Magazine – De Vela Magazine
Trafalgar Sailing Gibraltar
By Pedro Soares de Oliveira

Good weather all year and the diverse sailing conditions brings people from all over the world to sail in Gibraltar. With Algeciras port to the West, North Africa to the South and the Mediterranean to the East, Marina Bay is a prime location for a sea school. Trafalgar Sailing is the oldest school in Gibraltar.

Catherine O’Hanlon and her father started the school many years ago. Her father has since retired, Cathy organises the logistics on land and her partner Jim Field is the school Principal. They both have spent their lives near the sea. Cathy born in England left very young with her parents cruising the Med. Jim was born on the island of Vanuatu in the Pacific Ocean and is passionate about water sports, windsurfing, kite surfing, wakeboarding, diving and sailing.

RYA Certificates
Trafalgar Sailing offer four types of sailing courses from basic to advanced, all R.Y.A. Certificates are recognised worldwide. For the students, the bay of Gibraltar is pleasantly sheltered, once they have enough experience they sail in the Strait of Gibraltar and the coast of Spain and the adrenalin of stronger winds. All is practically side by side, in just a few miles. For those with no previous experience, they take an introduction to competent crew sailing, an ideal course to be a crew member. Here, the students familiarise themselves with all the nautical terms, learn the knots and steer the boat under sail and power. Meanwhile, those that want to be Skippers, learn to control the boat. The school has several courses from basic to advanced sailing long distance. It is necessary to have the sea miles and knowledge of sailing passages. The highest level is “Yachtmaster”. This course is designed for those professional Skippers. The courses have the advantage that the students can sail together on the same boat with different levels of knowledge no problem. Trafalgar sailing also offers V.H.F. Radio courses and courses to Barcelona and Majorca.

Professional Training
Trafalgar is made up of six Instructors, three teach all year around, all have passed the RYA sailing examinations and have much experience teaching the Royal Yachting Association courses.

Bavaria: An elite yacht
The Trafalgar Sailing fleet consists of four Bavaria sailing yachts between 36 and 38 foot. They chose these yachts, for their good quality/price, performance, ease to sail and comfort. It is on these Bavaria Yachts that the sailing courses take place.

Passages into the Mediterranean and Atlantic
The passages pass from the Strait of Gibraltar- Morocco – Ceuta to Costa del Sol and Costa de la Luz and recently to the Portugal coast along the Algarve. The route is planned depending on the crews experience and the weather conditions.

World-wide reputation
Trafalgar Sailing has looked after people from all over the world: France, England, Northern Europe, U.A.E., Canada, U.S., Australia, and Hong Kong. Many people come from recommendations from friends and find the school on the internet. The most popular months are between March and November, they slip the boats in January taking advantage of the quiet time. Their other activities include charters and a service whereby a Trafalgar Sailing Instructor will teach you on your own boat.

2,Magazine – Boat Mart
Dolphins in the classroom By Angela Clay

Enjoy a very special holiday as you learn to sail in the Straits of Gibraltar, gateway to the Mediterranean – Angela Clay reports:

One of the Trafalgar sailing team will be waiting to welcome you as you touch down at Gibraltar airport for the start of a 6 day adventure. The school yachts, new 36-40 foot Bavarias no less, are moored at the marina which is literally a couple of minutes stroll away. “We all meet up at Biancas Bistro in Marina Bay for a chat about what everyone wants out of the week” explained Cathy O’Hanlon who with a team made up of friends, runs Trafalgar sailing, the oldest school in Gibraltar. “People come from all over the world” she said, “but many from England, because they can look forward to getting the good weather here. We get lots of families in the summer but a real mixture of ages and levels of sailing ability. We have absolute beginners who have no experience whatsoever, right up to more experienced sailors who want to be qualified to work in the industry or to sail their own boat independently.

