Varun Thakkar and K.C. Ganapathy have been doing well for quite some time at the National level, and their bronze medal in the 29er class of the Asian championships recently in Malaysia proves that they belong to the elite category of young sailors.
Effortlessly holding on to the strings of the boat in mid sea and making adjustments according to the shifting wind conditions and menacing waves is a task, certainly, not for the faint-hearted. Varun Thakkar and K.C. Ganapathy, 17 and 16 years of age respectively, have been doing it as a matter of routine with much success especially in the last three to four years.
First of sorts
The two teenagers became the first sailors in India to win a youth medal in an International event—the 15 Asian sailing championships in Langkawi, Malaysia, recently. The duo from Chennai clinched the bronze medal in the 29er class that requires sailors to undertstand each other's strengths and weaknesses. “The conditions were challenging,” says Varun. “The winds were light and the tides strong. We had to keep our mind focused and not get carried away,” says Varun. With Ganapathy at the helm (driver) and Varun being the crew, the two did well in all the 12 races managing to stay with all the top sailors. “I would not like to point out any one race. Every race was different and good with few mistakes,” says Varun.
Ganapathy says the choppy waters and the wind conditions that varied between four and eight knots added to the humid conditions in Malaysia made sailing difficult. “The area surrounding was hilly. The winds bounced off the valley and we had to make changes suitably,” says Ganapathy. Once they landed in Malaysia, the boats hadn't arrived. So, for the first eight days in Langkawi, the Indian sailors didn't get the boats. Not to be bogged down by the administrative problems, the two youngsters did course mapping, performed physical exercises and ensured that they were in peak form, physically and mentally. “It was tough for us, but we didn't waste our time,” says Ganapathy.
The 29er class boats are unstable by design, making it difficult for the sailors to understand and master it. “It requires a lot of hard-work and team effort. Without co-ordination, support and balance, it would not be easy,” he says.
The two have taken part together earlier in two events—the World Youth 29er championship in Croatia in July last year and the India International Regatta in October 2011. Having participated in two Internatioanl events, the chemistry between them was at a high level. Add to that, they trained hard for the last eight months solely for the Asian championships. “It's not just the eight months. We have been sailing since we were kids—I started when I was 10 years and Ganapathy (11). We are very good friends first,” says Varun.
Varun and Ganapathy thanked Yachting Association of India, Sports Authority of India, Tamil Nadu Sailing Association, Ministry of Youth and Sports Development without whose support, they couldn't have won a medal. “A special thanks to Jet Airways and Hamish Ved (pilot and part-time sailor and Pete Conway, Indian team coach for helping us achieve our dreams,” says the pair. Their ambition is to take part in the 2020, if not the 2016 Olympics and the World championships, and win a medal in at least one of them. At the moment, they appear to be on the right track.