What do you get when you put sailors who have gone to three Olympic Games, have two Asian Games gold medals, ten SEA Games gold medals, and three previous China Cup titles between them?
A winning formula, of course!
Led by Stanley Chan, the quintet of former national sailors Xu Yuan Zhen, Joe Chan, Colin Ng and Derek Chan won the Asian Sailing Federation (ASAF) Keelboat Cup at the 10th China Cup International Regatta held from 27 October 2016 – 30 October 2016 in Daya Bay Shenzhen, China. In four races, they finished with 6 points – 8 points ahead of the Malaysians and 10 points in front of Oman.
“It was really anybody’s race in the four races and it was intense,” described 2008 Beijing Olympian Xu Yuan Zhen, who helmed the keelboat. “A small mistake would have been costly and overall, we managed to avoid those. We are so glad to be able to fly Singapore’s flag high in this class to put Singapore firmly on the world map once again in a keelboat.”
This win added to Singapore’s growing resume of success at keelboat regattas. Singapore managed to medal at the World University Sailing Championships in match racing, finishing third in Perth while we also finished fourth overall at the J24 World Championship among 41 boats.
In a field featuring 10 other Asian countries, the team did not quite know what to expect but with so much experience on board the Far East 28R keelboat class, they went into the regatta quietly confident.
Day One saw a lack of wind and races were cancelled with a three-day event reduced to two. Sailors were called back after three hours on the water and racing for the day was subsequently cancelled. The following day was in sharp contrast with winds measuring 18-20 knots complete with big swells and gust.
Singapore, who were easily the lightest team in the fleet, weighing in at 350 kg with the limit being 425 kg, endured the challenge of the conditions and managed to finish second in both races. The Omanis, a team made out of five professional sailors and who weighed close to the limit, came in first and were the closest competitors. Overall, it was an encouraging first day with Singapore within striking distance of the lead amidst the tough conditions.
“The challenge on the second day was the tough conditions and finding the marks to navigate around the big racecourse,” recounted Yuan Zhen. “But we executed very well and the strategy was good. We did not get any of those things wrong. We knew that as long as we did our job right, everything would take care of itself. Credit to the team for executing well.”
Winds on the final day measured 5-6 knots and with it, an advantage for the lighter Singaporeans. They started the race well and continued the positive showing from the previous day, finding themselves in themselves in the lead. They took the first race and with the Omanis right on their tails, held them off till the end.
“We hope that more people will take up keelboat sailing and racing as a result of our success,” Joe Chan. “There is plenty of opportunities for members of the public to enjoy keelboat sailing at the clubs as well as at Marina Bay for free. We hope to see more people competing in such events.”
The team is extremely grateful to Constant Wind Seasports and Sailing School for sponsoring their airfare and land transfer and also Oakley Singapore for the immaculate sunglasses.