With the wind in your hair, starboard ho!
Kevin Kung (left) learns the difference between port and starboard, and how to raise a jib, thanks to Chan Yu-ting.
Photos: Nora Tam/SCMP
By Kevin Kung. Additional reporting by YP cadet Sophie Cheung
This summer, London is hosting the world's biggest sporting event. Sadly, the Games may not be shown on local TV - but, as always, Young Post is looking out for you. The team have been trying out Olympic sports, and we'll be sharing our experiences - good, bad and ugly. This week: Kevin Kung goes sailing
The sky was clear blue and the sun was bright on the morning I set out on my maiden voyage from Middle Island. My instructor was Chan Yu-ting, centre sailing instructor with the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club (RHKYC).
My boat was a Wayfarer, a model with a long history which is usually used to train beginners. Coach Chan prepared the boat by setting up the sail and the jib, then we had to check the bung, or plug, at the aft, or back of the boat, was closed to make sure the boat wouldn't sink.
According to the coach, there are five key factors affecting performance in sailing: sail setting; course made good (or choosing the best way to finish a course); balancing (right and left); trimming (fore and aft balance); and lastly, the use of the centreboard, a fin at the bottom of the boat that helps steer it.
Finally it was time to get onto the open water. At first, I acted as a crew member, watching what Coach Chan did, and later took over the duties as helmsman.
Determining the windward and the leeward side is another important skill in sailing. From time to time, I had to switch sides, moving from sitting on the port (left) or the starboard (right) side of the boat as the wind direction changed. I also needed to control the rudder at the same time. No daydreaming is allowed on a sailing boat, as you're fully occupied with different assignments at every moment.
Coach Chan was very patient and I tried my very best to take in all her advice and remember her instructions. She also helped to correct my posture, both to make me a better sailor and to ensure I'd look good in the photos and video footage.
The photographer and videographer were following my Wayfarer in a speedboat. This certainly added to the pressure, but deep down, it made me feel extremely cool. After all, how often in life do you get chased by a speedboat if you're not the sort of person who gets in trouble with the police?
As they say, time flies when you're having fun, and after a couple of hours, at around noon, we sailed back to the dock. This time we tried leeshore landing, which is when you put your main sail down and let the wind blow you back to shore. This isn't seen in sailing races, as it's much slower than sailing at full speed, but it's far safer for beginners.
It's always exciting to try something new, but learning to sail in such nice surroundings, with a professional backing you up, is especially awesome. It was extra rewarding to hear Coach Chan say that she was satisfied with my performance; she described me as a "sailor demonstrating sense in sailing in such a short time, willing to take challenges, being able to do what I say, and he has a strong waist."
Trying my hand at this challenging sport has given me a new respect - I salute all the participants in the RHKYC Interschool Sailing Festival that I met. Competing in the sea requires a combination of excellent physical fitness and mind games - never an easy task.
Some final tips: remember to wear sunscreen (don't forget the back of your neck!), and drink plenty of water to avoid heatstroke.
Hong Kong Sailing Federation
Tel: 2504 8159
HK Schools Sailing Association
Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club
Tel: 2239 0362
See what else we're doing this summer
- Rhythmic gymnastics