When pop icon Christopher Cross’s hit song “Sailing” hit the airwaves in 1980, every other baby boomer and Gen X-er was raring to hop on to the nearest boat and glide on the water. With a mesmerizing melody and enticing lyrics, who wouldn’t want to go sailing and rough it out in the sun and sea.
“Fantasy, it gets the best of me when I’m sailing; All caught up in the reverie, every word is a symphony. Won’t you believe me?” says one of the song’s stanzas.
But with the archipelago’s infinite coastline, sailing in the Philippines isn’t just a daydream but a bucket list within easy reach.
Thanks to aficionados, this ancient skill and mode of transport has grown by leaps and bounds evident in numerous sailing sporting events which bring in local and foreign sailors in fun-filled contests across the country.
Despite the pandemic, regattas or sailing tournaments have been among the few sports allowed under the government’s health protocols because of its non-contact nature and the open-air setting which ensures physical distancing.
The best time to sail is this time of the amihan monsoon which promises adrenaline-pumping strong wind and waves which tests the mettle of the mariners even as they frolic in sea of green.
Racing this weekend is the Busuanga Cup, one of the country’s sought-after races, which is backed this year by the BPI Asset Management and Trust Corp. and organized by the Philippine Inter Island Sailing Foundation (Phinsaf). Running from February 17 to 22, the event which covers the 135-nautical mile Punta Fuego to Busuanga Race, and the Doni Altura Memorial Races in Busuanga, and the Linapacan Rally around the Calamian Island Group in northern Palawan.
Inter-club competition will be equally exciting as celebrated boats from the yacht clubs of Puerto Galera, Punta Fuego, Manila, Subic Bay, and the Lighthouse-based Subic Sailing are also taking part.
“The Philippines is an undiscovered paradise for sailing, as it is an environment-friendly sport and is safe to do even during pandemic. With thousands of beautiful islands, friendly people, moderate wind and seas, it has the potential to put the archipelago on the map as the best in the world,” says Phinsaf President Monchu Garcia which been organizing sailing events to help promote the country as a sports tourism hub.
In between the races, sailors will do corporate social responsibility activities by donating 2 printers with ink to a school, and cash for the rehabilitation of 2 village churches.
Down south in Legazpi City, the Exciting Bicol Oz Goose National Championships fires off on February 26 and 27 to launch Bicol region as the archipelago’s newest sailing haven. Set at the Albay Gulf across Legazpi Boulevard, the iconic perfect-coned Mayon Volcano will provide a majestic backdrop.
The first of its kind in the region, the event is organized by the Albay Yacht Club (AYC) and the Philippine Home Boatbuilders Yacht Club (PHBYC), and supported by the Department of Tourism Region 5 and the governments of Legazpi City and Albay Province.
“Bicol has been gaining in popularity with the country’s water sports enthusiasts, from wakeboarders, surfers, paddlers, scuba divers and now, sailors. Its natural beauty its main appeal, the people’s warm hospitality in embracing water sports compound its overall charm,” says DOT Regional Director Herbie Aguas.
He said that potential sailing spots will be explored in the nearby provinces to make it a community sport and help breed a new generation of water sports athletes.
The Oz Goose sailboat, which was introduced locally in 2015, is gaining popularity among boat hobbyists because of its ease in building, affordability and maneuverability. To date, there are about 100 boats at its base at the Taal Lake Yacht Club (TLYC) in Talisay town, the AYC in Legazpi, and various parts of the country.
Dubbed by Lonely Planet as the country’s “sailing mecca,” TLYC is a public-friendly place to get initiated in sailing in Oz Goose and later in the 16-foot twin-hulled Hobie catamaran.
On March 5 and 6, the prestigious Punta Fuego Regatta returns to Nasugbu after its two-year hiatus due to the pandemic. The annual tilt will bring out the proverbial “toys for the big boys” yachts of the captains of industry and witness the exciting renewed friendly rivalry of grizzled veterans in the waters.
As Christopher Cross’s famed song says in its refrain, “Sailing takes me away to where I’ve always heard it could be.
Just a dream and the wind to carry me. And soon I will be free.”
Sailors could only agree. Believe me.