Victoria Nyanza Sailing Club (Kaazi)
By Reint Bakema
Ever considered taking up sailing while in Uganda? If you haven’t, think again, because Lake Victoria is one of the best sailing venues one could wish for; perfect air and water temperatures, moderate winds and well equipped and sociable sailing located close to Kampala. By far the oldest club in Uganda and arguably the best in terms of sailing skills and its sailing calendar, the Victoria Nyanza Sailing Club (VNSC) is the place to be.
The idea of establishing a sailing club in Kampala was conceived by a small group of men on the 19th July 1935, almost 80 years ago now. The founders of the Victoria Nyanza Sailing Club decided to have a number of Snipe Sharpie sailing boats built for Ush 600 (!) apiece. Sometime in August the same year, the Victoria Nyanza Sailing Club was formally established and a suitable site for the club was secured at Kaazi, just a ten-minutes boat ride away from Munyonyo. Over the next 80 years, the Club slowly but steadily built up a fleet of boats and related infrastructure at Kaazi, providing for a perfect Sunday afternoon of water sports.
VNSC has a spacious clubhouse with a bar, changing rooms with hot showers and a kitchen. It has 150 metres of beachfront, although the beach actually consists of grass, perfect for doing absolutely nothing or, at its most strenuous, reading a book. There is a small children’s pool on the beach, where 1-8 year olds can splash around in a safe environment.
Stacked in racks on the beach are more than 60 sailing dinghies, of which the club owns 10, these being available for renting out. The Sharpies have all long been replaced by modern sailing boats. One of the most popular solo dinghies in the world, the Laser, is also the predominant boat at Kaazi. It is the perfect boat for all ages from 15 – 75 years. It requires sailing skills and brains but with a range of smaller and bigger sails, is suitable for the strong and skilful as well as for the young or lightweight beginner. The VNSC also has a fleet of 15 Optimists for kids from 8 years and upwards, windsurfers, catamarans, and kayaks, the latter for those who don’t fancy a boom flying around over their head.
Victoria Nyanza Sailing Club is a membership club. You become a member by paying the annual membership fee (between UGX 300k and 800k, depending on the type of membership) and for the first year only, a joining fee. For people living up-country or who are only in Uganda for a short while, special membership packages exist. Once a member, you have access to the club facilities free of charge and you pay a reduced price for renting boats and some of the other priced services. Non-members are welcome, but are expected to join the VNSC when their visits to the club exceed 6 in a year.
A committee of volunteers, who are elected yearly during the Annual General Meeting, runs the VNSC. They are supported by a small team of paid employees, who maintain the grounds, run the bar, cook the meals, and – most importantly – help you to rig and de-rig your boat. Many of them have become very good sailors in their own right.
Most of the club activities take place over the weekend. On Saturdays, you’ll find families picnicking on the beaches and taking fun sailing trips on the lake. Sunday is invariably the busiest day at the club, with an average of 30-40 people showing up for an afternoon of pure relaxation. So what does a Sunday sailing afternoon at Kaazi look like? Depending on your preference, you can join the sailing races, take a leisure sailing or kayaking trip in the bay, watch your kids having fun in the paddling pool or just sit on the beach with a bottle of wine. In all instances, you will enjoy the spectacular views from the club over the lake and its surroundings.
The VNSC has a number of Lasers for rent. Therefore, if you have some basic sailing skills, you can simply take a boat out and explore the lake. A great trip, taking about one hour, is to sail around Bulingwe Island. You can land your boat, probably with a guest and a bottle, on one of the many small beaches, and have a delightful, quiet afternoon away from crazy Kampala.
The real action is, of course, in the racing. The VNSC organises a regatta – or sailing competition – every Sunday, usually consisting of three races around a unique course. Each race generally takes between 30 and 45 minutes, so a regatta gives you a nice 1.5 – 2.5 hours workout. Sail racing is about strength, skill and wit. Strength: hike out to keep your boat flat, and move your main sheet in and out to keep your sail perfectly adjusted to the wind direction – you can’t get a better workout for your abdominals than that. Oh yes, and if you happen to capsize, bringing your boat back up to horizontal and climbing back in also requires a bit of muscle in the right places. Skill: keep your sail adjusted to the wind, make swift turns around marks and other sailors, ride the waves and, when you capsize, do so without getting wet! Wit: what is the wind going to do, what are other sailors doing and how do I outwit them with the clever application of rules and skill.
The first weekend of next March will again bring the best Laser sailors from East Africa and beyond together, to battle it out for the Uganda Laser Open 2015 Trophy. We expect more than 40 boats on the water and such a fleet is as spectacular to sail in as to watch.
So what if you don’t know how to sail? No problem, the VNSC offers twice-yearly, professional sailing courses for adults and starter courses for children on request. The sailing courses at the VNSC are really very good. After two weekends of practical and three theory sessions, you will be able to take out a Laser, sail around and bring it back intact on your own, having fun during the entire process. Okay, you may not win a prize during your first regatta as that usually requires a bit more practice and maybe an intermediate course or two, but you may be surprised at how soon you take home your first trophy. Because most of the VNSC racing is done on personal handicap, which is a clever system that gives every participant in a regatta, regardless his or her skills, an equal chance of winning. Don’t be surprised, therefore, when after just a few weekends of sailing practice you come home with a Monthly Mug!
Even if you don’t race, sailing is an exciting sport. A well-handled Laser in good winds makes about 20 km per hour. Okay, that is not as fast as a boda boda at rush hour, but your chance of survival is much higher! Sailing is actually about as safe and healthy as any sport can be, and if you can do it in fresh water at 23 degrees C, 52 weeks a year, why not give it a try? Get your bum on a boat and if you don’t know how to sail, subscribe to one of our excellent sailing courses at www.sailuganda.com.
See you all on the water in 2015!