Sailing seen as preserver of the environment in India

Mucciri on a test sail
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Sailors see the devastation of the oceans more than others - we find the plastic floating, swim with bleached coral and don't catch fish where we used to last year. In India where sailing is not so developed, one would-be sailor sees encouraging the use of sail as a way of preserving India's precious waterways. So he has home-built a sailing boat.

Razook K.S’s prime objective in building the yacht is to promote sailing and ensure that water bodies are preserved. He wants to build an eco-friendly alternative to motor boats, which use up a lot of fuel. Yachts could be an example of sustainable energy.

The new yacht that Razook K. S. has built will touch the waters for the first time officially on Boxing Day.

Parked a little away from the entrance of a ‘coating yard’ in Edapally in Kochi, in the blazing midday sun, the ‘Mucciri’ seems like a giant yellow contraption at first. A closer look reveals a sturdy sailing boat propped up on wheels. The smell of primer is still fresh. Razook has built the yacht on his own.

Named after the ancient port town, ‘Mucciri’, the yacht took shape as an idea in Razook’s head about two years ago when he sailed for the first time. 'It was a GO-Cat at the sailing club in Panangad. And the hazy idea of making a sailboat was born,' he says.

Extensive research and reading up followed. By April 2012, Razook started work on his yacht. 'It was done by October,' he says proudly.

Razook, a 42-year-old artist and photographer from Aluva, has had no training or experience in boat building. 'I had no idea about yachts and sailboats or sailing for that matter. All I had done until then was RC (Radio-Controlled) flying. I was more into aerodynamics,' he says. All the information he gathered on sailing was applied on ‘Mucciri’.

The construction process was elaborate, as every system and practice had to be tested. And each stage posed a challenge.

'If it had to be sail worthy, I had to follow international standards at every step of the way,' he says. Boat-building was a purely academic process for Razook— a DIY (Do It Yourself) project which he took very seriously. 'I think the very concept of DIY started with yacht building,' he says.

He chose Canadian aircraft engineer Micheal Stevenson’s http://www.stevproj.com/WkndrDemo.pdf!Weekender, a 'practical' yacht, for a model. Stevenson’s was one of the most efficient designs, says Razook, and it was featured in the Popular Science Magazine in 1982. The model is extremely doable and is still being built the world over.

Razook’s '100 per cent handcrafted yacht', weighing 350 kg (including sails), is a traditional American sloop and can sail even in a light wind power of 3 knots, he points out. He procured all the raw materials from hardware shops in and around Kochi. The body is a mix of wood, plywood and fibreglass and the sails are made of Serge Ferrari fabric. The yacht can accommodate up to six people for day-sailing and three for overnight sailing. Razook first tested it on the waters of the Periyar in Aluva.

Though sailing does not require licence, every stage of manufacture of a yacht has to be okayed by industry experts. Also, the yacht would become sail worthy only if it adhered to the prescribed safety norms (such as life jackets and rescue boat). Though he built the yacht all by himself, he ensured that quality checks were done. Officials who monitored ‘Mucciri’ found four Olympic class sailboat features in it. The gaff, like in the Optimist, the Boom Vang rigging as in the Laser, the bowsprit as in the 29 Er. The other feature was the size. ‘Mucciri’ was slightly bigger than the Enterprise.

The Volvo Ocean Race, which had a stopover in Kochi in 2008, called Kochi (Vembanad and Ashtamudi lakes) the second best sailing spot in the world, says Razook. 'We need to promote sailing and ensure that the water bodies are preserved in all their purity,' he says. Sailing has helped spread awareness on the need to salvage rivers, (like the Clearwater Project that helped clean up the Hudson River 46 years ago and more recently in the Husain Sagar Lake in Hyderabad). According to Razook, such a project can be replicated on the Vembanad Lake and help prevent pollution.

Razook received financial help and a bit of logistical support from his friend Ashik Khalid.

The ‘Mucciri’ is getting ready for launch on December 26, after a coat of dazzling white paint and cream-coloured sails, at the Bolghatty Marina, where it will be evaluated by the officials of the Yachting Association of India.

'It will be the perfect time to show it off, as the Kerala Water Sailing Organisation is conducting yachting and powerboat training till December 31 from Thevara to Bolghatty Palace,' says Razook.