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Young sailors from Chennai (from left) Somaskandan, Asher Peter, Pranav, Jayalakshmi and Snikdha, get ready for the National Coastal Optimist Championship. —
KOCHI: As she waited for her turn to get into the backwaters, S. Jayalakshmi shouted out loud, “the sea looks rough.”
The 11-year-old from Chennai is making her debut in the Cochin Shipyard-National coastal optimist Championship which begins at Cherai on Friday.
She is a good athlete, her school's champion long jumper and runner, but sailing is her first love now. And after taking up the sport four months ago at the Marina Beach, she is ready for the first National Championship.
“I just took about two weeks to settle down in sailing,” said Jayalakshmi at the Cherai Beach on Wednesday.
Four others from Chennai — B. Snikdha, K.S. Simaskandan, Asher Peter and Pranav — will make their National Championship debut here.
The optimist is an entry-level event in sailing, open to children between seven and 16 years of age and there will be two National Championships in the optimist class — the Inland National which is normally held in lakes and the Coastal National which is run on the open sea.
Cherai hosted the Inland National couple of years and the Coastal Optimist is making its debut here.
The championship has attracted nearly 75 entries, which the organisers claim is a record for the event.
For children who are used to the inland waters like the Kochi youngsters who train at Panangad near here, sailing in the sea for the first time may throw up a lot of surprises.
“When they go into the sea for the first time, the rolling waves and unsteady boats shock them, some vomit too,” said Francis Mukkanikal, President, Ernakulam Sailing Association (ESA). “But they settle down by the third day.”
But the Chennai children enjoy a natural advantage. Back home, they have to sail for about 45 minutes to get into the open sea and then train there. They are used to heavier waves and stronger winds.
‘Like more wind'
“These kids like more wind,” said Joe Nejedly, a former World Championship sailor and the Chairman of the National Championship's Race Committee. “And with their experience, they begin as favourites here.”
Tamil Nadu will field an 18-member team in the five-day championship here and host Kerala will have an 11-member side.
“Most of our children are inexperienced,” said Nejedly, also the ESA Commodore. “They are still in the learning process, they will be watching the other sailors closely and picking up very important lessons.
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