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Minorca Sailing is a holiday company based in the village of Ses Salines, in the north of Minorca. As the name suggests the holidays have a heavy sailing bias, with most people choosing to sail one- or two-person dinghies or windsurf. Minorca Sailing claims to be the most complete sailing centre in the Mediterranean, and certainly comes with prices to match. Rumoured to be the most expensive Mediterranean holiday available the centre attracts a certain clientele; well-off families with a passion for sailing are the resort's mainstay. Temperatures reach nearly 40 degrees in the height of summer, and the wind tends to average force two to three, with storms every few weeks heralding strong breezes and gales.

The company is based in the village of Ses Salines, 25 years ago this was a quaint Spanish village, with the only clue of sailing taking place being a few Wayfarers sailing around a yacht in Fornells Bay; nowadays only three families live there, the rest of the village being taken up by Minorca Sailing clients, instructors and managers. A beach and field in the east of the village house the sailing centres huge fleet of single-handed and asymmetric dinghies.

Fornells Bay is the largest bay on the island give the port of Mahon (known locall as Maó), the second largest harbour in the Mediterranean, and a beautiful, safe place to sail. Bordered at the north by the end of Fornells on the west side and a huge partly vegetated hill to the east, a giant camels hump covered in patches of dark green and light coloured rock, a light brown path snaking amongst the vegitation, up and up and up. Fornells and "Capsize Bay Hill" leave only a small (100m) opening into the sea, making it nearly impossible to involuntarily leave the safety of the bay. To the east a long sweeping tree line runs behind a small island, the most obvious landmark in the bay. On the west bank are the villages of Ses Salines and Fornells, white stone villas behind a patchwork of yachts, most classic white thirty foot tourist boats from locations as diverse as Cowes, Southampton and Bristol but occasionally, though a huge hundred foot, three-masted dark blue vision will appear, so highly polished that at close range the hull seems like a vertical reflection of the sea below, deck covered in polished mahogany and old woods, massive silver-white masts stretching upwards, towering into the sky. And to the south the most impressive of all, a thousand foot hill “el Toro” reaching upwards towards the clouds. Between 10 o’clock and 6, however, the green sea of the bay is covered with up to a hundred small dinghies, the grey hulls and pink sails of Picos, light grey Lasers, and to the south the larger, faster asymmetrics powering around the bay at up to twenty knots.

Instruction is split into groups, depending on sailing ability, age, and the choice of boats the client wants to sail. Groups can become very close, as clients discuss their sailing performances throughout the day, who had the most spectacular capsize, who went fastest, their particular difficulties and their hopes for the next session. I have talked to people, however who feel the holidays can be less sociable than others as there is little talk or contact between groups. In the evening clients can book “one-to-ones,” an hour long session where they can work on their sailing, learn to sail a new boat or simply be blasted around the bay at warp speed in the fast trapeze asymmetrics, Laser 4000s and RS800s. The centre also provides windsurf tuition based on the same format, although this tends to be a less popular as the wind in generally to light to get “planing,” a necessity for intermediate and advanced sailors.

The Minorca Sailing website calls their fleet “by far the most complete of any Mediterranean centre,” and I can’t disagree. In four months I only once saw an argument over boats, and this was a mix up in the smallest fleet, the 59er. The centre has 80 asymmetrics, 80 lasers and picos and kids boats to match, and even has a 49er, the awesomely fast Olympic class boat. The boats are well maintained, high performance boats often have features not found on their counterparts at home, even the lower performance boats still have new sails, and suffer very few breakages. The windsurfing kit is equally impressive, with boards and sails for all conditions and abilities, from beginners boards through to light wind "Formula Kit," to high wind wave boards and small sails, nothing more than a few seasons old.

Minorca Sailing is a very different place depending on the season you visit. May to early July and September to October is off-season, which tends to attract mainly keen adults, who usually belong to a sailing club or at least are frequent sailors at home. Mid July to September is peak season, where the clientele and instructor population expands dramatically (up to two hundred clients can be easily served in peak season) and teenage and kids groups become much more popular. These are days when the bay is jam-packed with dinghies, every hundred metres holds another group of dinghies, another course of inflatable yellow buoys, another raft of capsized boats making a “swimming pool.” It does, however tend to attract a very rich clientele, who often only sail two weeks a year on this holiday. Average standard of sailing decreases dramatically, and enjoyment tends to override the learning aspect of the groups.

Whether as a client or an instructor Minorca Sailing is an amazing place to visit, the improvement in sailing you can achieve is stupendous, the villas beautiful, and the choice of boats the best in the world. Book your flight.


http://www.minorcasailing.co.uk

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