By Natalia Mai (19S03F), Captain and Wong Riji (19S03G), Vice-Captain
Amidst the variegation and the complex popularity quotients of the numerous CCAs that make up our school, Sailing is always somewhere off the radar- hovering between the known and unknown. We occupy a presence among the population that only brings itself to noticeability annually when we announce our results after the Inter-Schools competition. Thus listed below is an all-you-need-to-know-about-raffles-sailing-101.
“Always don’t see you guys around one leh.” Compared to most CCAs, we train off the Eastern shores of our sunny island, with hardly any potential for spectatorship. Well, that certainly doesn’t deter us from heading down to brave the waters in the bolstering hot sun twice a week, along with another day of land training. We train on the water on Wednesday afternoons and Saturday mornings, and do physical training in school on Monday afternoons.
“Do you use oars when sailing?” This line generally encapsulates how much most people know about Sailing. By the way, no, we don’t. Sailing is a sport which requires a boat that is powered by wind only. No, we do not use engines. Yep, I knew you were thinking of that. What happens when there is no wind? We sit, and we wait.
“So if you don’t have engines, how do you control the boat? You have steering wheel ah” Again, no (we foresee this answer is going to be a recurrent theme). To control the boat, we use rope to change the angles of the sails on the boat, and adjust the rudder (google it!) to change the direction of the boat. Just to sail the boat in a straight line requires constant trimming of the different control settings in the boat, and the shifting of our body weight to build leverage against the sail.
“Ohh. So to race you just sail in a straight line from start line to finish line and see who fastest ah” Well, at least you got one part right. In racing, we do have a start line and a finish line- but we sail around a course demarcated by floating marks on the water. One is awarded points based on one’s finishing position, and at the end of a regatta (what we call a competition), lowest points wins.
I know what you are thinking now— “So actually much simpler than I thought la”. Well, yes and no.
To us sailors, Sailing is more complex than just sailing a boat around. It is an incredibly multi-faceted sport that requires physical fitness, sailing technique, tactical knowledge and racing experience. It’s dynamic in the way that it encompasses mental and physical rigour. It’s challenging to be always thinking and making decisions in relation to changing conditions of wind and current and the irritating actions of your competitors. Being able to pick yourself up after a bad start, mistaking the wind shift or just being unlucky with wind gusts- that takes psychological stamina, not to mention the cognitive ability required to accurately gauge inconsistent wind shifts. Now bring in the physical aspect, and you have sailors hiking with the burn of their legs or the mastery of a roll tack in action. Ask any sailor about sailing and I can guarantee you— from the look in their eyes, their explanation and their physical animation and gesticulation— you will be able to tell we love our sport.
To explain just how sailing works, we could go on for an entire day and we still couldn’t cover the bulk of it without going on water. Well, we’d like to think that makes us unique, in the way that our CCA has events to allow Rafflesians to experience what it’s like to be on the water. We had the Experience Sailing Program during January Induction and “Bring Your Own Friend to Sail! (BYOF)” day this year. The Experience Sailing Program allowed incoming Year 5s to try something out of the ordinary, giving them a one day crash course on the basics of maneuvering a Laser boat. Similarly, our BYOF day allowed our sailors to invite their friends to try sailing.
Our passion for our sport has also translated to us caring deeply about our training environment- the sea and nature. In 2018, the 2019 Batch organised an Awareness Week in school to raise awareness about the pressing issue about plastic pollution, and we also held a Beach Cleanup with participants from the student population to pick up trash along East Coast Park.
Sailing is generally considered an individual sport thus creating competitiveness within a team. However, our batch is one that is incredibly bonded by our passion for the sport as we consist of sailors from a diversity of backgrounds- single handed, double handed, skiff sailors and windsurfers alike. Our sailors have competed in national and international competitions, World Championships, as well as major games like the Southeast Asian Games and the Asian Games. We sail because we love racing and the feeling of the sun on our neck and the wind rushing through our hair. And when we are not- we will miss the salty breath of the ocean, the callouses that form on our hands by rope burns, the sunglasses tan mark around our eyes and the feeling of utter control and happiness out in the water with your boat- and more.
And if any one of you out there wants to know more, don’t be afraid— just ask. We’d love to tell you more!