“They are the stars, not me,” says Dan Slater, deflecting the attention to his wards from the Army Yachting Node (AYN), Mumbai. “The story should be about these guys and the journey they’re embarking on,” feels the triple Olympian.
The Auckland native would seem the eternal optimist when discussing his boys from the nation’s premier sailing institution. “I raised the bar and they’ve risen well to the challenge,” he says. “Indian sailors are hard workers and have made rapid progress. I’m trying to refine their basics and make them more natural,” observed the 1994 International Sailing Federation (ISAF) World Youth Laser Standard champion.
“Indian sailors are very good with theory but lag behind in execution because they lack exposure to big fleets as in Europe and America. While we are thrilled with 20 sailors in a race here, there can be six times as many in the above regions,” explains the prestigious 2006 Kiel Week ISAF Grade I championships winner in the Finn class.
Slater, who’s been holding short camps at AYN in the 470, Hobiecat, Laser Standard and Radial classes since 2010, believes there’s been much improvement in his students as they endeavour for medals in the 2014 Asiad at Incheon, South Korea. “I was given a blank sheet and have charted a structured programme in tactical and physical training,” says Slater.
How do the Indians compare with their counterparts from across the continent? “Laser and 470 fleets in Asia are strong with the Koreans and Japanese pretty tough customers.
“They are shorter than our Indian yachtsmen, most of whom are over six feet tall, especially in the Laser full rig segment,” the Kiwi coach noted.
“Mumbai offers year long sailing with varied wind conditions, but much of our equipment, put to extensive use, would need a major overhaul soon,” says Slater of the pros and cons of the Indian campaign.
Looking into the future, he says it’s not a big deal to locate 11 good sailors for as many Olympic classes from a 1.2 billion population.
“What the Aussies were to world cricket in the 90s, India is in this decade,” feels Slater, who’s a good friend of Kiwi cricketer Dion Nash.
Slater’s enthusiasm slips when it comes to Hussain Sagar, venue of the upcoming Laser National championships from Thursday. “It’s a great venue, highly conducive to tactical racing. Its pollution is huge but its purification too small scale,” said the seasoned hand, who has mentored teams from Japan to Canada.