The Monsoon Regatta provides a platform for young budding sailors to showcase their talent, reports Sohini Chakravorty

White sails dotthe waters of the Hussain Sagar Lake with their sailors on board preparing for the race, Tucked away at one end of the Necklace Road, the jetty at the Yacht Club of Hyderabad, Sanjivaiah Park was bustling with activity as everyone gets ready for this year's Monsoon Regatta. Amidst professional sailors are a small group of young sailors busy preparing to launch their boats on the lake.

Aged between eight and 14, these band of young sailors under the Optimist class, skilfully man their boat and deftly handle the sail. This year the Monsoon Regatta has over 70 participants in the Optimist and Junior class championships, with contenders flocking from all parts of the country. Apart from match racing, the event also includes a family regatta, where the two or three family members can participate in the race in their sailboats.

Talking about popularising the sport and attracting young talent, International champion and Umpire for the event Pushpendra Garg believes the number of young talented participants is increasing. He says, “It is an expensive sport; moreover it is not a spectator sport like cricket and it is not easy to understand. But with more clubs sponsoring fleet, training for it has become easy and more children are showing interest in the sport.”

Making sailing more accessible, the Yacht Club Hyderabad hasintroduced training for children. “We are providing the entire infrastructure and have waived off all fees. We are connected to government schools where training can be provided to unprivileged children. Currently, we have 10 children from government schools, four of whom have participated in competitions at the national level,” explains Suheim Sheikh, Founder President of the Yacht Club.

After learning swimming for two months, 13-year-old Nikhil and Raghavendra who attend a government school in the city began sailing in the waters of Hussain Sagar Lake. Today, they are confident of manoeuvring the single handler boats and want to become champions in sailing. “After school, we come to the club and practice for two hours everyday,” explains Raghavendra. When asked about their chances of winning the championship at the Regatta, Nikhil quickly pipes in, “My older brother Praveen is the best. He has participated in more national level championships.”

Most of these young sailors want to take it to the professional level. “It feels good to be on the waters. It is a nice and easy sport, gives us immense pleasure and there is less competition,” feels 11 year-old Moulshree. Overcoming their initial fear, these students can deftly steer their boats. “Initially, I was scared of taking the boat all by myself but after our capsize drill where we are taught what to do if and when the boat topples over, I became more confident,” explains 12-year-old Manjushree who is participating in the event for the first time.

While sailing clubs play an integral role in providing the training and infrastructure, it is the corporate sponsors that provide the much desired leverage to the sport. Commander Atool Sinha, Silver medallist at the 2010 Asian Game, says that most of the resources come from the Indian Navy and that corporate sponsors can go a long way in promoting the sport. “With proper funding, the sailors can be trained abroad to get international exposure. Various corporate companies should adopt various teams,” he explains.

With their boats ready and a favourable weather beckoning, nothing can stop these young sailors from displaying their skills.

Sailing schedule

The championship will consist of the following events:

* Third Monsoon Regatta Optimist Championship from July 8 to10.

* Monsoon Regatta Junior Class Championship from July 8 to10.

* Third Monsoon Regatta Match Racing Championships which started on July 5 will go on till 10.

* First Monsoon Regatta Family Championship from July 8 to 10.

* Cricket commentator Harsha Bhogle will also conduct an Inter School quiz competition on environmental issues and sailing on July 8 at the Yacht club.