Sailing: India's all-woman team braces up for World Championships

The team will take part in the J-80 category of the tourney in Spain in July 2019.

Ready for battle: The five-member Indian team for the World Championship. Photo: Special Arrangement

For 29-year-old Alekhya Maharaju of Hyderabad, Mary Kom, the six-time world boxing champion, is an inspiration.

It is a remarkable story of grit and determination for this woman sailor from the city as she is back in the waters after an eight-year break, one that had to be taken because of business and family commitments — now she is blessed with a three-year-old baby. Maharaju is now one of the five-member Indian all-woman sailing team that will take part in the J/80 category of the World Championships in Spain in July 2019.

The other members of the team are Dr. Rohini Rau, Aishwarya Nedunchezhiyan, Tulsi Movva and A. Tejashree and all are from Chennai.

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Determined

“This will be the first time India will be represented by an all-woman team at the worlds,” says Alekhya, who like her other teammates — Asiad medallist Aishwarya — has won national and international medals at one time or the other.

“Like the legendary Mary Kom in boxing, we want to prove that we can win laurels at the highest level despite facing all odds,” she says with a big smile.

Alekhya Maharaju (in picture): “We want to prove that we can win laurels at the highest level despite facing all odds.” Photo: Special Arrangement

 

“We have a strong chance at the worlds in challenging conditions of the Cantabrian Sea,” says the spirited sailor of the Indian team, which will be competing and training over the next few weeks in Chennai — the hub of J/80 class sailing in India — before going to Spain.

“The J/80 is a one-design class boat and is crewed by three-five members up to a weight of 350kg, 8m in length and has three sails (a main sail, a jib sail and an asymmetric gennaker),” explains Alekhya.

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'Not short on confidence'

“This category doesn’t require the nod of the Yachting Association of India and the team is formed based on the performance of different all-woman combinations tried out in Chennai recently,” she says. “Unfortunately, in 2009, we missed the chance of representing at the World Championships in the J/24 category then as we didn’t get the desired support,” she recalls.

“Definitely, this time around we are not short on confidence and determination, though it will be a struggle to raise funds to make the trip. We are desperately hoping for some kind of sponsorship for the entire team which I believe has a very good chance of winning a medal,” concluded Alekhya.