By land yacht straight into the orange zone

It's high-speed sailing without the water. Rupert Isaacson on the latest thing to do when you go down to the beach
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The Independent Travel
Land Yachting (also known as sand yachting) seems new but it has 4,000-year-old origins. Although it now has hundreds of followers there are as yet very few places where the sport is on offer to the general public. However, if you decide to try it, you're in for an interesting ride. Land yachting is high-speed sailing without the water. You have an aerodynamic "yacht" - a seat mounted on a kind of long platform, a tall sail and three wheels. The back two are angled to aid turning while the front wheel is extended on the end of a long bar. Until recently land yachting was a boffin's province, with enthusiasts joining clubs and buying their own purpose built and expensive equipment. Now, however, a small number of outdoor centres are beginning to offer the sport at affordable rates, supplying all equipment.

Most land/sand yachting is done on beaches, preferably at low tide, though disused airstrips are also popular. Beaches allow for plenty of room where, with the help of strong sea winds, you can learn to perform a variety of stunts, all expressed in a set of terms known only to the initiated; a "flying gybe into moon country" is one such rite, as are "manoeuvres in the orange zone". I'm not giving anything away, however. If you want to find out what these strange terms mean you will have to give the sport a try. Apart from speed and the joys of sailing without a boat, land yachting has the added advantage of being open to children. There are plenty of competent pilots, as experienced land yachters are called, under 15. It's worth considering as a safer alternative to waterborne sailing for the young.

Finally, if you find yourself hooked by the sport, land yachting also has its own weird sub-disciplines to explore, such as parakarting (speeding along underneath a small parasailing canopy) and speedsailing (standing on a kind of skateboard and flying along with a windsurfing rig). Parakarting is still in its experimental stages, but the speed records are creeping up all the time. Speedsailing can be as fast as regular land yachting, with speeds of up to 70mph at club level, and fast enough to make your knuckles go white at beginner level. Both require niceties of sailing technique. But regular land yachting, at least in its initial stages, is relatively easy to learn. Beginners do not have to go through a long period of frustration; the learning curve is steep enough to make it fun to try out over a weekend. It helps if you have some sailing experience, but this is not essential. Windsport International have several different centres round the country. If you just want to try it out, there are two-hour taster sessions, though it is also possible to do one whole introductory day which is inexpensive at pounds 48. Beyond this there are levels 1, 2, 3 and Pilot courses, which include tests at the relevant levels. Aimed equally at beginners and would- be recreational land yachters, rather than aspiring competitors or instructors, tuition is given individually, in groups, or as "Corporate Action" (for company days-out), with about six hours of sailing per day.

With several qualified instructors and a selection of different craft, including two-seaters with dual control, Windsport International can take you from beginner to competition standard sailing.

Insurance for hazardous sports, back page

FACT FILE

Basics

Windsport International, Mylor Yacht Harbour, Falmouth, Cornwall TR11 5UF Tel: 01326 376192

Season

All year

Accommodation

Centre can provide help in obtaining local accommodation

Children

Any age but under-12s only with caution

Disabled Facilities

Hand-steering yachts are available on request

Insurance

Participants are covered by centre's insurance

Other Windsport centres

Cambridgeshire (01480 812288), Rutland (01326 376191)

Tariffs

Prices include tuition and use of yacht. Two hour course pounds 18; One day introductory course pounds 48; Pilot courses from pounds 60 per day

Booking

Deposit on booking is required

Access

Details supplied by relevant centre

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