By Adam Csanyi
As summer draws closer and the weather warms up, the Hungarian sailing season is about to kick off at Lakes Balaton, Velence and Fertő. The official Sailing season opening date is May 11th. However, as soon as the weather allows it, people will be sailing across all of the watery surfaces in Hungary.
Sailing at first glance might not seem as a popular sport in Hungary, but close to one hundred regattas are organized throughout the season, with overall participation rate above the thousands. In fact, even though youth dinghy regattas experienced a drop-in participation rate over the last decade, recent rates have seen a steady increase in the youth fleets over the last two years. But how does one get involved?
Many sailors start at a kid’s camp during the summer where their parents drop them off for a week or two when they are around the age of 7. From there, they will usually join the club where they attended the kid’s camps, and start training on a weekly basis; starting off by competing in small dinghies. Most often, children will be given the option to sail a single-handed or a two-handed dinghy.
Source: Welovebalaton.hu 1
Most sailor’s dropout from regularly competing and attending weekly trainings between the ages of 16-18, when high school draws to an end or they enter a university. At this point, most sailors don’t give up sailing forever, they usually get involved in yachting, sailing larger boats with more people.
Balaton is the most popular sailing destination in Hungary, more specifically, Balatonfüred, located just between Tihany and Csopak. It is here where most of the regattas are organized. Each town around Balaton has their own local club. Balatonfüred (Balatonfüredi Yacht Club), Tihany (Tihanyi Hajós Egylett), Balatonföldvár (Spartacus) and Keszthely (Keszthelyi Yacht Club).
One is able to sail dinghies on lake Balaton without a sailing license. However, only in the case that the individual is within a short distance from the shore and there isn’t a storm signal running. However, if a coach is escorting you with a motor rib, then you are able to sail as far as you want to.
In case you want to sail a larger boat than 8 meters in length, you will need to complete a course to get your sailing license. It consists of three theory tests and one practical. Upon receiving your license, you will be able to sail yachts up to 20 meters in length across all in-water bodies across Europe. Further on, you will also receive your motor rib license. However, on Lake Balaton, and on most lakes in Hungary, you are not allowed to drive a motor boat without the specific certificate for the rib, that certifies that the rib is a coaching rib or a water taxi. Further on, Jet skies are also no allowed on most lakes in Hungary, only on rivers.
One of the best sailing programs for beginners is at the Balatoni Yacht Club (BYC) in Balatonfüred. They have summer camps for both children and adults with various dates throughout the summer. BYC uses dinghies to conduct their courses. If you are a complete beginner, then you will most probably be sailing with one of the larger dinghies called the Laser Bahia, with a minimum of three people onboard, escorted by a coach who will be giving instructions. Further on, the people onboard the dinghy will be rotating throughout the day, someone steering and the other two sailors adjusting the sails. www.byc.hu/en/
Another sailing school that is present in Balatonfüred, and offers a great course for your sailing license is Füred Yacht Charter. They mainly employ yachts within their courses, larger boats than 8 meters and also much heavier in weight than dinghies. They offer courses for complete beginners who wish to learn sailing for fun, or for people who wish to complete their sailing license. www.furedyacht.hu/en/
These two sailing schools offer some of the best programs in Hungary. Nevertheless, the location of these two schools adds to the experience. Balatonfüred is one of the best towns in the Balaton region, with a lively nightlife and numerous restaurants located around the sailing school. Balatonfüred is only one and a half an hour of drive from Budapest. Nevertheless, it is also reachable by a two-hour train ride.
The sailing season is short, beginning in April and coming to an end in late September. Therefore, it is crucial not too waste time. So why not sign up for a couple of days of sailing if you are around in the summer? Swimming knowledge is a must have.