THIRTY-THREE participants, aged between 18 and 63, now have a better understanding of what competitive sailing is all about after attending the inaugural Monsoon Sailing School (MSS) in Putrajaya recently.
The four-day clinic, held at the Putrajaya Maritime Centre, was organised to prepare them for what to expect if they qualify for the finals of the Monsoon Cup to be held at Pulau Duyong in Terengganu from Dec 1 to 6.
World-class coaches like Bill Gladstone and Charlie Enwright from the United States and Brad Sheridan from Australia were flown in for the classroom sessions and on-water training.
They lent credence to the sailors’ preparation for the Monsoon Cup Malaysia Open Qualifier in November.
Among the teams at the MSS were the Malaysian Armed Forces teams Navy 1 and Navy 2, which are vying for a spot in the Monsoon Cup.
The other teams comprised sailing enthusiasts from various parts of the country and participants from The Netherlands and the Britain.
While all eyes are on the Navy boys, the Duyong Heritage Sailing Team (DHST), the recently crowned Heritage Bay Cup Round 2 winners from Terengganu, have sounded a warning and have set their sights on much larger seas.
“We were ecstatic when we won the Heritage Bay Cup this year. The feeling was unbelievable and it just made us want to go further,” Mohd Saiful Bahri, 30, said.
Their dream now is to sail in the Monsoon Cup.
The world-class event, to be held in Terengganu, is the final and deciding leg of the World Match Racing Tour and invites the world’s top match-race sailors to Malaysia in a battle of skills on the water.
DHST’s youngest member, Mohammed Nazairi Zaidi, 23, said watching the Monsoon Cup excitement in his own backyard had given him a taste of the sport.
The clinic was an exposure to a new level of sailing for the participants.
It gave them the opportunity to sail in F36 racing yachts – the same yachts used in the Monsoon Cup – that were brought here for the clinic.
“We were able to put into practice all the techniques we learnt in the classroom during the practical sessions,” said Melvin Aeria, the presenter of the Monsoon Cup for four years.
“I was especially excited to have hands-on experience in the F36, which I have seen in action many times at the Monsoon Cup.
“As an emcee for the Monsoon Cup, this experience is invaluable and the clinic helped me get a better understanding of match racing,” Aeria added.
Female participant Nazreen Abdul Ghani, 24, who sails at the Royal Selangor Yacht Club, said: “The clinic has made me a better sailor.
“The coaches gave us an insight into various methods of match-racing. I am quite excited and have keen interest in participating in the Malaysian Open Qualifiers if I ever get the chance,” she said.
“The MSS is an excellent platform for Malaysia to unearth potential competitive sailors.
“I was pleased to see the interest and commitment shown by the participants who came from a wide spectrum of backgrounds and skills.
“The MSS was a great success as the participants were eager to learn, energetic and hardworking, while having a great time,” Gladstone said.
Meanwhile, Monsoon Cup Race adviser Datuk Peter Gilmour said the clinic provided competitive sailors, sponsors, media and sports personalities the opportunity to take part in the first sailing clinic in Putrajaya Lake.
“Our objective is to create various activities to enable accomplished sailors to take sailing to another level in this country.
“Judging by the passion and commitment shown by the MSS participants, I am confident we’ll be able to make sailing a more popular sport in the future,” he said.
City-dwellers interested in sailing can visit the Putrajaya Maritime Centre anytime.
The centre holds introductory sailing courses under the Sail Putrajaya Programme.
“We have all the facilities required for sailing and other water sports at our centre, which is open to the public,” said Putrajaya Maritime Centre manager Megat Fairuz Khairuddin.
The Monsoon Sailing School is an initiative by the Youth and Sports Ministry in collaboration with the Malaysian Yachting Association (MYA) as part of its plan to develop the sport of sailing in Malaysia and the region.
Organised by the Monsoon Cup, the event was part of its sports development programme and outreach programme to give back to communities while promoting competition and sportsmanship.