to the outskirts of Shunyi to Aofan Sailing Club’s “oxygen bar created by Mother Nature.” Only a 30-minute car ride from the International Exposition Center, sailing at the Beijing Shunyi Olympic Water Park makes for a delightful summer day.
Take the Jingcheng Expressway and exit at Baima Lu. Drive eastbound for 15km to the Olympic Water Park.
Note: Cars cannot drive into the park and the park has a RMB 20 entrance fee per person, but if you contact the club ahead of time, they can help waive the entrance fee.
By public transit:
Take subway line 15 to Shunyi station. Cross the street and take Bus 850, which comes every 30 minutes, to Mapo (马坡). Then switch to the Baidu (百度) bus and get off at Shuishang Gongyuan (水上公园). The Baidu bus doesn’t have a number; look for a yellow sign instead.
Beijing Aofan Sailing Club 北京奥帆帆船俱乐部
Daily 9am-6pm. Beijing Shunyi Olympic Water Park, 19 Baima Lu, Shunyi District (5949 4599 ext 59, 139 1046 5950, 132 6188 8784) 顺义区白马路19号奥林匹克公园内