A spot has appeared in Limassol where everyone who wishes can become a “yachtsman” without even setting foot in the sea, thanks to land yachts— a special form of sport and entertainment which we’ll introduce you to today. It always puts a smile on my face when a new attraction appears in the city, especially when it’s something that people can really get behind.
I’ll tell you from the get-go that sails and I (the author of this article) are far from being on first-name terms. While sailing is interesting, I know nothing about it, and my whole experience of interacting with a sail comprises of a few days' training to windsurf in Russia around fifteen years ago; that experience boiled down to two things: “windsurfing is hard” and “sea urchins are something you’re better not encountering in life”. That is all my “knowledge”, “know-how” and “skills” on the subject.
Therefore, a quick heads up— I’ll be talking to you about land sailing in layman’s terms. And since the majority of our readers don’t have any skipper skills, we hope that this approach will still be handy and prove useful. If there are no objections, let’s set sail!
Land sailing is a quirky thing requiring a special area; one with a clear space, smooth earth and the wind at your back. If you’ve got the Nevada desert nearby, then that’s what you need! If you’ve no such desert, then Akrotiri lake will also make do. You won’t set any world records on it, but you can enjoy yourself as much as you want there.
It took me a week to arrange a sailing trip. Although the organisers themselves are a loyal and friendly bunch, not everything depends on them, but the wind, first and foremost. And you cannot make deals with this fellow; you simply need to wait for it.
I went there in the midseason when the wind is capricious and fickle. On the flip side, when it’s in season (summer, winter), the forecasts are more stable and there’ll be more chance of arranging a sailing trip quickly. One way or another, to go sailing you’ll need to book an appointment within a three-to-seven-day interval before setting off.
I went to the meeting spot on my moped. , having decided to take a ride in the wind, following the road directly along the lake’s bottom (and not using the standard beach “washboard” leading along “Lady’s Mile”).
On my way, there was an air of scepticism abuzz in my head: okay, I’m already on a moped, in the middle of the desert, with the wind at my back and speed under my wheels. How could this cart with a sail even surprise me? I bet I’ll try it out, crack a forced smile and write some mediocre account about how “we’ve got this thing here in the city, give it a whirl”. I’ll jump the gun and say that it was so magnificent that I decided to come back here regularly, no longer to fulfil any journalistic duties, but for my enjoyment.
The meeting had been arranged for 13:00. Pyotr Sorokin, the organiser, had sent me a geotag directly in the middle of the lake. Finding the spot was simple, as naturally, the yacht’s flickering sails could easily be noticed from afar.
When I approached, people were already gathered there. Aside from Pyotr and his wife, four people were sailing and a couple of Brits undergoing an orientation session. I headed over to listen and watch as an English woman was getting into a “yacht” for the first time. Pyotr was filling her in about controlling the construction, but it seemed she could hear little of what he was saying. Aside from wonder, there was fear reflecting in her eyes.
I was also a little out of sorts, as the machine didn’t appear safe or sturdy, nor did it have a brake pedal. How could you trust such a thing? “Run, you unfortunate soul, save yourself!” — was what I felt like sympathetically whispering to the woman, but I merely gave her an approving wink.
Pyotr pushed the woman’s yacht, and paralysed with fright, she rode off somewhere towards the horizon line.
Next, it was my turn. I approached the yacht. It looked fragile and primitive, simply a triangle of welded frames with stabilisers attached, and a hammock-like structure stretched out between the frames. After casting my doubts on the vehicle, I clarified with Pyotr whether it would withstand my two metres in height and one hundred and twenty kilograms in weight. Pyotr nodded confidently.
The organiser gave a briefing which took close to three minutes. I figured that he was saying all these phrases for the billionth time, but Pyotr’s face and voice didn’t contain the note of despondency you can encounter amongst the Romanian instructors, who spend every day carting people to Akamas for a “unique adventure”. On the contrary, it was evident that this person was doing something he loved and enjoyed.
The yacht had rather simple controls. A wheel and a rope were hauling the sail which, to some extent, replaced the accelerator, but that was it.
As this is a sailing sport, interacting with the wind is crucial. If the wind is blowing into the sail, the wagon will gather speed, whereas if the sail is facing the wind, the machine will stop.
Since I was inexperienced, I was given a simple rule for the first time. Always turn towards the wind. This is the least dangerous. If you turn the opposite way, the yacht may be overturned due to the speed.
But this rule is only important for complete zero-level newbies like me. Even with a little sailing experience, you can also turn towards the wind, only the turning radius will be considerably greater.
By the way, regarding falling: the yacht’s construction was devised under the assumption that people would often do this. Therefore, whenever you fall, you remain inside the vehicle and don’t bang any parts of your body. The only catch is that when falling, people instinctively stick their arms out, something which you categorically cannot do in land sailing, as you’ll just damage your extremities.
Towards the end of this not-particularly-complicated briefing, I still had time to think: “God, this is too hard. I won’t remember all this”, and I set off on my first “sail” with this in mind.
I first brought my fingertips to the wheel like it was a sacred animal — timidly, gingerly, fearing I would cause irreparable harm. The second time around, I was already in my childhood element. God, what a joy it was. When you’re holding the wheel and the rope from the sail, you’re able to feel the slightest vibrations of the wind and control the yacht on a kind of “nano-level”. It senses the slightest movements, so you’re instantly merged with the element of wind and engulfed with endorphins.
While the first round was to learn the ropes, the second and subsequent times I’d already begun to experiment. At first, you get scared that even a small level of exertion in turning the wheel will lead to a noticeable move in your centre of gravity. It seems like you’ll fall. Afterwards, you start to explore these limits of what’s “allowed”.
Then comes the speed high. I was really lucky to have a moderate wind, as when it’s weak, the vehicle moves slowly and it’s a little boring. When there’s a strong wing, newbies simply aren’t given the reins. But a moderate wind is just the ticket!
The world record speed in a land yacht is 125 km/h, but this was established in the Nevada desert which features the best conditions on the planet for this sport. According to Pyotr, he’s accelerated up to 75 km/h in Akrotiri. Non-sportsmen can achieve speeds up to 60 km/h.
Still, when you’re nigh on touching the ground, and your vehicle is controlled by the wind, the sensation of speed isn’t the same as it is in a car, for example. A car heading along the A1 motorway at 120 km/h feels nowhere near as fast or provides as much of an adrenaline rush as a land yacht moving at only 30 km/h.
As a journalist, I only needed one round to give it a try and grasp how it works. But at some point, I detected that I’d begun to “take advantage of” my rides. Land sailing overwhelms you completely and instantly. It’s simultaneously the sensation of riding on a rollercoaster and in a kid’s electric toy car. Right there and then, your forgotten childhood returns, your eyes shine, and your soul rejoices.
And another thing I picked up on towards the end of my ride. Controlling a land yacht's sail is far easier than in marine sports. For the majority, it's a case of “you’re in and away”. True, the first thing I’ve seen some newbies do is immediately fall, but two-three minutes later, they too have got the ropes and are already in their element racing along the lake bottom.
Naturally, not all sports are for everyone. With some, they go down well, whereas, with others, they don’t really strike a chord. However, I would definitely recommend you try sailing at least once in Limassol— an area which is yet to be spoilt with a large number of activities..
You can arrange a meeting via this link: Blokart Cyprus. The cost of a ride is 30 euros. By the way, you can (and need to) come with children from ages 5 to 12, in which case you’ll be given a special yacht with additional children’s seating. Believe me, the kids will be chuffed. The cost of renting a yacht with additional seating is 50 euros.
After riding around, I approached Pyotr again and chatted to him a little about land sailing.
Pyotr bought his first “yacht” in 2016. In fact, this luxury doesn’t come cheap, as a new model can cost near to 4,000 euros. Naturally, like everything in this world, there’s also a Chinese equivalent of these yachts, but they often need repairing, and the word “safety” goes out the window here.
To begin with, Pyotr simply sailed on Lake Akrotiri for his own enjoyment. However, the yacht could be spotted from afar and began to raise curiosity amongst people driving by, who all the more often asked Pyotr to “let them have a go”. At some point, the yachtsman realised that it was time to buy a couple more vehicles. The demand was there, the supply just needed to be satisfied. Over time, another 8 yachts were purchased, and not a single one of them remained idle.
There is a great interest in land sailing, and always someone out there, wishing to go for a ride. At first, it was individual customers, then the corporate bunches nestled their way in for traditional team-building exercises and work events. Everyone is somewhat sick of rope parks и paintball, while this is something adrenaline-charged and completely new.
Although the demand for sailing grows from year to year, the Cypriots, owing to their conservative look on life and suspicion towards everything new and non-Cypriot in nature, are rare guests here. The English and Russians, on the other hand, come to Pyotr in their masses and are very grateful to him for this undertaking.
Some people come simply to have some fun, while others have taken a more serious approach to sailing, and begun to do it professionally. Pyotr occasionally organises competitions on a local level. Additionally, he has plans to organise races with international acclaim, however, Akrotiri is a territory with special status, featuring the British protectorate and military bases nearby. Nevertheless, Pyotr assures us it’s a complicated yet perfectly solvable issue.
Until that happens, the major land yachtsman in Cyprus plans to set sail for international competitions and represent our island in them, as Cypriot teams have never been observed in such events.
It’s always a joy for me when someone shows initiative and invests in our island becoming better and more interesting. Therefore, I’d like to support Pyotr and his undertakings and invite you to the lake! I’m sure the majority of our readers will be left feeling absolutely delighted by the experience.