Long days, with plenty of hours of daylight allowing for double training sessions, a wide network of professional nautical services and the perfect climate for sailing all year round. The Canary Islands are an international benchmark in professional sailing. Numerous international teams come to the archipelago every year to prepare their long regatta season on the global circuit.
More hours of daylight, more training sessions
The Canary Islands have become a mainstay for professional sports tourism. Top international athletes take advantage of the natural conditions of the islands and their installations to prepare for the most important events in the world. And the same is true for sailing, and not only in terms of Olympic training.
For years now we have seen training camps for national and international regatta sailors on several islands. These groupings are held above all in winter, when the bounties of the archipelago’s climate and the excellent wind conditions allow for long training days on the water. “In winter, the longer hours of daylight in comparison to other places in Europe is a draw for professional sailors,” says Aarón Sarmiento, a Canarian regatta sailor who has taken part in two Olympic Games - Beijing and London - and now coaches the Portuguese 470 mixed class team. “Just as the archipelago is a world leader in tourism, we can also be one in water sports,” Sarmiento maintains.
In winter, the longer hours of daylight in comparison to other places in Europe is a draw for professional sailors.
Excellent complementary services
Professional sailors spend several months away from home, in an unfamiliar place, concentrating exclusively on making the most of the daylight hours. They shouldn’t have to concern themselves with anything else. Which is why when a coach chooses a destination for training sessions, they bear a series of factors in mind, aside from the actual conditions for sailing.
“It is important for the venue to offer all the complementary services the team will need,” Aarón Sarmiento stresses. “Inflatable boat hire, sail repairs and shops specialising in nautical material are essential, but so too are outdoor spaces for practising other sports. The archipelago meets all these requisites, and also offers an impressive range of gastronomy. Foreign sailors rate the Canary Islands highly for everything that they offer, not just the wind. Ultimately, this makes the life of a top athlete on tough training days easier and more pleasant”.
As many possibilities as islands
The wind is something that cannot be controlled. This is something professional sailing team coaches are well aware of and they need to be able to guarantee suitable conditions in each training venue, insofar as this is possible. “Regatta sailors are used to travelling long distances to sail. The Canary Islands offer the possibility of encountering good conditions by travelling just a few kilometres, and in a short space of time as well. And of changing islands very easily. This allows us to capitalise on the training period as much as possible, taking advantage of the specific characteristics of each regatta course,” is Aarón Sarmiento’s positive conclusion.
The continual presence, over many years, of international teams in the Canary Islands, particularly in the winter, has led to international light sailing regattas being established in the archipelago. They range from World and European Championships to trials within the world Olympic class circuit.
For over two decades now the Canarian Olympic Sailing Week, organised by the Real Club Náutico de Gran Canaria, has been bringing the best light sailing regatta competitors from the international scene together in the bay of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. This regatta came into being partly due to the continual presence of numerous international teams in the club installations in Gran Canaria between November and January. The event, which is held at the beginning of December, has become a classic on the calendar of some of the best European regatta sailors and forms part of the Spanish Olympic circuit trials.
Meanwhile, Marina Rubicón has also joined this elite trial initiative. Every year this marina in the south of Lanzarote hosts over 300 Olympic light sailors and iQFoil sailors who come to train throughout the winter. The marina has become a hub of international activity, holding the Lanzarote International Regatta. This race also came into being to capitalise on the presence of some of the most talented sailors in the world who were training in Lanzarote’s waters.
Venue for the prestigious Ocean Race
Another source of satisfaction for sailing enthusiasts has been seeing the prestigious teams for the Ocean Race (previously the Volvo Ocean Race) training in the Canary Islands. These teams are famous among the sailing community and they travel with their entire entourage, bringing with them plenty of excitement and - naturally - business for local communities.
Johan Salen, co-owner and co-director of the Ocean Race, recalls how Lanzarote was elected for the first Volvo Ocean Race training campaign in the Canary Islands: “Our first trip to Lanzarote, over 10 years ago, when we were looking for a suitable training base in several places around Europe, quickly convinced us that the island was perfect for our Volvo Ocean Race training campaign”.
One of the best places in the world for offshore sailing training.
Thanks to the 24-hour-a-day access to the training grounds, an extraordinarily benevolent climate which enabled them to maximise sailing time, the boat repairs and physical training, as well as a magnificent spectrum of sailing conditions, they were able to fully optimise their preparation for a round-the-world regatta. “On land, we installed the offices, workshops and restaurant facilities right on the pier, with the residences a few minutes’ walk away and the airport just 15 minutes away by car. The possibility of having schools nearby for the children, as well as multiple options for surfing, windsurfing, cycling and diving, were the cherry on top of the cake. This campaign produced a winning team and was the first of many in Lanzarote, without doubt one of the best places in the world for offshore sailing training,” the co-director of the Ocean Race asserts.