SSF wants S'poreans to put wind in sails

Singapore's Jodie Lai with her gold medal after winning the female Optimist category at the 28th Sea Games held at the National Sailing Centre on Jun 13, 2015.
Singapore's Jodie Lai with her gold medal after winning the female Optimist category at the 28th Sea Games held at the National Sailing Centre on Jun 13, 2015.ST PHOTO: CAROLINE CHIA

But move to drop Peruvians Figueroa, Perea after Optimist Worlds success upsets parents

Sailing coaches Javier Figueroa and Diego Perea will no longer be part of the national set-up when the season concludes.

The decision by the Singapore Sailing Federation (SSF) comes just weeks after the duo led the Republic to a team title at the Optimist World Championships.

The country enjoyed a successful campaign in Poland earlier this month, wresting back the team title after missing out the year before.

Jodie Lai was crowned girls' champion while Singapore were also named best-performing nation at the regatta.


Peruvians Javier Figueroa (above) and Diego Perea led Singapore to a team title at the recent Optimist World Championships. PHOTO: SINGAPORE SAILING FEDERATION WEBSITE

The Straits Times understands that the SSF intends to promote existing coaches from within its ranks to take over the reins, with long-time coach and one-time Optimist national coach Nilju Chinakrit - a Thai who is now a permanent resident - a likely contender.

SSF president Ben Tan said the decision to drop the Peruvians is motivated largely by a desire to rely less on "foreign freelancers" while building on a "Singaporean core".


Peruvians Javier Figueroa and Diego Perea (above) led Singapore to a team title at the recent Optimist World Championships. PHOTO: SINGAPORE SAILING FEDERATION WEBSITE

"It's a good thing to be less dependent on foreign freelancers," he told ST yesterday.

"This change proves that we are less dependent on foreign freelancers and our Singaporean core is growing.

"The people we are moving up are deserving and high quality. The change is for the better because we're getting stronger."

He also argued that the decision to not continue engaging the services of Figueroa and Perea is part of a natural progression.

He said: "The principle is that you don't get too dependent on one coach. At different phases of your career, your needs are different."

GROWING A SINGAPOREAN CORE

It's a good thing to be less dependent on foreign freelancers. This change proves that we're less dependent on foreign freelancers and our Singaporean core is growing.

BEN TAN, president of SSF

Figueroa and Perea, who are both from Peru and have been coaching in Singapore for about four years, will still coach a team competing at the Asian Optimist Championships next month in Qatar. Both are understood to be overseas and could not be reached yesterday.

CALL FOR TRANSPARENCY

The sailors spend more time with their coaches than with family... When something like this happens, it has a big impact on the kids. The least the federation can do is meet us and explain the rationale to us.

A PARENT, on the sudden change

"We rotate purposely so that (sailors) can learn from different masters," he added.

The move, however, has got several parents up in arms.

They say they see no reason why the services of coaches who have proven themselves over the years should not be retained.

Singapore's Optimist sailors have been dominant on both the global and regional stages in recent years.

At the World Championships in particular, the Republic won both the individual and team titles from 2011 to 2013.

One parent, who declined to be named, took issue with how the decision was sprung on the group, who are all aged 15 and below.

He said: "The sailors spend more time with their coaches than with family. They practically grow up with the coaches.

"When something like this happens, it has a big impact on the kids.

"The least the federation can do is to meet us and explain the rationale to us."

The parents have asked for an open dialogue with the federation and it is understood that they are likely to meet the SSF's management on Monday.

SSF chief executive officer Tan Wearn Haw defended the change and insisted the transition would not be disruptive: "You always have to evolve the system. Yes, we've had good results over the years.

"But do we sit there and don't evolve? It's really about the system.

"The programme still runs and training runs as per normal."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 24, 2015, with the headline 'SSF WANTS S'POREANS TO PUT WIND IN SAILS'. Print Edition | Subscribe