The Malta Independent 10 December 2018, Monday

Sailing: Flashback to January 2005 - “Cruising is Fun”

Wilfred Sultana Tuesday, 20 November 2018, 11:22 Last update: about 20 days ago

Being islanders, where the sea is practically within walking distance from any location, referring to our affinity to water activities is possibly the same connotation as to when referring to fish and the sea. Well, maybe I am going slightly overboard in my comparison but definitely within sight.

The local sport scene is well endowed with prime nautical events that enjoy a highly regarded recognition on the international calendar. Manifestations which present exciting contest to both local and foreign participants but above-all highlight our attractions and facilities resulting in valuable press and television promotion opportunities which give our Island an identity in the trendy world of sport-tourism.

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Behind such successful endeavors are a dedicated breed of sailing  'administrators' who are defiantly contributing to the enhancement of the sport, giving excellent opportunities to local sailing enthusiasts and putting Malta in the elite market of yachting.

In the first weeks of 2005 I had the pleasure, as a journalist, to attend for a meeting called to discuss the possibility of the setting up of a new sailing club, to be more specific a cruising club to cater for both Sail and Power boats.  An enthusiastic gathering of some 40 'sailors' attended for this meeting which eventually led to the introduction of the proposed concept and objectives - the presentation of a Club statute, the enrollment of those present as members, the election of a provisional committee and the confirmation of the entity's name -  Malta Cruising Club.

Following the successful launch of the Club a provisional committee was elected which was then made up of:

Prof Antony de Bono - Commodore - Roland Darmanin Kissaun, Prof Edward Scicluna, Prof Daniel Darmanin and Shawn Spiteri Duca - members

The provisional committee even drafted the Club's first statute which was eventually vetted by Dr. Patrick Galea, a keen yachtsman himself. The drafted Statute was actually brought up and approved at the first General Meeting. Certainly the statute may have been amended since then, but the initial steps were taken in the beginning of 2005.

A few days following this meeting I had the opportunity to exchange a few observations on the topic with the first Commodore of the new Club, Prof de Bono, who most courteously instantly took me into his confidence and accepted me as one of his crew on board his boat San Michele, continuing our discussion on first name basis.

When I received the invitation to attend the launch meeting my first reaction was - But why setting up another club and what will Malta Cruising Club (MCC) propose to do that is not being done by already established sailing clubs?

"There is no club that specifically caters for cruising rather than racing; MCC is unique in this regard.  MCC will concentrate exclusively on all matters pertaining to cruising: this will include a number of cruises both local and in the central Mediterranean; there will be events to help those with less experience by cruising in company and also rendezvous cruises. These activities will be supported by a series of talks and discussions during the off season of practical importance for cruising. An example of the cruiser orientated objectives is the intention to publish an update-able Cruising Handbook with information about cruising destinations in the Central Mediterranean" explained Antony. 

So, does this mean that the MCC will cater for those that might be put off by competitive racing? 

"There is a world of difference, for both sail and power, between racing and cruising. Quite apart from the physical differences between boats designed for competitive racing and cruising, there is a fundamental difference in outlook. Cruising folk enjoy the adventure and fun of cruising to new destinations at their own pace, and facing the innumerable challenges as well as the copious rewards of such ventures. Speed as such does not come into it, rather seamanship and seaworthiness are the criteria. Without doubt racing boats are, on the whole much faster, they have to be of their very nature. However, cruising boats are far more comfortable, and therefore tend to be heavier and often more seaworthy. Above all, "cruising is fun". 

So, how exactly did the idea of setting up the MCC come about? 

"I have sailed from Malta for over thirty years and for some time I have been aware of the need for a club of like-minded people who are interested in cruising rather than racing. I have been more and more aware of the number of people, many new to sailing, that have recently acquired boats and need help and encouragement. Having sounded out a number of friends I am convinced that there is a real need for a club that caters specifically for cruising people, and that the time was ripe to put such an idea into practice; the response we have had has proved me right. I am amazed by the extent of the positive response which is ample evidence that the need is there."

Do you intend to restrict membership only to sailing boats owners? 

"Definitely not.  It is open to all who are interested in cruising, under sail or power.  One of the objectives is to facilitate the meeting of potential crew and owners. 

The first meeting was most encouraging as we already have forty member and many more have expressed an intention to join. The next step is for the interim committee to work on the organization of the Club and its activities. A formal committee will be elected later in the year."

So a new exciting maritime opportunity was on and more sailing aficionados would be better prepared to enjoy their favorite sport and leisure pursuit alongside other boatmen as members of the Malta Cruising Club.

The first onshore activity of the newly formed Malta Cruising Club was a talk and discussion on Anchoring and Mooring, which was held at the Black Pearl on Friday 27th January 2005. The host and conductor of the meeting was the new Commodore Antony de Bono.

The above chronicle definitely brings most delightful and satisfying memories to all those who took the initiative and to those who supported the idea of a new Club to be set-up and flourish. Then, I supported and believed in the idea as a yachting journalist - today as the Club's Commodore, I look back with pride and recognition to this memorable memoir.  
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