The Last Call: Julia Shaw

Julia Shaw-Manta Sail Training Centre
The founder of MANTA sailing school in Mui Ne, Julia Shaw is at the forefront of developing sailing in Vietnam. Photo by Kyle Phanroy.

My love of sailing started… with my grandma’s boat when I was four, and grew with the independence of sailing dinghies when I was five, and teaching friends to sail when I was six.

My grandmother’s boat… by the saltmarshes at the end of the Lymington River in the UK, was where we lived on long leave from Sarawak, as her house was too small for all of us. It still amazes me how well people get on in the small confines of a boat.

Growing up in Sarawak… introduced me to my first memories of torrential rain plus the smell, enormity and deep greenness of the rainforest on the doorstep, which to me was full of souls. I loved my Iban amah and was glued to her hip, so others thought I’d never walk.

Being on the open sea… is where my heart and soul are. I love the way you can balance the elements to go where you want to go. Plus I love the way the oceans sound different whichever coast you are on, and the way water flows.

I created MANTA… for marine conservation reasons including an alternative to overfishing and ideally to replace horrific sea memories which many in Vietnam may have. Fishermen learn sailing skills fast, because of their existing ocean skills, and they don’t mind getting darker skin or covering up.

Marine conservation… efforts are a drop in the ocean until it is possible to close areas to overfishing and pollution where marine resources can grow and multiply to restock.

MANTA soon developed into… the first and only sailing school in Vietnam, set-up and operating to international standards of sailing and safety. It’s run by sail-trained fishermen.

My goal with the school is to… pass it on to others who have a better business focus, better marketing and promotional skills, while continuing to train coaches across the country at MANTA. We want to grow a broad base of sailors, generating elite athletes and coaches, to help holistic sustainability of all sail sports, for all ages.

Vietnamese kitesurfers… have developed amazingly well. Although Vietnam is 200 years behind leading Asian countries in sailing, it is in the top three countries for kiteboarding. Kiteboarding is the newest and fastest growing sail sport worldwide.

When Vietnam joined the International Sailing Federation in 2012… it opened the opportunity for fast track sail training development with a link to International Olympic Committee (IOC) funding plus the opportunity to compete with other countries and hold international events in Vietnam.

The 2016 Asian Beach Games are… Vietnam’s best chance to be ahead of the pack, by including kiteboarding for the first time in the games.

Boats… come in thousands of different classes, and can be a daunting and limiting factor for sailing development, given the cost of equipment, shipping and import tax.

I hope that… long-term it will be possible to promote Vietnam’s stunning coast with permits to sail its length, developing tourism, like in Croatia and elsewhere.

If I could be any marine animal I would be… a diatom, growing where there is light, and helping fix more carbon than the world’s tropical rainforests.

If my parents could see me now… I’d thank them for the opportunities they gave me with their introduction to sailing, my love for life, being born in Sarawak and where that has taken me.

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