Sailing: Where small details matter

Three months before the SEA Games, in which Cheryl Teo (far left) and Yukie Yokoyama won the 470 gold, both had decided to put their studies on hold to help their quest for a medal at the 2018 Asian Games in Indonesia.
Three months before the SEA Games, in which Cheryl Teo (far left) and Yukie Yokoyama won the 470 gold, both had decided to put their studies on hold to help their quest for a medal at the 2018 Asian Games in Indonesia.PHOTO: SPORT SINGAPORE

Serious about Asiad medal, Yukie and Cheryl have already checked out Jakarta conditions

Holding a compass in one hand and a wind indicator in the other, Yukie Yokoyama stood at the bow of the fishing boat bobbing on the waters off the Jakarta waterfront of Ancol earlier this month.

The 20-year-old national sailor had told the skipper at the helm that she and fellow passenger Cheryl Teo, 17, were tourists, when they were in fact scouting the location of next year's Asian Games sailing competition, noting down the wind and sea conditions.

"It felt really cool, it was as if we were explorers," Yokoyama told The Straits Times as she tried to stifle giggles. "The fisherman never suspected who we were."

It was a humorous out-take of yesterday evening's inaugural high-performance town-hall session hosted by SingaporeSailing, but the message was a serious one.

The session held at the National Sailing Centre was attended by some 30 parents and sailors as staff and coaches spoke on the high level of commitment needed, combined with solid plans, to win medals at major competitions like the Asian Games and Olympics.

Yokoyama and her team-mate Cheryl, for instance, had just won gold in the women's 470 class at last month's SEA Games, but still did their scouting trip the weekend right after their triumph.

The wind readings taken by Yokoyama and Cheryl, which averaged 8 to 15 knots and peaking at 20 knots at noon, were higher than the information that SingaporeSailing had obtained. Accordingly, the duo's training and competition plans will be adjusted to expose them to such conditions.

DEFINITIVE BUT FLEXIBLE

The data will be used to change training plans. A plan is a plan but it has to be adaptable and we want to be as precise as possible.

LIM HAN EE, Singapore Sailing CEO, on tracking wind conditions.

"One of the things that will change is that we are going to start tracking wind conditions that the sailors will be exposed to," said SingaporeSailing chief executive officer Lim Han Ee.

"The data will be used to change training plans. A plan is a plan but it has to be adaptable and we want to be as precise as possible."

The pair of sailing sleuths also did homework on travel routes, factoring in the notorious Jakarta traffic jams while checking out the accommodation and food outlets.

While the intelligence for their Asian Games mission was gathered in a light-hearted fashion, Yokoyama and Cheryl made a serious commitment to devote themselves to winning a medal against continental elite.

Three months before competing in Kuala Lumpur, both put their studies on hold for a year to gun for a medal at the 2018 Asiad.

Yokoyama, who had finished her first year in environmental studies in the National University of Singapore recalled: "While we were still in school, we competed while juggling studies. That gave us the confidence that if we put school on hold, we could make it.

"Our parents were sceptical but they slowly respected our decisions. But our minds were made up and we are going to go all out."

As SingaporeSailing general manager Chung Pei Ming told the parents at the town-hall session: "The Asian Games are high stakes. We can come up with the best plans and we are committed to help our sailors succeed - if they show that they are committed."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 30, 2017, with the headline 'Where small details matter'. Print Edition | Subscribe