Edgy competition, interaction with champions and friends from across the border made IIR 2010 an unforgettable experience.

As Chennai played host to the second edition of India International Regatta (IIR), the week turned out to be a whirlwind of memorable events. This year had an international flavour with over 100 sailors from Singapore, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Iran, Slovenia, Myanmar, Seychelles and from India battling for the title.

There were two kinds of races: the Optimist and the 29ers. The optimist class of boats is for kids below 16 years. The 29ers (the class I was competing in) are much bigger and much faster; giving you a real thrill as they slice through the water at breakneck speeds. This category was introduced as a race class for the first time in India in last year's edition of IIR.

Thanks to my supportive parents especially my dad who is very passionate about the sport, I started sailing at the age of eight and entered the competitive arena at 11. Four years later at 15 now, with a few wins under my belt, I was quite adamant on winning this event.

Tough win

There was stiff competition from international and Indian competitors. It took every ounce of concentration and application of technique to stay in the race. In the end, it was a neck-to-neck fight between my team and the Aman Vyas–Sachin Singha combo.

But after four gruelling days and 11 races, we took the silver while Aman and Sachin claimed the well-deserved gold.

Though I was not too happy about the silver, I have to say that this regatta will always be close to my heart, thanks to the people I met.

On the first day of practice, the TNSA and YAI invited Lobke Berkhout to interact with the young sailors. This beautiful lady, for all you non-sailors out there, is the Julia Roberts of the sailing world. At 28 she clinched five world championships and took the silver at the Beijing Olympics. All of us in the room stood spell bound when we saw our idol in the flesh. We also met Indian Olympians Soli Contractor, (Berlin Olympics), Dr. Malav Shroff (Athens Olympics) and Maj. N. S. Johal (Beijing Olympics). Rajesh Choudary — the current national sailing champion, was also there. It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to have all these giants spend time with us, sharing tips on improving our skills and techniques.

The biggest downer in my opinion was that the event was completely sidelined because it coincided with the CWG.I just hope that one day this clean environmentally friendly sport will draw more interest and participation. Like they say “it's zero per cent pollution and 100 per cent competition.”

The Chennai experience

I was also keen to know what the sailors from other countries thought about the sailing facilities in the city and about Chennai and its people. All the sailors loved their experience in the city even though the wind and the waves were more than what they were used to. Almost everyone I asked told me that they loved the stay, the food and the people. Arunav Pal who represented Singapore thought the schedule of events was a bit too tight and said he would never forget the storm on the first day that cancelled most of the races. Ryan Dominique from Seychelles said his most memorable experience was getting disqualified twice. Maks Vrshai from Slovenia fell in love not just with the city and its sailing experience, but also with the people who according to him were ‘a lot of fun and loved to talk'.

I must thank my school, which has always been supportive of my sporting endeavours and encouraged me to reach my goals and aspirations.Sailing as a sport is almost ignored in India and I find this disheartening, especially when the country is surrounded by water on three sides. I hope that more people would join the sport so that we get a fighting chance to win more golds for India in the International events.

Varun is a student of Lady Andal School, Chennai.