Basic Principles
On day one, after an onboard safety briefing with your Instructor, you get under sail in the bay, to see the dolphins in this glorious outdoor classroom and get a taste of the week ahead. The RYA Competent crew is a practical introduction to the joys of sailing and assumes no knowledge at all. Those with more experience can study Day Skipper tidal and Coastal Skipper tidal. Yachtmaster Offshore is designed for the experienced skipper and is preparation for the coveted Yachtmaster Certification. Theory lessons will be held in the classroom by the marina. “Tuesday is quite a strenuous working day, particularly for the beginners” Cathy told me. “They learn the basic principles of sailing, to trim the sails and to handle the boat under sail and engine power and “man overboard” as a part of their safety course. Those on a Skippers course might be looking at the weather forecast to plan a passage across the Strait to Morocco or up the coast to the Costa del Sol and Marbella”.
The Bay of Gibraltar is sheltered and is a good classroom because it offers experience of the busy shipping lanes that go in both directions of the straits. Often there are navigation exercises, getting people to recognise the buoys and the course includes a night sail of four to five hours, depending on the wind. Overall, Competent Crew will cover about 120 sea miles over the week. Cathy told me that she went to sea before she could walk but still understands that some grown ups can be a little nervous at first. “Kids learn faster than adults and pick up sailing quite quickly. They remember the names of things and learn to move around the boat easily. They tend to be fast learners and fearless! Children have a wonderful time and if they are over ten years of age they can join in the Competent Crew course. Under tens have their own special Trafalgar Sailing Pirate Certificate for which they will learn to helm the boat, tie knots, keep their own ships log, help keep the boat ship shape. Look out for buoys and lighthouses and find them on the chart.
You can see the difference
Jim Field is the schools Chief Instructor. He has been sailing these waters for about 20 years so he knows the area well. “Complete beginners are great and you can see such a difference in a week” he said. “From being a passenger they become handy on the boat. The first couple of days they are falling over lines and don’t know the names of things but by the end of the week the teamwork on the boat is really coming together. You have only got to see them tying up at the end of the week to know that they are pretty good. I always say to beginners on the Competent crew course to notice how quietly and smoothly we tie up at the end of the week compared with the start days. The idea of Competent crew is to get people sailing and if they are just having trouble with knots of something we wouldn’t not give them the ticket. We want to encourage them to do a Day Skipper course”. Lots of satisfied sailors do come back and it is rare a week when there aren’t at least a couple of people who have been out with us before. People return to hone their skills and enjoy the social side of the courses.

Friendly rivalry
“We have four boats and often tie up together in the evening and go ashore for a beer” said Jim “We eat on board three nights and ashore the other two. It is nice for the crews to get to know each other and there is always a bit of friendly rivalry between the boats. There is nothing like competition to get the crews working well together. If they see another of our boats they immediately start tweaking theirs because they want to go faster”.

There is one Instructor to five students on a boat and Cathy will see that crews are of a similar age and ability, doing similar courses. Students range from under seven years old to over 80 but age isn’t as important as agility and often the oldies are in better fettle than the youngsters! Some people come mainly for the qualification and are not so bothered about the social aspect. Others want to meet new friends and do some sight- seeing so their boat will have a more leisurely approach to the week.
The majority come to learn and gain a recognised RYA qualification. Success rates are very high and the Instructors have a reputation for being patient and very encouraging.

Trafalgar RYA courses range from one-week instruction right up to sixteen week training for Yachtmasters. “You’d be surprised how many people who have never sailed before sign up for that course” Jim told me. “They are people in between jobs or perhaps they have just sold their house and want to treat themselves for a few months adventure while they learn. These courses generally run in the winter. We start one in October which goes until December and the next start is January”. He went on to talk about the itinerary, “we are doing more mile builders, which are longer trips for people working up to Yachtmaster level who need to get in certain long passages towards the 2500 sea miles. This winter we are going down to the Cape Verde Islands in West Africa, we have one boat full already and are starting to get a lot of interest in another. It would be fun to get two boats going down together in the winter when it is a bit quieter. People are signing up for this life changing experience which will be a real adventure for them”.

Relax with a glass of wine
So how much does it all cost? The majority of people who come for the Competent crew course are individuals or friends and they pay £450 – £500 each and share a boat with their own Instructor. If you are chartering a boat it will cost you around £1800 low season to £2200 high season. That will include your own Skipper and your food onboard. Cathy sees stocking the boat as very important. “We buy lots of food in Spain and I get what people like, English butter and milk, cornflakes and probably marmite. When people arrive everything is prepared, the boat has food, water and fuel and the beds are made so they don’t waste time because it is a holiday for them. The boats are new and comfortable and there is a DVD player so that in the evenings the kids can settle down and watch a film while the parents relax on the back deck with a glass of wine”.

Gibraltar is a unique little island with a fascinating history, people like it because it is colonial and a bit old fashioned. There are still English phone boxes and double-decker buses. Everyone speaks English, there is very little crime and it is only a couple of hours flights from London. “Just over the border in La Linea there are lots of restaurants” she says. You can walk over the border but often we sail the boat down to one of the best beaches in Spain to eat barbecued freshly caught fish”. This is a delightful place and you can understand why people keep coming back.




Click below to speak to Cathy.