Singapore sailing through the decades


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This was the decade in which Singapore consolidated its status as a sailing nation. Off the back of a successful campaign at the 1969 Seap Games when sailing was contested for the first time, the 1970s was when the sport's culture of excelling began.

With pioneers such as Julian Yeo, James Tham and Lock Hong Kit leading the way, it began with two silver medals at the 1970 Asian Games in Thailand. The sport also accounted for three golds and one silver when the Seap Games were held here for the first time in 1973.


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The late 1980s saw the rebirth of the Optimist programme, a cause championed by Ng Ser Miang, who took over leadership of the association in 1989.

Despite some measure of success, Singapore still had a rather limited pool of potential national sailors and there was therefore a need to groom sailors from junior ranks as well. The Optimist, a dinghy meant for those aged 15 and under, sparked a wide and strong pool of talent, proving integral to the solid youth development programme for which SingaporeSailing is today widely recognised.


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The 1990s was when elite sailing in Singapore really took off, and no year was more of a watershed than 1994. That year, the late Kelly Chan became the Republic's first world champion when he won the Masters title at the World Boardsailing Championships in Canada. Ben Tan then went on to win gold at the Asian Games in Hiroshima with one race to spare, ending a 12-year drought for Singapore at the quadrennial event.

The success continued at the 1998 edition in Thailand, when the duos of Siew Shaw Her and Colin Ng and Joan Huang and Naomi Tan won both the men's and women's 420 events.


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After suffering disappointment at the 2002 Asiad in South Korea, SingaporeSailing overhauled its high performance framework led by Ben Tan, now the association's president.

It bore fruit quickly. Starting with Calvin Lim in the Byte class in 2004, the next decade saw Singapore churning out world-beaters on the waters. There was at least one world title won every year after that until 2014, in classes like the Optimist, Laser 4.7 and the 420. Singapore's dominance was especially felt in the Optimist, where it held the world individual and team titles from 2011 to 2013.

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