Saturday, February 18, 2006

Elite sport no more (17/02/2006 - The Malay Mail)

Publication : MM
Date : 17/02/2006
Headline : Elite sport no more

SAILING is considered a luxury sport for the rich and famous.
But unlike most countries, where sailing is only confined to the elite
few, the sport is getting a lot of Government attention in Malaysia.
And Malaysian youths can consider themselves lucky that they can
experience the sport at a tender age.
This can offer interested parties an alternative base to kick-start a
career in the boating industry, en route to becoming top sailors and
Today's youths are becoming increasingly hemmed in by the pressures of
urban life, with sports often limited to those schools which can
accommodate them in shrinking grounds.
As such, sailing offers opportunities for them to enjoy a competitive
outdoor sport and indulge in a recreational activity that tests their
skills and agility.
And with an increasing number of yachts being based around Malaysia,
due to the country's progressive policies in promoting marine tourism,
yacht owners are constantly seeking to employ crew members.
Regattas are becoming popular in Malaysia and the Royal Langkawi
International Regatta (RLIR), which ended yesterday, is fast growing in
reputation, while the Raja Muda Regatta has been the sport's pioneer here.
While top-class yachts and sailors make their presence felt each year,
promoters have not forgotten their responsibility in developing the
sport, with the inclusion of youth categories which see a growing number
of local competitors.
And more foreign sailors are also joining forces with their local
counterparts, lending recognition to the latter's talent. This is a
healthy sign for the development of the sport, as locals gain first-hand
experience with world-class sailors.
The Royal Selangor Yacht Club, who have been serious about developing
the sport, are setting up a regular youth training programme in Port
Klang under the supervision of a senior coach from England, besides
regularly entering their young members for regattas in the region.
In the past, Malaysian sailing depended on the Royal Malaysian Navy
(RMN) to develop the sport.
But now with moree States taking up the sport seriously, it is only a
matter of time before Malaysians stamp their mark internationally.
Unlike the past, where it was the norm for children of RMN staff to
become national sailors, the scenario has changed where just about anyone
can take up the sport.
And with the RM7 million National Sailing Centre set to open in
Langkawi at the end of next month - the effort of the Malaysian Yachting
Association in collaboration with the National Sports Council - it is
without doubt the sport is being pushed to higher standards.
Clubs like Royal Langkawi Yacht Club (RLYC), Royal Selangor Yacht Club
and Port Dickson Yacht Club need to be commended for their efforts in
developing the sport, instead of just catering for the well-to-do.
RLYC Commodore Tunku Tan Sri Abdullah Tuanku Abdul Rahman must be
commended for his vision in initiating the Langkawi Regatta while also
offering modern and world-class facilities to ensure its smooth running.
The RLYC are a full-service yachting haven with the finery of a
prestigious club and all the pleasures of a resort.
The 205-berth marina can accommodate up to 60m mega-yachts, making it
Malaysia's premier marina.
Tunku Abdullah believes the Regatta will unearth young talent.
"It is my hope the RLIR will continue to be a magnet not only for
world-class sailors, but also young aspirants, of whom many may someday
be world-class sailors," said Tunku Abdullah.
And kudos to RLYC general manager, Wicky Sundram, and his team of
Shamala, Noddy, Valerie and Suhani, for going all out to promote the
event through the electronic and print media.
Wicky's team showered the medial personnel with so much pampering and
attention that it was embarrassing at times.
They arranged for boats to take the media out to sea for a close look
at the race. However, while everyone enjoyed it, it was sad some media
members abused the hospitality, making it a true embarrassment for their
But the bottomline was the seriousness by Wicky's team to do their best
in promoting the sport, in order to get the maximum publicity.
One must also not forget RLYC Rear Commodore Tunku Soraya Dakhlah, RLIR
organising chairperson, and her working committee as they too deserve
pats on the backs for their superb organisation.
Whatever notions I had that sailing was only for the rich, famous and
select few, have certainly been dispelled at the end of the regatta.
And I'm looking forward to the next edition!

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