Champion yachtsman

Rajesh Chowdhary in action during the final day of the championship.-PIC: K. RAMESH BABU

Rajesh Choudhary had barely two days to prepare for the inland Laser Nationals at the Hussain Sagar, coming as he did from the Army Yachting Node, Mumbai, where all sailing was out in the open sea.

Hyderabad's nearly four-century old lake is notorious for its wind shifts as also the drastic drops in speeds. Nonetheless, ‘Chou' rose to the challenge like no other, his familiarity with the reservoir as sound as that of a dutiful son with an eccentric elder or parent.

As the 25th edition of the annual championship unfolded, there was increasing evidence of this. Many chose to follow in his wake as they were sure he would read the winds best, while others who went their own ways regretted they hadn't followed the leader.

Choudhary's love affair with this historic lake began in the early 90s with water sports such as rowing, kayaking and canoeing. The death of a dear friend in its murky waters haunts him to this day, though.

He has straddled both the Standard and Radial rigs like a latter-day colossus, finishing second just once since 1996. The lone occasion that he lost his prime position was when he had been sick in 2004.

True to his champion yachtsman stature, he never hesitates to share his skills with those seeking them. The strongest trait he possesses perhaps is an unflappable demeanour that sees him defy the odds, even when starting at the bottom of the fleet. One can then see him surge ahead of the pack sooner or later.

Not content with two bronze medals at the Busan and Doha Asian Games, Choudhary has trained his sights on the Radial laurels at the Guangzhou Asian Games in November and then the 2012 London Olympics in the full rig.