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Sailing in China
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November 11, 2017
Sailing in China

What is Sailing?

Harnessing the the energy of the wind to power a boat through the water…The people in the boat are called the crew. The boss is by tradition usually the driver (helm or skipper). The crew have to understand how to position the sails in relation to the wind to maximise the speed of the boat through the water. If the job is done skilfully, it will get to its destination in the quickest possible time.

An understanding of weather, hydrodynamics, aeronautics and the body has to learn to balance the boat and ride the waves to drive the boat fast through the water.

Small boats (dingy) would have 1 or 2 people, and be easy to tip over sending the occupant for a swim. Perfect sense of balance and control is essential to master these boats. Youngsters would learn in an OP (oppy) class then graduate into bigger and more complex boats as their age and skill level progressed. These boats would be used on inland waters and on the sea near the beach for perhaps 1-2 hours at a time.

Medium boats (yachts) would have a bigger crew, bigger sails, stable in that it will not usually tip over, and be suitable for the sea going further afield some kilometres from shore. Usually the journey would be within 8 hours, no cooking or sleeping facilities on the boat.

Large boats (yachts) would be suitable for large sea crossings and going around the world. Journeys of some days or weeks, so equipped with cooking facilities, beds, fresh water food etc needed to survive.

So why interest in sailing?


Combining all these skills together and being able to go where you want using the wind gives an runout mouse sense of self satisfaction and pleasure. One is always learning and improving.  It is suitable to be enjoyed from the ages if 7 to 70 and maybe more. You can find many 70years olds still enjoying the pleasure of sailing.

If you want to test your level of skill and competitiveness, then racing against some friends to see who is fastest can be a lot of fun.

It is very common for a group of people to set up a sailing club. The land to build the club is provided by government or owner, the club members would pay to build the facilities needed. Sailing clubs have often been established for some 40 plus years.

a boat would need to be purchased to race against friends. Sometimes the clubs have boats for hire that people can use before they purchase their own boat. Boat boat ownership is by far the most common thing. Even before a house purchase!

Typically if there is a bit if water in Europe, you would find a sailing club, and perhaps 20-30 boats out at a weekend racing each other.

If you think your good enough, competitions are arranged at regional and national level or even international level for you to test your skills.  Many foreigners will often be found doing this, they enjoy to spend their leisure time and money pursuing their hobby at weekends.

If you were to look at the coastal sea on a sunny summer day you would count hundreds of boats where ever you looked.

Sailing in China


China has a history of sailing starting in 15th century … with the fleet commanded by Admiral Zheng He. He navigated and travelled the world with his fleet of wooden sailing ships, showing the capabilities of China, educating the world, and wanting foreigners to come and visit China to pay homage to its emperor.  There is a book by Gavin Menzies, interesting to read, especially about how he produced maps of the world that Columbus later used to “discover” America. Unlike European explorers later, the admiral did not lay claim to any of the countries he visited, although certainly he had a fleet big enough to have done so if he had wished. and interesting museum in changle and xiamen and Nanjing.

Now only motor powered fishing wooden boats built traditional way can be seen in China. – See Changle fishing villages-  where there is a fishing harbour, you will find a boat builder with trees coming in at one end and fishing boats going out the other.  This is an amazing sight for a foreigner to see these traditional skills and craftsman still working.  It can rarely be seen in the west now.


Sailing in china is not popular leisure activity as we see in the west. A foreign sailor seeing the Chinese coastline, the warm weather, sunshine, big waves, good wind, would be thinking China is the perfect location for sailing. But they would be extremely disappointed with what they found. Sailing in China Is practically non existent compared to Europe.  What you will find, if you look hard enough, is mainly government training schools. However where there is a lot of westerners there are some traditional western style private members sailing clubs. These can be found in shanghai and Beijing, and a new one starting in Xiamen. In 2014 Xiamen boat show there were more luxury sailing boats on display, beginning to replace some of the luxury motor cruisers. It was also reported that more small affordable sailing boats are being sold privately, and there is more and more government funded sailing schools opening. In another 10 years perhaps we will see the waters of China filled with sailing boats.


The main sailing cities are:

Qingdao. Shangdon province.  Olympics was here.  Some big events. Also the annual boat show held there. The city had yacht club and is by far the biggest city for sailing in china.

Risao still in shangdon province  …. Some big international sailing dinghy events held there.

Beijing. .. Sailing club.

Shanghai .. Sailing clubs 2 of them on nearby lakes.

Xiamen Fujian has yacht club where they hold boat show at Yueyuan bay. There is a few medium size yachts called J80, where locals organise an annual race and some weekend races.

Shenzhen Yacht club, and boat show.

The rest is government run sailing schools for youngsters all over the country.

Student Sailing Schools

Students are recruited from villages and towns and move to the sailing school which is government subsidised. Students live at the school. Academic studies in the week would be done at a local school near the sailing school.  Sail training is part of the academic curriculum.   When students have progressed to a reasonable level of skill, races are organised to select the best students that can move onto the national training centre.

A typical Government Training school can be found in Southern  Xiamen where students learn windsurfing and oppy skills. It is mainly for youngsters less than 17 years old.  Students either progress to the National sailing centre, or if they don’t make the grade, they carry on with normal life without sailing. But westerners would be amazed at the extremely high level of skill and dedication these students have, often considerably higher than would be found in the west.

The National Chinese Olympic training centre is in dongshan island Fujian. The best students can progress to here to train and advance their skills.  China has the first women’s Olympic gold medal in London with Lijia sailing the single handed Laser class.

Last thoughts on sailing in China….


But what is missing in China is the huge numbers of active private and older weekend sailors that are all progressing their own skill levels and enjoyment. For all China’s dedication to trying to produce top quality sailors, it is still not working the same as the west, and western private individuals win far more international events and sailing gold medals.

For kite surfers there is an active club on xiamen beach and international event held on Fujian Pingtan Isle beach.

Chinese people are missing out on the pleasure of sailing, especially at local level. Basket ball, badminton and swimming are very popular, but what is needed is a kick start to persuade a few people to start sailing clubs, and take some of the students that didn’t make the national grade, and have them promote the teaching and skills to all ages of Chinese so that China can grow a sailing culture and community in the same way it has grown basket ball.

There is a lot of interest in sailing, many people ask me how they can learn or want to try it. Amazingly there is established sailors in many cities that don’t have the facilities to train people. The older generation particularly have no way to access a route to learn to sail. In the west many people only learn to sail in later life and continue on way past retirement age.

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Article written by Paul

One Response
  1. That’s a fake, chinese never went far with their rather primitive navigation knowledge and shipmaking. The Genovese Cristoforo Colombo pursued his voyage out of desire of exploratiom by sea as did the Veneziano Marco Polo by land.

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