Even a total newcomer driving through the coastal road that runs through the heart of Izmir to the resort town of Cesme would be able to guess that sails were one of the symbols of the city.

Right before the city’s main square stands a modern, linear statue that symbolizes a sailboat. As you pass through the road between Konak Pier, which was designed by Gustave Eiffel in 1890s, and the famous clock tower, you come across a group of white-coloured sails that impress upon you once more that sails are the symbol of the city.

Surrounded by the hard winds of Alacati, Cesme, Urla and Foca, it hardly seems surprising that sailing is to Izmir what golf is to Kemer. The city, which has five marinas, is host to the Ege Open Sea Yacht Club (EAYK), International Cesme Yacht Club (ICYC), Urla Yacht Club (URIYAT) and countless other yacht or sailing clubs from rotaries to municipalities – all of which organize joint or separate races. Middle-class kids enrol in a sailing club in their teens and businesspeople rub elbows not only at yacht fairs but at competitive races.

Arkas, one of the largest Izmir-based companies, has its own sailing team which sweeps regional championships and has taken the Winter Trophy, the longest sailing race in Turkey, for three consecutive years.  “Cesme and Izmir has important potential for us,” said Iskender Akbas, the Turkey director of Jeannau, one of the main sail-boat producers in the world. Jeanneau has picked Izmir for a three-day yachting festival between June 3 and 5 that will introduce half a dozen types of sail boats which he describes as “all strong and popular boats that are of different sizes and qualities.”    “We are very much aware of the passion of Izmirians toward the sea and want to ensure the full exposure of our boats to them,” he added. The three-day event will also include the participation of Hasan Denizkurdu, a former minister of justice who is a determined sailor.

But Ozlem Akdurak, who has long been in the Aegean sailing market as the Turkey chair of Elan sailboats and the president of the Cesme Sailing School, cautioned that the existing capacity of the marinas on the Izmir peninsula fell painfully short of meeting the present demand, let alone the potential.  “There are no marinas in the city.  Levent Marina is practically non-existent. Plans to build a marina in Bayrakli, near Karsiyaka, are progressing very slowly,” she told the Hurriyet Daily News. “This is Turkey’s third largest city, with a population of 4 million. Yet, when you compare it to port cities in nearby Greece, the marinas are very inadequate.”

Akdurak believes that this discourages the potential growth of sailing among Izmir locals, as well as interest from foreign sailors.  “Izmir, with its great capacity for training competitive sailors, can develop so much more in sailing and increase its place on the global map,” she added. “Right now, the potential is underexplored. In Europe, you’d find a marina every 30 miles in a city like Izmir. Turkey is still virgin territory.”

“Izmir and its regions is a growing market for both motorboats and sail boats,” said Ayse Koraltan, who took up sailing as a sport in her 30s, along with a band of girlfriends who formed one of the first all-women teams in the region.

“It fits with the Izmirian way of life that is close to the sea. There are major marinas in the peninsula, including TEOS, which opened in Sigacik, near Urla, recently. The proximity to the Greek islands, and the fact that there are races make the whole adventure very pleasant.”

The team’s sailboat, called “Safinaz” after the Turkish name for Popeye’s energetic girlfriend, has competed in more than 300 races. Koraltan herself has joined in the sector professionally and founded GCG marine, which constructs Rockharbour boats in Turkey.



Source:  Daily Hurriyet

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