Sailing: Winning Singapore sailors harbour no self-doubt

From left: Dr Loh Kok Hua, SSF deputy president; Dr Ben Tan, SSF chief; Minister Grace Fu, the guest of honour; Ng Ser Miang, SSF patron; Moh Kah Mun, SSF vice-president and Peter Lim, who authored the book Upwind and Winning: A Singular Story of Sai
From left: Dr Loh Kok Hua, SSF deputy president; Dr Ben Tan, SSF chief; Minister Grace Fu, the guest of honour; Ng Ser Miang, SSF patron; Moh Kah Mun, SSF vice-president and Peter Lim, who authored the book Upwind and Winning: A Singular Story of Sailing in Singapore.ST PHOTO: LIM SIN THAI

In five decades, Singapore's sailors have gone from being mocked - for wearing shower caps at regattas in a bid to stay warm - to having the last laugh after being crowned world champions many times over.

That success was visible last night, when a trophy was the centrepiece on each dinner table as members of the local sailing fraternity toasted the 50th anniversary of the Singapore Sailing Federation (SSF) at The Clifford Pier.

An apt choice of venue, for it took Singapore sailing back to its roots. A stone's throw from the Singapore Cricket Club where the association was born and by the Marina Bay waters where some of the earliest sailing here took place, the event gathered some of Singapore's pioneer sailors and also some of the youngest and newest champions.

Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu was guest of honour at the dinner.

SSF president Ben Tan, a former Asian Games champion, said that the commemoration of the association's 50th year is as much a celebration of how far Singapore sailing has come as it is a way of honouring the Republic's pioneer sailors.

He said: "Many... played a significant role. They leave great legacies, they've nurtured and have inspired succeeding generations who have taken sailing to even greater heights."

Indeed, sailing has gone from being a mere afterthought in the 1970s and 1980s, when sports like athletics and football took centre stage, to one of the Republic's most successful and top-funded sports.

It is looked upon as a regular gold mine for Singapore at major Games - and rightly so. Sailing has won at least a gold medal at every SEA Games since the sport made its debut in the 1973 edition. Singapore was also the top sailing nation at the 2006 Asian Games. The federation has also amassed 31 world titles from youth classes since 2004.

More significantly, Singapore's sailors have started to break through in the Olympic classes.

On Sunday, Laser sailor Colin Cheng won the Sailing World Cup in Melbourne while windsurfer Audrey Yong came second in the RS:X event. In September, Justin Liu and Denise Lim won the World Cup in Qingdao in the Nacra17 class.

It is progress that means Singapore will field eight sailors at the Rio Olympics next August - the most ever - across five classes.

That success is mirrored in para sailing, with Jovin Tan and Desiree Lim qualifying in the Skud18 class for next year's Paralympics.

As part of the celebrations last night, a book titled Upwind And Winning: A Singular Story Of Sailing In Singapore was also launched. The second volume of a two-book series commissioned by International Olympic Committee member Ng Ser Miang, who is also patron of the SSF, it was written by former Singapore Press Holdings editor-in-chief and founding chief editor of The New Paper Peter Lim.

Said Tan: "Our best days are ahead of us and new chapters will continue to be written."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 17, 2015, with the headline 'Winning S'pore sailors harbour no self-doubt'. Print Edition | Subscribe