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Sailing: Not just for the wealthy

Sailing: Not just for the wealthy

The thought of sailing may be daunting to some, if not many of us. Reasons range from fear of open waters or the thought of learning a high level of skills. Even for the adventurous, sailing may seem like a very expensive sport. Roselle Tenefrancia talks with Norman Ambrose, an experienced local sailing advocate, who explains that none of these are necessarily true.

When people are passionate about any water sport or hobby, the benefits always outweigh the costs. And in sailing, the costs can be much less than what everybody thinks. Despite the perfect environment in Southeast Queensland, many people still avoid sailing thinking it is a sport for the wealthy.

Why sail?

Sailing is an ancient method of navigating the open seas. Sailing ships would be used for travel, fishing, or for recreational use. In sailing, ships use the strong force of the wind through sails to drive the boat to move at fast speeds.

“When sailing, you need to think about the wind, the navigation and what the yacht is doing,” explains Norman Ambrose, managing director of a sailing company on the Gold Coast. “It is an activity to get my mind off my busy working week. You can completely forget about what was happening during the week. This change of mindset on a sailing yacht is something you get when enjoying an afternoon sail or on a trip to the Whitsundays. You do not get this same feeling while driving a power boat which is like driving a car.”

The first steps

First of all, you need to learn to sail, if you have not learned yet. It is not expensive to get a lesson. The Gold Coast is home to a few sailing clubs, and it is worth to just have a go and try it out. For as little as $15 per person, you can actually be sailing on Gold Coast waters.

Second, if you have some basic sailing skills, consider volunteering to be part of the crew of a yacht. Do your research and ask around among the sailing or yachting groups for volunteering opportunities. You can learn new skills and be part of a veteran team without even owning your own boat. Norman suggests, “Ask around at the local yacht club, marina or boat brokerage to see who wants crew for an afternoon or a week or a month.”

The big decision

So you think you are done with trying it out on other people’s boats. You are now ready to move on to bigger responsibilities: owning your own. Again, your first thought is: Too expensive? Think again.

“I think sailing with other people is great and many do that for years,” says Norman. “However, buying a sail boat is a great activity which can happen from just a few thousands for a dinghy, or about $15,000 for a keel yacht. Many owners start by buying shares in a yacht.”

For the long haul

Now that you have your own boat, it is time to sail it. If you ask how much the running cost is, it is like asking how much the wind is. And pretty much, it is for free! Well, almost…

Norman describes it this way: “The wind is free, and therefore you can go almost everywhere for free. The distance from Gold Coast to Hamilton Island is 1,000 kilometres. With a 35-ft motor cruiser with two engines, the trip can use 100 litres per hour. As the vessel size increases, it can cost thousands of dollars per hour. If I were to take a modern Catalina 355 sailing boat, and motor the whole way, I can use 200 litres of diesel. If there was wind most of the way, I can reduce that to 50 litres or less.”

Sailing is one of the more inexpensive ways to enjoy the waterways and the ocean. And as much as it does sound like it is an expensive activity, it is really not just for the wealthy.


  • The Gold Coast Sailing Club based at Varsity Lakes offers Discover Sailing for local families every Saturday starting at $20 per person. T: 0488644757, W:
  • Paradise Point Sailing Club offers “Learn to Sail” courses on weekends, starting at $15 for non-members. T: 0407145397, W:
  • The Hollywell Sailing Squadron offers formal sailing lessons for as low as $20 per person. It is known for the local champion sailors it has produced over the years, such as Mathew Belcher and Jessica Watson, among many others. T: 55377030, E: