Making Of A Sailor – An Interview With Cyrus Heerjee

We believe that Sailing a boat does not only mean acquiring a new skill, it spells out a permanent lifestyle change for you! The activity is so rewarding, we promise that you have yet to come across a recreation and sport that has as many benefits as sailing does. Being out in the harbor for just an hour or two is mentally refreshing and physically charging. Learn how to sail programs and sailing club memberships are more affordable and accessible than you think. Hence we have compiled and interview (attached). Mumbai has a great harbor but Mumbaikers seldom take advantage of it. Most are clueless about the adventures one can have just a few minutes away. Here’s an interview with Cyrus Heerji on the much ignored but fabulous sport and recreation – Sailing.


A little on your background in RBYC (Royal Bombay Yacht Club) and as a Sailor

Way back in 1983, I became a member of the RBYC.  Since joining, I have held different positions, such as Commodore, Hon. Sailing Secretary, Captain of Boats and Vice President. My love for sailing has seen me promote the sport, arrange week-end races and organise coastal cruises. I have been regularly participating in these Club events and introducing new comers to the sport of sailing.

How and why did you get into sailing ?

In my childhood, my first exposure to sailing was in my birthplace Calicut, Kerala on a  river with my parents.  After moving to Bombay and living so close to the sea I would walk along the sea front gazing lovingly at the sailboats bobbing up and down at the anchorage at Apollo Bunder.

Whilst I was still in school, my second exposure to sailing was on a ‘Colaba Sailing Club’ boat with close family friends, coincidently infact from Calicut.

Those days the boats were anchored on the northern side of the Gateway and we went down to them on the steps in front of the old Yacht Club. The Naval base had not come up yet and the boats were much fewer.

I joined the Colaba Sailing Club in the early ‘70s while still in college and later joined the Bombay Sailing Association and the Royal Bombay Yacht Club thereafter.  I guess, being exposed to boating at an early age, I had no fear of the water and infact a tremendous affiliation for it. My mentors  the late Kerse Naoroji & Shyam Chainani, and later Kishore Mariwala had given me ample support and encouragement  and roped me into the various Managing Committees of the 3 Civilian Clubs. I am yet actively involved in promoting the sport.

A few lines on how you have seen sailing develop and grow in India in the past few years

Sailing has grown over the years in Mumbai, the very fact that since the early 70’s the number of Yachts in our anchorage at the Apollo Bunder has multiplied eight fold is proof of that. We have since 1999, promoted sailing for kids from the age of 8 years and over in the ‘Optimist class’ and have introduced over 200 children to this wonderful sport.

 The many events, expeditions and regattas you have participated in, and accolades won

The most memorable voyage was the one to Muscat in a seabird, which is a 21 foot open, ‘cabin-less’ boat and with a group of close friends. This was in 1986, the outward leg took 15 days. In those days there was no GPS aided navigation and we had to rely on plotting our position with a sextant. We experienced several storms and bad weather for many days and when we did complete the voyage successfully, the sense of accomplishment was immeasurable. When the Oman officials realized we had sailed across from Bombay they thought we were crazy. They told us that in the recent shamals several fishermen lost their lives quite close to where we were.

In 2004, I was awarded a National award, the Admiral Kohli Trophy by the Yachting Association of India for Promoting of the  Sport of Yachting in 2004 .

I have also qualified as :

(i)  National Judge

Umpire in match racing

Jury member of Asian Sailing Championship in January 2004.

Parsis and sailing, how well are they linked?  Do share some names you’d like to mention

Late Kerse Naoroji, Naval Godrej and Jehanghir Jehanghir (JJ )had  throughout their lifetime supported the cause of Yachting at the Club and on national level

Presently, Capt. Homi Motiwala, Farokh Tarapore, Jamshyd Godrej, Adi Unwalla and the Unwalla brothers are all ardent sailors who have won accolades for the country and  been great supporters of the sport.

Sheri Bamboat who has invested his  time and money to indigenously manufacture boats and equipment, which earlier had to be imported at a far greater cost, has contributed tremendously to making sailing affordable.

About your sailing school Fair Winds, how and why did you begin the endeavour

For years on end I introduced persons to this wonderful sport and gave free lessons to anyone keen to learn. It was my friend Sheri Bamboat, who egged me into charging for giving lessons to interested persons and running  a structured program. Incidentally, it was me who introduced Sheri to the Club and taught him the basics.  He went onto to winning the Godrej Trophy several times and was with J.J. and me on the Muscat Voyage. ‘Fairwinds Sailing School’ will endeavour to get more landlubbers to start sailing at an affordable cost.

What are the challenges you face?

The biggest challenge is the lack of infrastructure like a marina or even a floating / pontoon jetty to make it easier to board &access the yachts at the anchorage. The number of boats keeps increasing but the anchorage is the same and nor has the Governmentin the last 100 years increased the no. of jetties to accommodate all the commercial Gateway launches and ferries , let alone the pleasure yachts.

 Who has been your greatest support through it?

Our whole Sailing Committee and fraternity, specially as mentioned earlier Sheri Bamboat and ofcourse Aashim Mongia and Homi Motiwala who have  made easily available everything from shackles to sails and even  sailing boats now manufactured here in Mumbai.

What according to you is the best thing about Sailing? What are its benefits?

The best thing about sailing is that you are free from the madding crowd and the hustle and bustle of the City……alll you hear is the ripples by the side of the boat as you sail away.

Your message to the audience who are curious about the activity and would like to learn the sport

Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing — absolutely nothing — half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.”

The above quote from the “Wind in the Willows” says it all.

With a whiff of sea air and the splash of the sea itself, your sails fill and the boat comes to life as you leave the shore behind.

In sailing you learn to harness the wind and tide, you learn to appreciate the clean environment the sea provides and you are free from the hassles of traffic, noise and the horrid pollution the frightened city offers you.

You learn that you can be a Master of the sea, your boat and your faith totally in control, riding the waves and overcoming whatever comes your way..

And most important You learn that sailing is more than just a sport but a way of Life.


Some more interesting information on the benefits of Sailing:

Sailing Lessons: Lessons for Life

Why A Boat And Not A Car

Sailing To The MAX In The Mumbai Harbour



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s