|MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA-(12-1-2005) They are best mates off the water, skipper and crew on it, but when they return to Singapore next month, sailors Yuan Zhen Xu and Benjamin Tan will both be on the receiving end of orders.
The 19-year-olds have been given time off from national service to compete at Sail Melbourne, so they’re making every race of this week’s ISAF Grade 1 Olympic & Invited Classes Regatta conducted by Sandringham Yacht Club count.
‘We have been enjoying Melbourne, we’ve seen some cricket and we love that, but mainly we are training,’ said Benjamin.
‘This is only our third regatta sailing the 470 and it’s a big step up from the 420 for us, so every minute out on the water, every bit of racing experience, counts.’
Day one of the six-day regatta the pair posted a 12th and 8th in perfect 10 knot winds.
They are one quarter of an eight-strong team from Singapore, who have set up a training base in Melbourne so they can hone their skills out on Port Phillip Bay, in heavier winds than they would otherwise experience at home.
Since mid-November, the sailors (six men, two women) have been training five days on, one day off, under expatriate Australian sailor Mark Robinson.
Robinson, who last week finished fourth at the Moth World Championships, also sailed as part of Sail Melbourne on Port Phillip, has, in his role as Technical Manager, been coaching Singapore’s national squad since 2003 and says their potential is exciting.
‘We’ve set up a permanent base here in Melbourne so we’ll come and go in the lead up to the 2006 Beijing Olympics,’ Robinson said.
‘Like Beijing, we have light winds in Singapore, but they’ll need to get used to some heavier wind conditions for qualifying regattas in Europe if they want to get to the Games,’ he said.
Chairman of Sail Melbourne, Kevin Wood said today, ‘we are very pleased to have the Singapore team here. They are great competitors and have started their regatta well. They will get some good heavier weather training while they are here – quite different to what they would get in Singapore. It will help them become good all-round sailors.’
Early results indicate Robinson’s coaching has paid off . In the Mens 470 class, Roy Tay Junhao/Pei Ming Chung are currently second overall. Junhao is half way through national service, so does not sail full time.
Living Toh/Lee Ching Tok are second in the Womens 470 – Toh has been living in Melbourne since last year, studying bio medical science at Monash University. .