By Melissa Hekkers
We arrive at Lady’s Mile just before 11am, a good time to try and avoid the midday sun and having had ample time to make our way from Nicosia. We already knew the wind was on our side; all we needed was to be comfortably dressed, the rest we were going to discover along the way.
At the Model Aircraft Hut adjacent to the Salt Lake at Lady’s Mile in Akrotiri, Limassol, two French men, Jean-Philippe Ricau and Julien Mevel, greet us as they assemble five sail yachts together. “All of this fits in my car,” gestures Jean-Philippe as I admire the colourful expanse of five different sized sails lying across the ground.
Initially, it all looks a bit complicated but we’re reassured that in five minutes we’ll be ready to begin, that we will be ‘sailing’ on our own in no time, and that once they show us how it works we will be able to roam around freely.
As much as I doubted I would be able to apt a sport so easily – more than often when a sportsman demonstrates his practice it looks much easier than it is to do – yet it’s exactly what happened. Without further ado.
Land sailing, also referred to as sand/land yachting or dirtboarding, is described as the act of moving across land in a three or four wheeled vehicle that is powered by wind through the use of a sail. Literally, the term comes from the analogy with (water) sailing. Locally, Jean-Phillipe and Julien work with the popular one-design class of small compact land yacht known as Blokart, a brand which is quickly disassembled and packed into a carry-bag giving them a high degree of portability and designed to be particularly easy to learn to sail.
In practice, land sailing is probably one of the only sports you needn’t need much experience or training in to get a good go at it and, most importantly, have instant fun; directed in the right way, we’re land sailing by 11.30am, catching the available wind and slaloming through the vast grounds of the Lady’s Mile’s natural reserve, with the sea to our side, the foothills of the Troodos Mountains to the other, the Limassol Marina in the distance and the gigantic antenna on the Akrotiri base looking over us.
A dietician by profession, it’s Jean-Phillippe’s passion for the sport that urged him to begin practicing it on the island for his own pleasure over a decade ago and it’s through his business partnership with Julien, an import-export expert who owns a toy store for mobility and outdoor fun in Nicosia (La Roue Libre) that they are now able to share their avid interest in the sport with the wider public.
Specialising in scooters, balance bikes, pedal karts, trampolines, swing scooters and electric scooters, Julien promotes land sailing as a sport for all ages; indeed, my 12 year old daughter is already managing her yacht of her own accord and considering one only needs to make use of their arms and hands to make the most of it, the age limit is almost inapplicable. Operated from a sitting or lying position and steered by hand levers, it may take a little getting used to when assessing the wind direction and how it guides you, but in essence, nothing can really happen unless you capsize, an event that is secure enough with the seatbelts provided and the close proximity from the ground that you find yourself at. This is also the reason why the duo are seeking to attract disabled persons to join in the fun, for it’s probably one of the few sports they could also handle with such ease.
We spent the first half an hour learning the technique, getting used to the speed and assuring our confidence in steering. Once that was taken care of, we gradually gained the courage to sail further and further away from our base, we crossed each other, we followed each other, we felt ‘free’ to move as we wished and attempted the more ‘bumpy’ terrains that surround the Salt Lake.
Jean-Philippe said with the right wind you can make your way to the actual Salt Lake and explore the area with the yacht, a delightful and fun way to spend any day out, to say the least. It’s easy, it’s fun, it needs little confidence at first and you have two experienced ‘land sailors’ at your side. Nothing is out of our league minus the wind, which may decide to slow you down at it’s own accord.
“Blokart is one of the ways I’ve found of leading a more simple lifestyle that’s local, ecological and human orientated,” says Julien who has travelled extensively over the years to manage his business. But it is some way reassuring to have been introduced to the sport during the current times when many of us have been urged us to be more local, we have been pushed to venture into the outdoors as opposed to busy, indoor activities and more pertinently perhaps, in smaller groups, with less physical contact.
Based in Nicosia, both Jean-Philippe and Julien admit that they would prefer having a place to land sail closer to the capital, but we mutually agree that the place itself lends a particular atmosphere that makes the experience all the more special. In any case, we were opting to make our way to the sea once we were finished, what better way to end the day?
BlokartCyprus can accommodate a maximum of 10 people at a time and rents single and double blokarts by reservation or on the spot. Reservation is highly recommended as weather conditions should be consulted. More info about land sailing in Cyprus can be found on https://www.facebook.com/BlokartCyprusLaRoueLibre