Sipping Champagne in Calm Water

The tourism pick-up is fueling opportunity for premium experiences. A couple of professional French sailors are filling one of those new rich lifestyle niches: sailing

By Avanti Samarasekera.

Published on December 22, 2014 with No Comments

Yacht Topaz 6

Gale force winds can cause sail ships to heel – sometimes dangerously – because their masts make these boats unstable. Mid sea on a stormy night off Portugal’s coast the three man crew was alert to these dangers but not to a mid sea collision 400 kilometers from the coast. The collisions, with a floating cargo container, shattered the sailing vessels keel. As water gushed in, the skipper only had enough time for a frantic mayday call before abandoning the sinking ship. The sailboat – crossing the Atlantic to the West Indies – sank in minutes. Mid sea container collisions are rare and – for an unlucky crew – impossible to evade because these steel boxes often float just above the waterline. Every year thousands of containers fall off vessels and float for weeks before taking in enough seawater to sink. Most sailors who had to be rescued by helicopter mid Atlantic would spend time soul searching, but Julien Carayon was back sailing days after.


Topaz Sailing 33 cover

“Topaz” can be chartered for sailing trips off the coast of Beruwala and Passikudah. The catamaran can hold up to 30 people

Growing up in coastal Southern France, Julien and his partner Elodie’s love for the ocean and sailing came naturally. The pair now operate Sri Lanka’s first catamaran, Sail Lanka Charter off the island’s Eastern and Western coasts.

The shallows of Sri Lanka’s coastal waters don’t afford adventures in the scale of Herman Melville’s imagination. In fact they go to extraordinary lengths to not rock the boat. Their operating base switches between Beruwela and Passikudah to avoid monsoon season, because clients with weak sea legs struggle to appear graceful sipping Champagne when high waves rock the boat.

The 48-foot catamaran ‘Topaz’, was designed and built for day charters by Baff Polymech, a cruise yacht building company in Koggala. It’s a boat unsuited for the rigours of long ocean crossings because instead of sleeping bays and plenty of storage space it has generous bathrooms, a kitchen with a fridge and iceboxes, benches, teak tables & chairs and snorkeling equipment. Topaz has an open cockpit, and a trampoline straddles the two hulls in the front, creating a bouncing sundeck.

topaz 2

Julien Carayon was captain and partner Elodie Le Blevenec was crew in the boat that sank off the coast of Portugal. However Sail Lanka’s catamaran doesn’t undertake treacherous ocean crossings on charters but merely make the glamour of sailing accessible to more people, mostly tourists. Elodie who handles the marketing for the firm believes the full and half-day charters they offer can also appeal to businesses wanting to treat employees or impress clients. Sailing is the pastime of rich men because boats are costly to buy and maintain. Chartering one allows a group or a couple to enjoy the thrills of sailing, a spot of snorkeling and champagne and watching the sun sink below the horizon all during a three hour cruise.



Julien Carayon and Elodie Le Blevenec relax on their catamaran off the shores of Passikudah

A craft propelled by wind is a romantic notion and that makes the Topaz – which can accommodate up to 30 passengers – a great place to host an intimate birthday gathering or wedding party. While holidaying in Sri Lanka in 2013, Julien and Elodie discovered that yacht charters – which they were familiar with operating– were unavailable here. Soon they had the backing of a financier to build and the Topaz became reality.

The sense of adventure and fear at sea as narrated by Herman Melville or Joseph Conrad may only be a fleeting feeling during Topaz’s cruises. It’s more a bubbly fueled new rich lifestyle adventure.

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