Formerly a manufacturer of surfboards and now reinvented as a watersports activity company, Watercooled has opened its first venue in the UAE at Jebel Ali Golf Resort and Spa, and will soon be introducing a branch in Abu Dhabi. For the moment, however, Dubai is where the waterborne action is happening, and so it’s here where I find myself signing up for a 60-minute Hobie Cat lesson with the delightfully named Chris Rainbow, Watercooled’s 31-year-old club manager, originally from Aberdeen.
To clarify, there is nothing remotely feline about the experience – the vessel is actually a small sailing catamaran. It’s supposedly far easier to get to grips with and learn to handle than a normal beginner sailing boat, which bodes well for my first outing (and means that if there were any household pets involved, they’d be more likely to return to shore with all nine lives intact).
The wind is quite literally taken out of my sails when I arrive at the Watercooled beach hut to find there’s barely even a gentle breeze. Ironically, it’s probably one of the best days of the year so far for sunbathing or a spot of paddleboarding, but one of the worst for wind-propelled activities. Nevertheless, Chris is unperturbed and assures me that we can still give it a go and see how we get on. Wandering down to the water’s edge, Chris and another member of staff begin to unfurl the main sail and heave it up the mast. After much knotting and winding of different coloured ropes (it’ll take much more than a 60-minute lesson to get your head around all that malarkey), the lightweight Hobie Cat is eased into the water and I’m instructed to hop on and sit on one of the bows, with my feet on the springy mesh in the middle (apologies to any pros out there for my novice terminology).
The wind is coming off shore, so we progress slowly out to deeper water, but manage to pick up speed once we turn and allow the wind to hit the full sail. Chris talks me through the steering basics, explaining which way to pull the tiller to move the rudders, and showing me how to turn and cross over sides of the vessel in the process. It’s not long before he has handed over to me, and I’m steering us towards a chosen landmark on the horizon. My next challenge is to tack (turn the boat back through the eye of the wind), and in my first, halting attempt I land us facing the wind, causing slack in the sails and requiring some expert handling from Chris to get us back in the right direction.
Once we’re back on track, you can imagine my delight when it’s revealed we will soon try a capsize drill – but it’s a necessary evil, and something I’d need to know if I were to take a Hobie Cat out on my own. When we’ve gathered enough speed, Chris gives me the signal, and I brace myself to be whacked in the face, head, back, legs – anything – by one of the boat’s many hazards I’m certain I’ve spotted around me. A small, pathetic screech and I’m bobbing around in the water in my life jacket, uninjured, so I quickly compose myself to watch as Chris rights the small catamaran again.
Gently cruising back to shore (with a little push from the rescue boat, thanks to the fact we’re once again in the eye of the wind), I’m a little disappointed to be returning so soon. Yet I’m pleased I’ve got the hang of it, not to mention cheerful to be able to conclude that no Time Out staff or cats were harmed in the making of this article.
A three-hour Hobie Cat sailing course costs Dhs520; one-hour hire of a Hobie Tatoo is Dhs200. There’s no day charge to access the beach club, but use of the pools, sunloungers and other Club Joumana facilities is not permitted. Watercooled, Jebel Ali Golf Resort & Spa (04 887 6771).