During my time as a Sailing Instructor and Strength & Conditioning Coach for Sail Coach, I’ve definitely had some ‘pinch-me’ moments. Having a job where you could travel around Europe, train athletes heading for the Olympics and getting to sail in some beautiful waters was amazing.
Having sailed in in places like Germany, Ireland, Slovenia, France and Spain, you might be surprised to know that my top 6 favourite places to sail & train Olympic Sailors around Europe are:
1. Lake Garda - The sailing mecca in northern Italy.
If I could pick anyway to go sailing for 2 weeks in the summer, it would be Garda. The sailing is fantastic here. It’s renowned for water sports events and there are plenty of laser boat dealers around for replacement parts should you need them. The facilities are great for sailing plus the wind conditions are pretty stable for you to sail most days, with the wind running like clockwork.
As well as all that good food there is a good gym! My favourite times here were watching people train on the lake from a powerboat, doing morning runs up the cliff and afternoon stretches on the grass on the lake. Even on the off chance there isn't much wind for a few days, you can rent bikes for a week and do mini cycle routes to keep to a training plan. If you're planning a sailing trip in the winter, Lake Garda can be cold. So, you may need to head further south!
2. Palma de Mallorca - Spain
Spain holds 3 of my top 6 places to sail, it’s that good! Firstly, Palma has a great sailing event in the Spring called Trofeo Princesa Sofia where most of the top sailors in the world compete. Sailors get to sail right off the beach itself. In terms of training for sailing, the gyms here are ok but it's more about the sailing, nice places to run near the beach and good cycling routes to keep up fitness. It can be quite a sleepy area, depending on where on the island you are staying, so for recovery days so you might want to try exploring the island or relaxing on the beach.
3. Valencia - Spain
The sailing here is good, it’s the Mediterranean! Valencia is a really cool place to stay and sail, less crowded than Barcelona up the coast but with all the great places to eat and visit you would expect from this Spanish city. With all eastern Spanish coasts however, the wave conditions can be a bit hit & miss and so it can be a little tricky and shifty. On days where it isn’t possible to sail then the gyms here are really nice, so you can still get a lift in.
4. Weymouth - UK
The Weymouth & Portland National Sailing Academy is a great venue to sail at. This club was part of the sailing venue for London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic games, as as such has some fantastic facilities. On the water you can sail in a sheltered area, giving you some protection from any choppy conditions, or you can sail out in the English Channel, which can offer some challenging but rewarding conditions.
5. Medemblik - Netherlands
For those who want a challenge Olympian-style, Medemblik hosts the annual Delta Lloyd regatta, A qualifying event for most Olympic teams. Everyone from the world’s top 50 sailors wants to be here at this sought-after event and for good reason. Sailing here can be ‘breezy’, ‘choppy’ and cold, making it some of the toughest racing you’ll do but so rewarding. There are good gyms and food, and locals are friendly and very helpful. However as it’s a fairly quiet area, there really isn't anything but training to do. So if you're heading to an event, my tip is to not get there too early and potentially burn yourself out.
6. Ta’Xbiex - Malta
Finally making my number 6 spot is Malta. It’s a good venue for the time you have on the water due to the warm temperatures. You can find lots of big waves and fairly good wind. But be warned, it can get stormy from time to time causing some big swells and dangerous water conditions. On days like that you can still train hard in the gyms there, which are fairly well equipped.
- Written by Jon Cooper,
Lecturer in Sports Coaching at Southampton Solent University.