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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.
 
 
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. 

 
DR BENEDICT TAN, EX-LASER SAILOR

 
THE SPORT OF SAILING - IN A NUTSHELL

Sailors and their crafts have been around for ages, harnessing the wind for transport, pleasure, and sport. The cross-section of a sail is shaped like a aerofoil, and when air flows pass it, lift is generated. It is the forward component of this lift that propels the boat. An endless variety of crafts have evolved, but they can be grouped into tri-marans (three hulls), catamarans (2 hulls) and monohulls (one hull). 

Monohulls can either have a keel, in which case it is called a keelboat; or it can do without a keel and is termed a dinghy. The keel is a flat, heavy blade that extends down from the Iength of the hull and it serves to balance the sideways component of the lift, which has a tendency to cause the boat to heel towards its side. Dinghy sailors, which donít have the benefit of keels, counter the heeling forces by leaning out or hiking out on the side opposite the sail, using their own weight as Ieverage. This is where lean mass (the ideal weight for the Laser is 78 kg) as well as sustained strength from the quadriceps and abdominals are crucial. Just as each category of cars (eg. 4-wheel drives, sedans, etc.) comprises different makes (eg. Honda, Mitsubishi, etc.), each category of boats (eg. Catamarans, monohulls, etc.) comprises many makes or classes. The Laser class, Optimist class, and Contender class are just some examples of single-handed monohulls. Of the countless classes available, only 7 are raced in the Olympics. 

In a race, you can have as many as 200 boats starting together, jostling with one another for a good spot on the starting line. The course is either triangular or trapezoid in shape, and it has a specific orientation to the wind with the first leg going upwind. There will also be a reaching leg (wind coming from the side of the boat) and a running leg (wind coming from directly behind) such that skills on all points of sail are tested. It usually takes between 60 to 90 minutes to complete a race and anything from 6 to 14 races constitute thc regatta. The winning boat is the one who crosses the finishing line first, after having made the best use of the elements with respect to the other boats. 

Sailing as a sport has spread far and wide. Iíve met sailors from countries as cold as Finland to countries as hot as Djibouti, from countries as expansive as the US to countries as small as San Marino. There were 56 countries participating in the Laser class alone at the recent Olympics. 

 
 
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