Rajesh, Amit bag titles

SANJAY RAJAN

Rajesh Choudhary, who won the full rig category.-Pic. K. V. SRINIVASAN

FOR Sandeep Srikanth nothing could have been more satisfying than winning his maiden Laser Coastal National full rig title on home waters. As the most accomplished sailor of Royal Madras Yacht Club, the host, it would have been a dream finish for him in the Bengal Tiger Line-sponsored event (10-race series) that was organised immaculately by the 92-year-old sailing institution in the open sea outside the Chennai harbour.

That, however, was not to be as the 21-year-old international yachtsman, a two-time National full rig champion (inland) and National Games gold medallist was edged out by Rajesh Choudhary of Army Yachting Node (Mumbai) in a tussle that went the full distance.

It was, nevertheless, celebration time for the host club which took another runner-up spot in the form of young Rohit Ashok, who finished behind Amit Arvind of the Naval Sailing Club (Mumbai), the champion, in the laser radial class.

Sandeep is considered to be one of the best heavy wind sailors in the country. His height (6ft, 8in) is a huge advantage as he gets that much extra leverage to `hike'. But as luck had it, the wind was light and thus favoured the 29-year-old Rajesh, bronze medallist (radial class) in the last Asian Games, who weighs 12 kilograms less than Sandeep.

As it turned out, the full rig competition was a two-horse race; such was the difference in ability between Sandeep-Rajesh and the rest. It could have got interesting had Amit, who was undecided till the eve of the championship as to which category to sail, opted for the full rig. He outclassed the rest of the fleet in the radial. May be this was why he opted for the latter.

Sandeep is a thinking sailor with sound basics and tactics and a never-say-die attitude. It was this that saw him run Rajesh close against all odds. Rajesh's strong point is his top class boat handling skills, especially in light wind.

Amit Arvind, the radial class winner.-Pic. K. V. SRINIVASAN

Both Rajesh and Sandeep had four wins each going into the final day's two races, but while Sandeep had four runner-up slots, Rajesh had only three as he had withdrawn from the opening race of the second day owing to gear failure (snapped toe-strap). But then, considering that a discard is granted after five races they were equal.

Rajesh pocketed the penultimate race even after having to re-round the starting mark as he had jumped the start. The 10th and final race, however, was the tiebreak decider, with the winner declared champion. Sandeep had the best start while Rajesh was slowed down by Selvam, who jumped the start and `tacked' on to him.

Sandeep was the first to complete the triangle and held the lead for a long time. Rajesh steadied himself to the ordeal before him, setting out full of calm, quiet courage and was hot on his rival's heels. A while later, the wind speed picked up enough for Rajesh to power his way past Sandeep.

It was Sandeep's second runner-up spot in the full rig here. In 1999, he had finished second behind Lt. Mahesh.

It was Rajesh's maiden Coastal title in this class. His previous best was bronze in the '99 edition. In 1997, however, he won the radial class gold here.The 14-year-old Rohit sailed out of his skin in the radial event. A force in the Optimists until last year, Rohit got off to good starts regularly in what was his first Nationals with the `big boys.'

The final placings:

Full rig: 1. Rajesh Choudhary (AYN, Mumbai, 10 penalty points), 2. Sandeep Srikanth (RMYC, 12), 3. N.S. Johal (AYN, 28), 4. D.P. Selvam (AYN, 29), 5. V. Harihara (AYN, 32).

Radial: 1. Amit Arvind (NSC, Mumbai, eight penalty points), 2. Rohit Ashok (RMYC, 16), 3. P.P. Madhu (AYN, 22), 4. Capt. Meenu Dahiya (CESC, Pune, 39), 5. Harish Haridas (TNSA, 41).