Sailors eye top 10 breakthrough

Lincoln Chee, who succeeded Ben Tan as SingaporeSailing president in June, wants the association to take the lead in encouraging greater participation in the sport.
Lincoln Chee, who succeeded Ben Tan as SingaporeSailing president in June, wants the association to take the lead in encouraging greater participation in the sport.ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

SingaporeSailing ropes in Briton Cunningham as high performance director in bid for Olympic goal

SingaporeSailing is set for a boost with Briton Peter Cunningham joining the association as its high performance director this month.

The 53-year-old was an exercise physiologist with the British Olympic sailing team at the 2000, 2004 and 2008 Games, during which Britain topped the medal table for sailing.

Also, he has been the head of sports science and sports medicine for Artemis Racing's Americas Cup team since 2011.

SingaporeSailing president Lincoln Chee, who took over the association's leadership from Ben Tan in June, believes Cunningham's arrival could help Singapore sailors reach the top 10 at Olympic and world levels.

Britain has topped the sailing medal table in four of the past five Olympic Games, and is the first country to qualify for all 10 sailing classes at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.

Singapore won four golds at last year's SEA Games in Kuala Lumpur and returned from this month's Asian Games in Jakarta with a gold and a bronze.

"If you look at the United States, the United Kingdom or Australia, they're constantly tweaking and there's no simple formula to achieving success at that level… but at least they have a legacy of success," said Chee, who starts work this week as the Greater China CEO for the Parkway Pantai hospital group.

"Right now, I think our track record speaks for itself - that we know how to navigate with some degree of success - but we are also humble enough to know that at a certain level, we may still lack that knowledge and we are open to learning.

"We want to find the best way to help Singapore achieve success."

Singaporeans have qualified for every edition of the Olympics since 1984, peaking at 10 sailors in seven events at Rio 2016. But no one has made the cut for the medal race which features the top 10.

Chee, 54, added: "Obviously we will also need to focus on the SEA Games and Asian Games, but we want to see if we can push that envelope in terms of high performance.

"If we can reach the top 10 at the Olympics or world level, that to us is really a breakthrough."

He also wants SingaporeSailing to take the lead in encouraging greater participation in the sport.

"If sailing in Singapore, whether for recreation or competition, is not pleasant then no matter what we do, it's just not going to work," he said.

"We need to look at how we can protect areas of the sea to promote quality of life… when you have that kind of access to the seas, you also open up potential avenues for leisure events."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 24, 2018, with the headline 'Sailors eye top 10 breakthrough'. Print Edition | Subscribe