‘Seas’ the day

Casting off with Sail Tel Aviv-Jaffa 2016, Israel’s largest sea festival.

Sail Tel Aviv-Jaffa 2016 (photo credit: EFRAT SAAR)
Sail Tel Aviv-Jaffa 2016
(photo credit: EFRAT SAAR)
Sail Tel Aviv-Jaffa brought the city to the sea this Passover break, with the biggest marina event of the year.
The festival hosted a variety of water sports activities and competitions; yachts, kayaks, stand-up paddleboards, beach volleyball and open-water swimming.
Opening with the Israel Youth Sailing Championship in memory of Maj. Asaf Asulin, it was hosted by Tel Aviv Marina, in which over 600 children competed in the national championship.
“From my point of view, the beach represents the essence of Israeli culture,” says Yaron Klein, CEO of Atarim. One of the event’s primary organizers, Atarim is an intertwined governmental company that supports tourist sites and entertainment centers in Tel Aviv and the old city of Jaffa, owned by the Tel Aviv Municipality and the Tourism Ministry.
“I wanted to create something that united the sea, the shore and the city,” says Easy Suissa, chairman of the Israeli Yacht Club. The club is the sailing federation of Israel, aiming to bring the sailing community and its love of the marina environment to the public. The club has hosted the Med Red Rally, the sailing trip from the Mediterranean Sea to the Red Sea, and the annual Independence Day Flotilla, and it runs the sailing championships every year.
“We look forward to Sail Tel Aviv being the biggest event of the year and putting Israel on the international sailing community’s map for welcoming in high-performance, hi-tech, boats. Sail Tel Aviv is a brand-new initiative,” notes Dr. Debbie Sandler, 60, prior to the festival kick-off.
Sandler and Michael Ullmann, 70, recently made aliya from Oxford, England, where they were both professors, Sandler at Oxford and Ullmann at the INSEAD Business School. The couple, who arrived in Israel with their craft, took part in the Sail Tel Aviv events and the large rally on April 28.
Part of why Sail Tel Aviv-Jaffa made such a big splash is because it’s an entirely inclusive event. Sailing events in other places are typically just for dinghies, yachts or other specific boats. But the idea behind Sail Tel Aviv is to get as much of the community as possible out on the water.
“It includes kayaks, catamarans, everything.
It’s the very first Sail Tel Aviv, so it’s going to be small to start, but I think in three or four years’ time, the event is going to come into its own, and it will be a very big event. It’s a huge tribute to Easy and his team,” Ullmann comments After a journey of four months starting in Road Town, Tortola, in the British Virgin Islands Ullmann and Sandler sailed through the Azores, Gibraltar, Majorca, Sicily and Greece, before they docked in Herzliya in August 2014. Only hours after they arrived, Suissa jumped onto their boat to introduce himself.
“He said to us, ‘Wow! Welcome to the Herzliya Marina, this is a very cool boat! You must be new. My name is Easy Suissa,’” recalls Sandler.
Over the next few days after their arrival in Israel, many people came on their boat to welcome them and to check out their sleek catamaran. “People asked us with two weeks hence if we wanted to participate in the Cyprus regatta. We said, ‘Sure, but we don’t know anybody. Can you help us put together a crew?’ And we put together a crew! We even had two extra hitchhikers, whose original boat had its mast broken,” recounts Sandler.
There were hardly any boating events in Israel and no marinas not too long ago, Sandler recalls. “A lot of people, particularly Easy Suissa, have done a fantastic job at having a vision and having the courage and insight to go ahead and create something from nothing.”
“And it’s bursting at the seams now,” adds Ullmann. “It’s fantastic to quickly become part of that vision and realize that our ideas are also welcome. We’ll be part of Sail Tel Aviv, and we’ll have a boat full of people. It’s a different kind of sailing community over here, and Sail Tel Aviv is going to be the perfect example. There are people of all nationalities, with all different kinds of boats, but it doesn’t matter, because everybody is included in.”
Sailing always brings good things when it’s in a community, says Klein. He explains that when sailing is part of a community, it brings fun, good news and good people. There are sailors who are Olympic medalists, European champions and world champions from the White City. “Tel Aviv is the center of the sailing community in Israel,” says Klein. “It’s very important for us to develop it.”
A component of Sail Tel Aviv is the Med Ocean Rally, which includes 15 boats that set sail for 20 countries on April 27, with their final destination being the Caribbean islands. In the 1600s, the Caribbean islands were teeming with Jewish culture and life. The Med Ocean rally will do a tour of the many Jewish sites, historic centers and synagogues, some of which are now sinking into the sea. One of the better-preserved underwater synagogues on the island of Tobago will get the chance to host a minyan of 10 Jewish divers on the trip.
“My wife, Orit, and I will do this journey; she is my partner for this trip. We will change crews all the time, six people doing the first leg of the trip, six or seven new people doing the second leg, and so on. In places where it’s more relaxing, we will have more guests on the boat. We are going to have a lot of people taking part in the event.
“I’m very excited to see what the Med Ocean Rally has in store,” enthuses Suissa.
“Our mission now is to make Sail Tel Aviv 2. We have many things to learn from the first Sail Tel Aviv, and we are going to figure out how to do it next. This is an event that is planned from day one to be a tradition,” explains Suissa.
“Sailing is one of the best activities a kid can get involved in. In terms of community, support, good people and sea skills, it is amazing. For new immigrants with any interest in sailing or boats at all, it’s a fantastic way to get into Israel’s society.
You are welcomed in, you meet the international crowd, and everyone is well traveled, hardworking, but also knows how to have a fun time at sea. I love the fact that Israel is right on the Mediterranean. It’s fantastic for new immigrants like us,” affirms Sandler.
“In Israel, sailing is a very important part of the culture of our nation. When you’re not working, what you’re doing in the rest of your life is very important in Israel. Sail Tel Aviv is essential,” says Suissa.