Jasvir sails to glory

Jasvir Singh emerged a worthy winner in the Laser Standard section, not minding his troublesome knee that tormented him on the ‘runs’ especially. A. Joseph Antony reports.

Hyderabad’s Hussain Sagar staged the nation’s premier sailing championship. Though swollen by the recent rain, its waters couldn’t quite match the breakers of the open seas. However, it threw up enough challenges to test the sailors during the four-day Laser National championships. The opening day saw wind speeds climb to about 30 knots, while on the penultimate day it dipped to as low as four, stretching the skills of participants to negotiate strong and low wind conditions.

The competition would have been stiff too, had the Army Yachting Node (AYN) showed better sporting spirit. Sailors from the Mumbai outfit, used to year-long sailing, were overzealous to snuff out the only threat they perceived from Bijay Kumar Rout of the EME Sailing Association (EMESA) in the full rig races. They would take turns to obstruct his free and fair run to the frontline, one of them even ramming into his hull on the concluding day.

Through the championship, they ‘covered’ him, making it a Herculean task for the soft-spoken yachtsman to break free of the fleet to make his own road. While covering is perfectly fine between two arch rivals, a carefully orchestrated campaign to ensure it was anything but smooth sailing for Rout, wasn’t.

Ironically, Rout was an integral part of the AYN and to merit such treatment from his former team-mates must have left a bitter taste in the mouth and not just for the victim of this ruthless hunt. To the Orissa native’s credit, he got the gun quite a few times, despite such ‘strident opposition.’ Adding to his woes were the root canal sitting he had on the eve of the competition and the fever that afflicted him.

Rout’s mentor was Rajesh Choudhary, a two-time Asian Games bronze-medallist, recently appointed EMESA’s coach. The Arjuna awardee, who also turned out for the AYN until recently, was given little time to work with his boys when preparing to take on the formidable adversary. After the Hyderabad Sailing Week got under way, he was nevertheless always at hand to pass on tips in this game of chess on the water.

Jasvir Singh emerged a worthy winner in the Laser Standard section, not minding his troublesome knee that tormented him on the ‘runs’ especially. The yellow flag he was shown in the series’ opening race didn’t quite have the effect of the red rag waved at a raging bull. It instead made him more circumspect what with one more such penalty likely to eliminate him entirely.

“I wasn’t absolutely sure I could pull it off before the event began, what with the likes of Rout around,” the wiry six-footer told Sportstar. “Coach Dan Slater had predicted the wind would veer to the left of centre but I noticed gains were made mostly from the right,” said the native of Aklia Jalal village in Punjab’s Bathinda district, who tuned his sails to harvest the winds best, going by their variations if not vagaries, besides the situation of course.

While sailors mostly look forwards to keep an eye on wind shifts, Jasvir would look over his shoulder too. “Turn around to see where the pressure is building, coach Slater had told us. That tip worked well for me,” said the third-time title winner.

His team-mate Sharif Khan came up trumps in the Radial category, despite retreating from a race with a torn sail. The father of two refused to let that setback affect his showing. “I’m confident I’ll win the series,” he’d quite assuredly told Sportstar when not even half-way into the series. As if to prove that was no empty boast, the Khijdya village resident in Madhya Pradesh’s Mandsaur district, now with the AYN, sped off to a couple of start to finish verdicts, leaving the rest in his wake.

The former cross country runner was at home on this historic lake, having found his feet in the sport in these very waters. Incidentally his feet were caught in a tangle in the main sheet, costing him a first place finish in the penultimate race. To make amends, he separated himself from the rest in the regatta’s concluding sortie with a fairly huge lead, that crucial control trapping his feet again but unable to contain his climb to the top this time round.

If there was a find in the meet, it was Vir Menon in the 4.7 category. The class X student of Inventure Academy, Bangalore, representing the Royal Madras Yacht Club showed an understanding of the sport far superior to some seasoned campaigners.

The overall standings:

Laser Standard: 1. Jasvir Singh 17 points (AYN) 2. Gajender Singh 25 (AYN) 3. Dharmender Singh 29 (AYN) 4. B.K. Rout 29 (EMESA).

Laser Radial: 1. Sharif Khan 23 (AYN), 2. Ramesh Kumar 30 (AYN), 3. Amandeep Singh 35 (AYN), 4. Bikram Mohapatra 37 (AYN).

Laser 4.7: 1. Vir Menon 14 (RMYC), 2. Prince Noble 28 (KYA), 3. Dheer Singhi 30 (RMYC), 4. Tarun P. Bhatia 31 (SSC).