The Entebbe Sailing Club
By Cymon Charnley
Shortly before Uganda’s independence, a group of like-minded people with a common interest in sail and/or power boating, came together and informally formed the nucleus of what was to become the Entebbe Sailing Club (ESC). In 1964 following their first committee election, they obtained a small plot of land on the Entebbe foreshore. With a shipping container as the first clubhouse, boats were initially kept on the beach. Members came mostly from Kampala each weekend and in time this resulted in families and friends camping on the lake shore, spending their weekends enjoying one another’s company and sharing adventures with their assorted mix of boats.
In time, a second plot of land was obtained, this being the former Hindu crematorium site, now occupied by the club boatsheds and storage areas. Membership increased steadily over the years and yet another plot was added at the top of the rise, where the current clubhouse now stands. During the Amin years the military tried to take over some of the land, but with the intervention by the then Egyptian Ambassador, the Club retained its titles. During the late 1980’s, the current clubhouse was constructed with largely volunteer labour and materials being supplied by the members and Club membership continued to grow. In later years, additional small parcels of land were obtained for the development of additional Club facilities and amenities, such as the swimming pool, chalets, new boat sheds, a boat launching ramp, parking areas, a waterfront bar, children’s playground and lawns have all been progressively added.
Entebbe Sailing Club was eventually incorporated as a private members’ sporting and recreational club and is a civil society group of members in which people with a common interest in water sports could come together and pool their activities. As such it has comprehensive in-house rules and regulations, largely aimed at preserving the integrity of the Club and the preservation of its values but also ensuring that the water-based activities that take place are done so in a safe and responsible manner. Club property is jointly the property of all members and so cannot be legally identified with any single person. The exclusively volunteer management committee is elected each year and is responsible for the enforcement of the rules and is also charged with the running of the Club towards ensuring its continued development.
During the early years, membership was primarily made up of expatriates, recreational boating activities and water sports being relatively unknown in Uganda at the time. However, with growing affluence and an increasing interest in such leisure activities including the use of boats for things other than fishing, there has been a steady increase in local Ugandan membership that has become more noticeable over the past ten years or so.
The Club has fostered the use of sailboats and has trained many to handle these safely and competently. Competitions with other clubs blossomed during the 1990s with visitors from Naivasha, Kisumu, Kaazi and Jinja Sailing Clubs were regular competitors in Entebbe. Some of these clubs are no longer active but Entebbe Club does hold annual sailing regattas with the Victoria Nyanza Sailing Club from Kaazi (Kampala), during the month of May.
Without doubt, the ESC has the best conditions for water sport in the whole of Uganda. Blessed with one of the few real sandy beaches and fair water quality, you immediately feel as if you are on a holiday trip.
The Club has sheds for private boat storage as well as its own boats (Optimists, Lasers, Hobie Cats and an Albacore Dinghy). Members with sailing experience can rent these on a daily basis and enjoy them at their leisure with family and friends. Sailing is a fun, safe, accessible and easy to learn sport that welcomes the participation of all, regardless of background, age, and physical abilities. Throughout the year the club holds various group-training courses, which are usually held over two weekends with more demanding one on one, private lessons available with Torsten, our sailing instructor. In addition to sailing, the venue is also the ideal launch pad for those with the right equipment such as kayaking, windsurfing, stand up paddling (SUP) and kite surfing. Many Club members have their own power boats permanently based at the Club premises and are regularly seen heading out into the lake, either for weekend fishing trips, visiting the islands, or water-skiing, knee-boarding or doughnut-towing around the bay. The Club also has a qualified lifeguard and swimming instructor on its staff.
Most days the prevailing onshore wind picks up around 11h00 and reaches its highest strength at 15h00, allowing sailors to safely explore the lake and sail past points of interest such as the Botanical Garden, Gorettis Beach and various small islands, all within sight of the Club and in reach of our Safety boat (just in case), or for the more advanced sail past the Entebbe Wildlife Education Centre and over the Equator.
Whilst the pure sailing experience is the principal attraction for some of our members, mastering the sailboat under the given conditions, moving silently through nature powered by the “Breath of God”, getting away from the crowds and daily troubles … sun, wind, motion, scenery and getting in touch with how our ancestors travelled – can be a thrill!
Nevertheless the Club does host sailing regattas, the biggest being held in May with archrivals Victoria Nyanza Sailing Club from Kaazi (Kampala) and stages other Club events throughout the year. Another aspect of the sport includes long distance weekend events, to destinations such as Ssese and Bulago Islands or Jinja. The planning and preparations for the trip, the crewing as well as coping with the weather challenges can be a highly rewarding and so fulfilling accomplishment … to this members are welcome to step on board with experienced skippers on one of their adventures.
Chalets: we offer a choice of 2 comfortable self-catering units. Each unit is set with uninterrupted views of Lake Victoria.
Camping: either on the Club lawns or around the swimming pool, which are visited by many water birds.
We cater for the weekend water warriors, holidaymakers and travellers who require central but tranquil surroundings within easy reach of Entebbe town. Close to Victoria Mall (large shopping mall).
Stay over and let its special magic calm your mind and replenish your soul.
Members regularly enjoy the social activities at the Club, including use of the bar and barbecue facilities, swimming pool, yoga classes and various other functions such as Full Moon parties. Annual events include Family BBQ evenings, Fishing Competitions, Halloween/Guy Fawkes night for the children in November, Children’s Christmas party in December and Pub / Quiz nights.
As a recreational facility, the Entebbe Sailing Club does not seek publicity nor draw attention to it – and indeed to do so would be considered in poor taste. However, it is necessary to mention that the Club and its individual members are regularly involved with various local community activities. We do have a number of members whose lives are devoted either wholly or in part to charitable works, as missionaries, health workers or various other forms of social benefaction, and in a number of cases their activities includes the Club within their activities. In several cases over the years boats from the Club have been involved in search and rescue operations, assisting others in difficulties on the lake. The Club has never sought recognition for any of its quiet contributions to the lake society.
During the mid-1990s the ESC initiated the Royal Ascot Goat Races. Proceeds destined for charities, and over the years several hundred million shillings were quietly distributed to worthy organisations within Entebbe and the surrounding district. The Goat Races eventually became too large an event to be run on a purely voluntary basis and it was transferred to a commercial management.
The Club and its members have for years been active supporters of worthy, child-oriented organisations within Entebbe, and amongst other activities we have made contributions of books and study materials to local schools and orphanages. Typically, several times a year one of our members provides the vehicles and collects children from an orphanage and takes them on outings, either to the Wildlife Education Centre or to the Club beach. A number of Club members accompany them on these outings to entertain them and at the beach to introduce them to the pleasures of safely playing in the water. The enjoyment the children get from these outings is clearly very rewarding.
In 2014 as the ESC celebrates its 50th anniversary, with the Club looking forward to its continued growth and development in all areas of activity. We are seeing a gratifying increase in the number of youngsters learning to sail, and a return of non-core activities such as the yoga and quiz nights. Our membership is in steady growth now and as the budget allows our premises are being progressively renovated.
Anyone interested in joining the Club is welcome to come and visit and be shown around the facilities by one of the staff or members. The joining process is typical of any sports club, which involves meeting other members, “buying them a drink” and completing an application form, which is subsequently reviewed by the committee. There are various levels of membership including Single, Family; Up-country (if residing more than 50 km from Entebbe) and Temporary (3 months) Members may bring visitors to the Club for a limited number of visits per year with full access to all facilities.