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Bonds with sailing rivals key to success

SINGAPORE — When national sailor Loh Jia Yi hosted Sinclair Jones at his house in Tanah Merah in 2008 when the Peruvian was here for a competition, the two clicked and exchanged pointers on their sport.

SINGAPORE — When national sailor Loh Jia Yi hosted Sinclair Jones at his house in Tanah Merah in 2008 when the Peruvian was here for a competition, the two clicked and exchanged pointers on their sport.

A year later in Brazil, Jones won the Optimist world title. Not to be outdone, Jia Yi, now 16, followed suit by winning the same title last year in Italy. The pair have maintained contact since and meet up whenever they are competing at international regattas.

This enrichment in sailing pedigree as a result of the exchange of ideas and tips gleaned from forging such close bonds is something the Singapore Sailing Federation (SSF) wants to see becoming commonplace among its national sailors as it seeks to translate its international success at the junior and youth level onto the senior stage.

As such, the Fish & Co. Youth Sailing Championships (under-19) from March 18 to 22 will be the first time at a major international tournament that the SSF, which is organising the regatta, is opening up the homes of the national sailors as accommodation for the foreign competitors. So far, about half of the estimated 40 sailors from five countries have indicated their interest.

“Sinclair stayed over at my house for two-and-a-half weeks and we bonded,” said Jia Yi yesterday at the Fish & Co. outlet at Park Mall, where the restaurant chain announced its second year of title sponsoring the regatta.

“Sinclair is two years my senior … I gained some pointers from him on how to deal with strong wind conditions as Singapore has relatively light winds. In return, I advised him on how to best sail in lighter winds.”

Up to 300 Singapore sailors will also compete at the Fish & Co. Youth Championships, which features nine classes and is also a qualifier for the ISAF Youth Sailing World Championships in July.

In the past decade or so, Singapore has produced about 20 world champions at junior and youth level, but have yet to translate that onto the senior level at the various World Championships and Olympics.

SSF Chief Executive Officer Tan Wearn Haw said building close relationships with their competitors is a key towards rectifying that.

“When our sailors mix with the best from around the world, it is only going to be beneficial to their learning,” said the 35-year-old former national sailor, who competed at the 2000 Sydney Olympics.

“We want to create a fun and friendly culture for our sailors to grow and also maintain their interest in the sport. When we go to, say, Finland or Japan for training camps for competitions, their sailors have hosted us at their homes too.

“Singapore regularly hosts competitions when top sailors come to compete on our local shores, so why not learn something from them?”

National sailor Kimberly Lim also revealed that a Facebook group chat for Singapore and other international sailors has also been set up where they update each other on their competition and training schedules and exchange sailing tips.

She said: “For example, the Spanish national sailors have previously invited us to train with them in Spain prior to a competition held at their country when they know we are taking part.”

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