Sri Lankan team to sail in IODA Championships

Friday, 27 September 2019 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}


A team of 10 young sailors has qualified to represent Sri Lanka at the International Optimist Dinghy Association (IODA) Championships for Asia and Oceania. 

The event will be held off the coast of Mussanah, Oman during the first week of October. 

“This event is the top-ranked event on the sailing calendar for our junior sailors, and we are delighted that we are able to field a full team this year,” says Yachting Association of Sri Lanka (YASL) Sailing Convener Asanka Goonewardene. 

“Participating in this event is a great opportunity for our young sailors to compete alongside the best in the world, and the experience they gain and bring back with them is invaluable for the development of the sport at the school and national level.”

The Sri Lankan team for IODA 2019 comprises children from S. Thomas’ College, Mount Lavinia, Ladies’ College and Royal College. The competitors are Shashenka Fernando, Enalka de Silva and brothers Dhanika, Nikhil and Tharen Nanayakkara (S. Thomas’), Tarini de Silva, Lara Gunawardana and Taalya Tranchell (Ladies’ College), Udan Marapperuma and Manthisa Gunasekara (Royal College). 

The team was selected after trials conducted in June this year by the Yachting Association of Sri Lanka and approved by both the Ministry of Sports and the Ministry of Education. Since then, the team has been training hard under experienced national coach Krishan Janaka, with the support of Sri Lanka’s Olympian sailor Lalin Jirasinghe and the assistance of YASL and the Sri Lanka Navy. The team manager is Jayantha Gunasekara, who is also the Teacher-in-Charge of Royal College Sailing. 

The Ceylon Motor Yacht Club has also been magnanimous in its support and encouragement for youth sailing over the course of many years, and has generously provided its premises and facilities on the Bolgoda Lake for schoolchildren to train. This team has benefited greatly from the support of the CMYC.

This year the team has also been extremely fortunate to garner the support of TASS, who came forward to provide physical training for the team as a sponsorship package. TASS specialises in developing tailor-made physical training programs to improve strength and conditioning for individual sports. 

Sports Scientist Thanura Abeywardena and his team have come on board to help the young sailors to achieve the level of fitness they need to compete at the international level, focusing on strength, conditioning and injury prevention.  The structured physical training program has been invaluable to the young athletes and the generous support of TASS is greatly appreciated by both the team and YASL. Even in the short space of time that TASS had to work with the athletes, Coach Janaka says there is a noticeable improvement in their on-the-water performance.  Sailing is a complex and exceptionally challenging sport that not only requires technical skill, strength, agility and endurance but also the ability to read the wind, tides and currents and use these forces to the competitor’s best advantage, constantly evaluating the options and changing course to get around the course in the quickest possible time. 

For young sailors participating in offshore racing, it also takes the courage to be able to take on and harness the elements on the open sea. 

There is of course a great deal of fun and fellowship in the sport and the sport provides wonderful opportunities for building confidence, working together as a team and having fun on and off the water. International Optimist Sailing is a great adventure for the children, giving them a chance to meet fellow sailors from all over the world and build lasting friendships. 

Girls and boys compete together and while there have been several female world champions, there are still far fewer girls than boys who sail competitively at the national and international level and there is a push by both the international body and the Yachting Association of Sri Lanka to encourage more girls to take on this challenging but immensely rewarding, exhilarating and fun sport. 

The Optimist class is a single-handed sailing dinghy developed for children up to the age of 15. Worldwide, it is an enormously popular class of boat in which children learn to sail, develop boat handling competency and hone their racing skills. The Optimist is sailed by over 170,000 young people in over 90 countries, by far the biggest junior fleet of racing dinghies worldwide.

IODA is the world body for Optimist class sailing dinghies. The association holds world championships as well as regional championships each year. This year the prestigious IODA Asian and Oceanian Championships has attracted the national teams of 22 countries, including Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Thailand, Japan, China, India and Malaysia. The standard of this competition is considered so high that top sailors from North and South America, Europe and Africa will also travel to Oman to participate in the racing and pace themselves against their Asian and Oceanian counterparts, bringing the total number of competitors to 148.

The Yachting Association of Sri Lanka won its bid to host the premier event in 2020. The event will be held in Trincomalee from 6-13 June 2020.