Colaba Sailing Club (CSC) is a civilian sailing club based in Mumbai. A part of the Royal Bombay Yatch Club, CSC has a rich history dating back to the pre-Independence era. With a fleet of 7 “Lightning” class and 2 “Sea Bird” class boats, it has the largest fleet amongst all the sailing clubs in Mumbai. The purpose of the Colaba Sailing Club is to promote sailing both as a casual activity as well as a professional sport. Sailing is conducted in the Bombay (Mumbai) Harbour during the months of October to May. The Club holds regular sailing regattas and training camps along with casual sails and sailing trips for its members during this time.
The Colaba Sailing Club was founded in 1936 and is the youngest of three civilian clubs. It was envisaged by a group of enterprising sailors from the other two clubs, who saw the potential of a Port Trust shed near Sassoon Dock for the purpose of building boats and promoting interest in sailing. Under the able leadership of Mr. Young and Col. Seymour Williams the shed was acquired and the club established.
The early years, before World War II, saw the Club prosper, with a membership of about a hundred members. While the Club did not have any boats of its own, its members did own boats of varied design and construction. At that time, with Burmah-teak costing Rs. 2.80 per cubic foot, a ‘Sharpie’ class of boats cost only Rs. 700 to build. Thus the shed was soon humming with activity, and so an increasing number of boats were built with the co-operative efforts of the members.
Numerous experiments to evolve a boat design best suited Mumbai’s (then Bombay) particular harbour conditions were carried out. Finally, the “Flower Class Sharpie” was chosen. It was of the simplest form of construction, while its shallow draft and fan type centerboard made it ideal for various creeks around Bombay’s Harbour. It had proved very stable and durable.
The War years, with increasing restrictions for movement in the harbour, hindered civilian sailing in Mumbai. Most boats had to be transferred to inland lakes and rivers around Pune (then Poona) and elsewhere. The CSC also lost its boatshed, which was acquired by the Navy. Although another was procured after the war, that too had to be eventually relinquished and the Club today cannot boast of any premises of its own.
Nevertheless, interest revived, and sailing was again taken up in earnest soon after the war. By 1947, membership had established with about 80 active members. In 1947 a contract was placed with Amadi Shipyard to build 20 Sharpies, of which the Club took four. The remaining were bought by the Dufferin and individual members.
The next few years spelt the golden age for the Colaba Sailing Club. From October to May of each year, the pattern was cruising and racing on alternate weekends.
Flotillas of four to five Sharpies regularly went on cruises up and down the Amba River, Dharamtar Creek and Narwal. Occasional forays were also made outside the harbour to Kihim. These cruises were well supplied with food and drink and we are told that the CSC was responsible for six marriages in two seasons! Perhaps and incentive to the unmarried to join the ranks.
Now the Sharpies have been replaced by Lightnings – which are an international class of sailboats. The 7 Lightnings race regularly, one of the big events is the Lightnings Cup that sees the race go from Mumbai to Mandwa and back. Over the years, two larger “Sea Bird” class boats were also added. In 1986, two Seabirds flying the CSC Burgee had a wonderful, action packed voyage to Muscat and back. This was the first non-coastal Arabian Sea crossing in an open boat.
The membership is now seven hundred strong, comprising of many junior members, especially college students. The Club holds sailing camps over weekends where novices are taught the basics of sailing. Some of our members have even represented India in various International events.
And now, 79 years since its birth, almost all the accomplished sailors in the Mumbai sailing circuit hold a special place for the Colaba Sailing Club in their hearts. For this was their first sailing club. And it was the CSC which taught them not just how to sail, but also showed them a new and exciting way of life.