*An edited version of this article was published in iNTOUCH MAGAZINE on August 1st, 2016.
Entrepreneur and sailing aficionado Wolfgang Bierer clearly has the wind in his sails.
Four years ago, he joined the Tokyo Sail and Power Squadron (TSPS), an English-friendly sailing club and the only English powerboat training and licence provider in Tokyo. He had just acquired a one-quarter share in Gone with the Wind, a 21-year old, thirty-foot trimaran. How he came to co-own “The Little Old Lady,” as he fondly calls her, is quite the story.
Bierer recounts: “I met this financial advisor one evening at a social event. He was very young and eager and asked me a million questions, so I said jestingly, ‘Leave me alone!’ And he stuttered, ‘Yeah but, but what’s your dream?’ And I said, ‘1.4 million dollars in ten years and you make the plan for it because then I want to buy a catamaran.’”
The next day, the financial advisor’s boss called to tell Bierer about a TSPS event at the Pink Cow – a popular expat hangout joint in Tokyo – hinting that he should go. Expecting a posh sailing club, Bierer showed up in business attire. “I was a bit irritated at first. I thought the Pink Cow was [a better venue] for music than for any kind of stiff collar sailing club meeting. It turned out [everybody] was pretty relaxed and I was the only one in a suit.”
That evening Bierer was introduced to one of the trimaran’s co-owners who was looking to sell his share. “He invited me for a test sail; then, a couple of weeks later, we closed the deal. It’s not a catamaran, it’s a trimaran, and it’s not worth 1.4 million but it’s still nice,” he adds gleefully.
A seasoned windsurfer, he credits his father with igniting his passion for sailing when he was twelve years old. “My father used to go to this sailing club just to sit and watch the windsurfers out on the water. One day, he came home with one of those early windsurfing boards. It was five meters long – you almost needed a licence for it,” he recalls laughingly. “That’s when I got the bug.”
For Bierer, who got more seriously into sailing four years ago, the open sea is synonymous with adventure. “The first couple of times I went out it was kind of scary,” he recalls. “When you don’t have any reference points, you really need to trust your navigation skills to find your way.”
In his native Germany, the dearth of large lakes and the cold weather “make sailing still not so popular.”
“Here, the beauty is that you can sail pretty much all year round,” he says. In the warmer seasons, he tries to go sailing at least twice a month with his family. “In the wintertime, I go out with the other sailors – we have proper Neoprene winter gear and water proof jackets.”
According to Bierer, the sailing culture here is either black or white – as with many sports in Japan. “You have the recreational sailors and the fully-into-it guys, [those] who go out every week, rain or shine.”
Sailing, he says, enables him to unwind. “Out on the ocean, there’s no mobile coverage – I can completely disconnect from my work.” It’s also a good way to get in touch with nature. “For sailing as for windsurfing, I just love that it’s powered by natural forces and the fact that you hear nothing but the wind and the waves splashing against the boat. For me that’s total relaxation.”
And there’s a meditative aspect to sailing. “You need to stay focused while steering the boat,” he says. “There’s always something to do: taking care of the meals, keeping an eye on the waves. It can get pretty rough out there. Keeps your mind free of worries.”
A member of TAC’s Olympic Committee, Bierer will be offering free dinghy trial sessions on a first come, first serve basis as part of the Committee’s activities in the lead up to the 2020 Olympics.
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