There are a couple of sailing schools in Abu Dhabi, but we decided on Watercooled at the Hiltonia Beach Club, Abu Dhabi. They offer a variety of watersports, provide RYA qualifications, and communicating with them via phone or email was easy.
We signed up for Level 1 and Level 2 RYA sailing courses – each course costs 1500 AED each and runs over two days. Courses are limited to 6 students.
NB: You neither need to be a member of the Hiltonia Beach club, nor pay their entrance fees to go to Watercooled – BUT you need to call Watercooled to book in for renting equipment or attending a class. If you are not booked in you may not be allowed into the beach club.
Watercooled in Abu Dhabi is located on the Corniche, between the Hilton Hotel and Marina Mall; they also have a center in Dubai. Their shack is set up by the waterfront, boasting an extensive selection of boats and watersports equipment and classes are taught in a protected bay. The staff is highly experienced and very friendly, and flexible at adjusting the course and teaching methods to the students’ various abilities and confidence levels.
Our course was taught by Olivia, a UK national, who was fabulous, and we only had one other student join us on day 1 of the course. Due to our previous experience, Joshua and I we were able to cover both Level 1 & 2 in only two days.
We covered theory on rules of the road, clothing and equipment, meteorology and capsize recovery, and moved straight on to rigging a Vision, while discussing terms and functions of the various parts, practicing ropework and learning how to safely launch our boat. At first, us three students watched Olivia sail, learning the functions of the crew in handling the jib and balancing the boat; then we each got a go on the tiller and the main sheet and practiced going around a triangular course.
After lunch, we rigged a second Vision and took turns in getting some one-on-one tuition while sailing with Olivia. Joshua was happily sailing along at this stage, but I was still struggling with the tiller steering and very unsure of myself. Olivia talked me through all the maneuvers and by the end of the session I was efficiently tacking, gybing, reaching, etc and a lot more confident. We practiced capsizing and recovering our boats (note to self… pick up all water bottles before you get back in the boat…) and then returned to shore and recovered the Visions. After a long day on the water and some good progress, Joshua and I were given our Level 1 RYA sailing ticket.
Level 2 covered a lot more theory, including points of sail, tides, the Beaufort Wind Scale, and the 5 essentials to better sailing. We spent the day single-handedly sailing the smaller Qubas around the bay practicing the 5 essentials, while Olivia followed us on a powerboat and gave advise on techniques. A lot of time was spent perfecting our ‘man over board’ and ‘coming alongside’ procedures.
Even though we both started the course with very different levels of skills and confidence, neither of us ever got bored or felt left behind. We particularly liked the strong emphasis on learning-by-doing, instead of sitting through hours of classroom lessons!
After our second day on the water we were exhausted, but much more confident on the water and very happy to receive our Level 2 sailing tickets. We’re definitely looking forward to getting back out there and participating in the racing series organised by Watercooled!
Overall – Highly recommended!
Watercooled Membership card – If you will use their courses/rental gear frequently, pay 50 AED for a Watercooled membership and start collecting points (get 1 point worth 1 AED for every 10AED you spend) and redeem these against future rentals or courses.