Johal, Rout finish on top

CLOUDY skies proved auspicious for the National Laser sailing championships at the Hussain Sagar Lake, Hyderabad.

A. JOSEPH ANTONY

N. S. Johal shows the victory sign after winning the Laser standard category. -- Pic. MOHAMMED YOUSUF-

CLOUDY skies proved auspicious for the National Laser sailing championships at the Hussain Sagar Lake, Hyderabad. Regattas in the past often found sailors twiddling their thumbs in the midst of nowhere, when the winds simply weren't there. This time round, the high wind conditions, with speeds touching upto 18 knots, were highly conducive to the sport, that thrives on the sails filling up and throws a challenge to helmsmen making their way ahead in the face of nature's obstacles.

Not surprisingly, even the most accomplished hand had a dip in the lake, thrown overboard by gusts that hit them with little notice. The multi-storied buildings that provided a backdrop to one side of the lake, diverted or blocked the breeze in patterns that proved unpredictable.

Nonetheless, the likes of National radial champion B. K. Rout and pastmaster Rajesh Choudhary knew the eccentricities of the wind only too well. For invariably, these two would head on a starboard tack, right from the starter's hooter. Other front-runners such as N. S. Johal and Arjun Pradipak chose to strike a different path from the rest of the fleet, setting off on a port tack.

Choudhary, who has his name inscribed on the President, Laser Class Association of India Trophy most, was down with fever that deprived him of the strength, so badly needed when pitted against strong winds and water swells. The sheer margin of victory, of several boat lengths, revealed the class of Choudhary each time he won in the nine-race series, that allowed two discards.

Rout was unquestioned king in the small sail category, on one occasion finishing ahead by a full leg, that translates to about 1.25 kms, crow distance. Such a lead in wind conditions that tested the best underscored his sailing skills. On the reaches, where the winds hit the sails from the sides, he would be seated on the stern, `planing' with aplomb, at speeds comparable to that of motor boats.

Noteworthy show

B. K. Rout, the winner of the Laser radial class. -- Pic. MOHAMMED YOUSUF-

On the few occasions when wind speeds dropped, the lightly-built Dharmender Singh and D. K. Acharya made their presence felt in no uncertain terms. Also worthy of mention was the performance of Meenu Dahiya, the lady an Army captain attached to the Army Yachting Node (AYN) in Mumbai. The said outfit was raised by another accomplished sailor, Goutam Dutta, whose wards would have done him proud. Almost all the top sailors in this championship were from the AYN.

For the record, Nachhatar Singh Johal with 11 points, claimed the Laser standard crown and Rout with eight, the radial title. In the full rig category, Choudhary and Arjun Pradipak were tied at 13 points. The former was however declared second on account of the higher number of times he `got the gun', in sailing parlance, winning the race. Arjun is the son of veteran sailor and Arjuna Awardee, C. S. Pradipak.

The six-day meet, jointly conducted by the EME Sailing Association and the Secunderabad Sailing Club, went off without a hitch.

The Qutubshahi rulers, founding fathers of Hyderabad, would have smiled in approval at the sight of colourful sails dotting the reservoir they had built over 400 years ago. Not only would the lake draw the attention of passers-by and the nation, this activity would only enhance the beauty of the water body, that until a couple of years, had been plagued by pollutants pumped into it.

The final standings:

Laser standard: 1. N.S. Johal 11 (AYN), 2. Rajesh Choudhary 13 (AYN), 3. Arjun Pradipak 13 (SSC), 4. P. Madhu 24 (AYN), 5. V. Hari Hara (AYN), 6. Anirudh Vijay Kumar 40 (SSC), 7. Dilip Kumar 48 (AYN), 8. M. Patra 106 (EMESA).

Laser radial: 1. B.K. Rout 8 (AYN), 2. Dharmender Singh 16 (CESC), 3. Dinesh Boorgu 19 (SSC), 4. Meenu Dahiya 37 (AYN), 5. Girish Rao 39 (RASC), 6. Santosh Kumar 47 (EMESA), 7. Narendra Singh 48 (EMESA), 8. D.K. Acharya 59 (INWTC).