It was July 5th, 2009. My day started with Smith’s School of English founder Mark Smith picking me up by jeep in Tsukaguchi, Amagasaki City, Hyogo Prefecture, Japan where I live. It is also where my English conversation school, Smith’s School of English Tsukaguchi （スミス英会話塚口校）, is located. We met up with the rest of our crew at Kobe Marina （神戸マリーナ） in Nishinomiya. My team had 11 people comprised of a nice mix of Japanese people and foreigners living in Japan, including John, owner of Smith’s School of English Kawanishi （スミス英会話川西校） in Hyogo, Japan. Mark Smith was the helmsman and skipper. He is an experienced skipper with many years out on the water. I’d been sailing with him a few times before but it was my first time in a race.
Yachts are given names, which can be seen on their sides. Our yacht was a 41-foot yacht named “Hora”.
The word HORA comes from the Romanian Circle Dance. Mark says when he named the boat he liked the idea of the union and fun associated with the Circle Dance as well the idea that the circle always comes back home. Here in Japan it becomes a nice play on words and some meanings of the Japanese word “hora” in English are “Look!”, “See!” and “Listen here!”. What an interesting name to call the boat! Under it’s former owner, “Hora” had been raced by another team which is very experienced. That team now uses a new boat which is yellow on the outside. That team joined the races today using their new boat. By some coincidence , my team all wore yellow t-shirts. (^.^)
We eventually motored out into Osaka Bay （大阪ベイ）, where all 13 yachts participating in the races met to start the first race. We put up our sails and as soon as the wind began to blow we were under way in the first race of the day. My job today was to simply move from one side of the yacht to the other when our yacht changed directions or “tacked” as they said on the boat. All 11 of us worked together, a great example of teamwork in action. It was exciting seeing the other yachts racing near us, sometimes quite close. We waved and called out to some, which was fun. “Hora!” was shouted out playfully to other yachts. (^.^) The weather was nice and the wind was blowing pretty well. The race was marked by markers (floating buoys). One memorable time was when our yacht came very close to other yachts while approaching a marker where the yachts changed directions at the marker. Whilst avoiding to hit another yacht, our own 41 feet, 7500 kgs of boat squeezed through a hole I wouldn’t normally take my bicycle through! It was so close! Wow! Although it was a bit scary at the time, it was exciting! We finished the first race in just a bit over an hour, then had a short break before the next race started. We had a quick lunch, which consisted of sandwiches and boiled eggs, which had kindly been prepared by Mark. Imagine preparing 11 sandwiches yourself! Wow! Thanks a lot Mark! Everything was delicious! After the quick lunch, we started the second race, which also took slightly over one hour. After that we went back to Kobe Marina. Some of us went home and the rest of us relaxed until the planned Kansai Yacht Club dinner.
Dinner was at a restaurant at Shin Nishinomiya Yacht Harbor （新西宮ヨットハーバー）, where all teams gathered. Short speeches were given and awards handed out. We didn’t win but Mark felt we had done very well for our first time racing together. Later on he drove me back to Tsukaguchi and thanked me for coming. I in turn thanked him.
I hope to go racing again and next time bring my Japanese wife along to have her experience it too.
Many thanks to John from Smith’s School of English Kawanishi for filming it and Mark for preparing the video. Great job guys!
Would you like to join us for leisurely yacht sailing or more challenging yacht racing? All are invited to come on out and enjoy the fun! No experience is required. If you wish to join, please email Mark Smith at [email protected] . I hope to see you there!