Letters to the Editor
SAILING THROUGH MEDICAL SCHOOL
I was a scrawny twelve-year-old when my father first brought me to Changi to romp along the beach while he went sailing. A beginnerís course for kids soon came up, and he signed me up for it, deciding that the sport would be beneficial in moulding my character. At that age, I was only interested in having fun racing against my friends and against kids from other clubs. Never did I contemplate what I could derive from the sport or how much training and sacrifice it would take to get anywhere.
Graduating from the little bath-tub shaped Optimist (single-handed dinghy for under 15ís), I moved on to racing against the big boys in the Lark, Fireball, 470, and finally the Laser. I found mixing sailing and studying manageable (I say this only in retrospect) because school timetables were flexible from junior college onwards. Hwa Chong Junior College was extremely supportive, allowing me to skip PE lessons and doing the bulk of the administrative work for me. ln NUS, it was even easier as lecturces and tutorials ended early on certain days, giving me the chance to train during the week in addition to the weekend sessions. Spare time in between lectures was an opportunity to work out in the campus gymnasium. School holidays was the time to read up on sail and hull aerodynamics, boat rigging and tuning, weather systems, wind strategy, racing tactics, racing rules, and lots more.
During term, I did most of my studying at night, after the evening training sessions. As it was hard to stay awake and study after training, I forced myself to join my friends along the dim corridors of the Medical Faculty after library hours to get some work done. My clinical group helped by photocopying lecture and tutorial notes for me when I missed lessons.
When my undergraduate days ended, opportunities to work on my sailing were harder to come by _ no more long school holidays, no more early days, no more between-lecture breaks. Housemanship was taxing on my reticular activating system _ there were post-call aftenoons when I momentarily dozed off on the wheel while making my way to the beach, and when I got there, I couldnít help taking a five-minute nap before lugging myself and my gear out of the car. Like others, I was glad when housemanship was over. As a medical officer, my quality of life, as well as my sailing, improved.
Competition in any of the 7 Olympic classes (of which the Laser is one) is naturally keener than in the rest, making it crucial to train effectively rather than simply spending time on the water. I found that Medicine helped me in that respect - firstly by inculcating in me a systematic approach which is essential in maximizing the limited training time and also in making tactical analyses and decisions on the water; and secondly by giving me a sound knowledge of Anatomy and Physiology to help me with the physical aspects of training and nutrition.
Sailing provided me with both mental and physical challenges. My pursuits in the sport spanned seventeen years and it gave me not only experiences to treasure, but also opportunities to discover and push myself. I translate the lessons learnt into everyday life, and these are the lessons that I will carry with me through to the subsequent stages of my life.