Favourites to the fore

ABHIJIT SEN GUPTA

Winners all: Rajesh Choudhary, Meenu Dahiya and P. Madhu. — Pic. P. V. SIVAKUMAR-

THE favourites lived up to expectations in the Laser National sailing championships 2003, conducted by the LCAI at the Hussainsagar Lake in Hyderabad. Rajesh Choudhary won the title in the Standard Rig category. P. Madhu won in the Radial Rigs and Meenu Dahiya topped the women's category. Incidentally, all three sailors belong to the Army Yachting Node of Mumbai.

Generally, sailors from AYN gave good performances. The dominance of the AYN sailors showed that the scheme has been successful in promoting talent. The trainees at AYN are put through a tough training schedule, which prepares them for the worst conditions. Therefore, the winds and waters of the Hussainsagar Lake posed no problems for them.

Sandeep Srikanth of Royal Madras Yacht Club who is one of the few civilian sailors who have managed to attain the topmost rungs in this sport was expected to give Rajesh Choudhary a hard fight but Sandeep hit a bad patch. He was not able to put up the kind of display he is capable of. The tall and lanky Sandeep is an exceptionally skilled sailor who has risen to the top rapidly. He had won the title here last year, but this time nothing went right for him. Sandeep who celebrated his 22nd birthday in the course of the meet here finished a distant second to Rajesh. It was ill health and lack of practice before the meet, which spoiled his chances here.

With Sandeep off colour, there was no one who could really challenge Rajesh Choudhary. The former EMESA sailor who began his career on the Hussainsagar has gone on to win several international honours, including a bronze at the Busan Asian Games. He was inducted into AYN a couple of years ago and now trains in Mumbai. Rajesh has been selected to represent India in the pre-Olympic sailing championship at Athens and also the ISAF World Championships to be held in Spain. The Spain meet will be the qualifying event for the Athens Olympics in 2004.

Rajesh feels that the Indian sailors need more exposure in the international arena. Sailors from China, Japan, Australia, New Zealand and Europe have many more competitions and stay tuned while Indian sailors have long breaks due to lack of competitions. More meets and more exposure are vital for the sport to improve in this country Rajesh says.

This may be possible in future if the plans outlined by Major Milind Prabhu, the present Secretary of the LCAI take shape. Prabhu says that if sponsorship can be obtained then a sailing circuit could be developed in Andhra Pradesh involving centres in Hyderabad, Visakhapatnam and Khammam. Similarly, another one could be developed on the west coast involving Mumbai, Goa and Kerala. With two circuits in place, there could be sailing activity almost throughout the year in India.

In the Radial Rig category P. Madhu another former EMESA sailor excelled. He had earlier won the silver in the OK Dinghy Nationals in the year 2000 and this time he faced little challenge on his way to title triumph.

Among the women sailors the best performance came from Indian Army captain Meenu Dahiya who kept up a commendable degree of consistency. She took the title with a big lead on points over her nearest rival Rohini Rau of TNSA. Lucky Bisht was third.

There were others also whose performances were laudable. Ashutosh Tripathi who came second in the Radial category has shown remarkable progress in a short span of time. According to Sandeep Srikanth he can improve further with experience and development of tactical abilities.

Rajesh Choudhary, who won the Standard Rig, in action. — Pic. P. V. SIVAKUMAR-

Salil Sabir, a 16-year-old 11th standard student of Dempo College, Goa, who comes from a family of sailors finished third in the Radial Fleet. Salil started in 1999 with the Optimist Class.

He took part in the European championships in Portugal in 2002 and ended up 101st out of 200 participants. In the Busan Asian Games, Salil came 9th out of 12 in the Optimists. He has also represented India in the Asian championships in Korea in 2001 and China in 2002. He practices at Dona Paula beach in Goa under the guidance of Umaji Chowgule and Sandeep Srikanth. His target is a medal in the 2006 Asian Games.

Another youngster who caught the eve was 14-year-old G. Sandeep, now studying in Chennai, who finished 12th out of 23 competitors in the Standard Fleet. All his opponents were more experienced than him. He started sailing on this lake in 1999 in the Optimist Class under the guidance of C. S. Pradeepak. Sandeep then graduated into the Cadet Class and then into the Splash Class. He performed creditably in the Splash World championships in Holland. He is now being coached by Munna Jameel in Chennai. However, Pradeepak continues to be his inspiration.

The results:

Overall placings (based on total penalty points at the end of the championship):

Radial:1. P. Madhu (AYN) 8 penalty points; 2. Ashutosh Tripathi (EMESA) 20; 3. Salil Sabir (GYA) 21.

Standard: 1. Rajesh Choudhary (AYN) 10; 2. Sandeep Srikanth (R2MYC) 20; 3. V. Hari Hara (ANY) 33.

Women: 1. Meenu Dahiya (ANY) 62; 2. Rohini Rau (TNSA) 98; 3. Lucky Bisht (EMESA) 152.

Kelly Rao Trophy: Rajesh Choudhary (AYN).