Sail of the Season


As the rest of us spent recovering from a holiday-induced food coma, 15 courageous entrants hit the high seas at the historic Gateway of India for a competitive yacht regatta. The Bombay Merchants Club in partnership with Commander-in-Chief (C-in-C) of the Western Naval Command and Gurkha Cigars joined hands to organize a first-of-it’s-kind luxury yacht regatta in Mumbai.

It doesn’t get any more gorgeous than the Mumbai coastline in the summer. So smatter the already charming harbor with some classic boats, topped with an assortment of suntanned sailing enthusiasts, and you have quite the event at your hands. And when it came to assembling a team capable of winning India’s most prestigious sailing event, the one thing the sponsors did not have to worry about was organising an old-fashioned naval gang.

October to May marks the sailing season in Mumbai. Geographically blessed with a coastline that spans 149km, and a sun-kissed weather, the city is perfect for sailing. Yet, for long, the perception that sailing is prohibitively expensive deterred many from taking up the sport.

The event was hosted at the Bombay Merchant’s Club. Greatly valuing the personal achievements of its participants, the press conference started with some roaring festivités. Adding lustre to the occasion were a rich array of individuals seeking to extend their proud and impressive records, like Col Gautama Dutta who is an Asian Medalist and National Champion Sailor and Lt Amit Arvind who is also national champion sailor.

While most participants may have a fearsome nautical reputation, the luxury yachts owned and sailed by a variety of Industrialists including Jamshyd Godrej from the Godrej Group, Ravi Mariwala from the Mariwala Group, Ashish Hemrajani from BookMyShow, Bharat Kewalramani, ex-head of South East Asia for JP Morgan, and Frank Hancock, ex-MD of Barclays Bank investment banking, took the show with their unencumbered élan.

The route had been marked out, the boats had been lined up, and every skipper ready with their Time Tracker (TT) a mobile software, through which the entire race was recorded, stood fierce at the port. “It’s so accurate that if you miss one rounding or even went around the wrong way, you’re disqualified,” says Viraf Hansotia, the chief organiser from Gurkha Cigars

The  devastatingly elegant and powerful, Cunning Plan, owned by Frank Hancock, won the Gurkha Cigars Series Trophy, which was given for the boat that cumulatively won the race over the 13 weeks long season. Cunning Plan is a monumental 34 foot yacht Jeanneu Grand Soleil built in 2002, it has won several races in the recent years. Commenting on his win, Mr Hancock said, “I’ve been sailing for more than 30 years, starting with mirror dinghies and lasers in the UK, then a Cornish Shrimper off Ireland, and finally buying Cunning Plan (a Jeanneau 34) in 2011. My biggest challenge is when sailing outside Mumbai, the navy and coast guard always stop me because they are not used to seeing a foreigner sailing up and down the coast. In fact I’m the only foreign cruiser sailor in India.”

Peace ‘n’ Plenty owned by Ashish Hemrajani won the race of the day and was awarded the C-in-C by the commander in chief of the Indian Navy. Mr Hemrajani said,“ I’ve been sailing for close to 12-14 years. And it’s taught me to look inwards even in business. In sailing you can’t blame the wind, conditions or tide, you have to do what you do to deliver “given” the conditions.“

The event was sponsored by Gurkha Cigars. The team from Gurkha are keen amateur sailors who are looking to encourage the development of the sport of racing luxury yachts in India. The 2.5 hour race culminated the 3 month regatta with a gourmet feast accompanied by a fine assortment of vintage cigars – rounding out a perfect day’s sailing in classic style.


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