Thai lass Noppakao Poonpat showed her prowess on the seas when she steered her way to the overall individual title of the IODA Asian sailing championships at Kuah Harbour in Langkawi on Saturday.
The runaway leader from the opening day on Monday, Noppakao lay claim to the title of undisputed queen of sailing. Noppakao, 14, who hails from Chonburi, also helped Thailand to the team title on Wednesday.
The three-time world Optimist girls' individual champion amassed 34 points (best 10 out of 12 races), fending off a strong challenge from Spain's Carlos Robles, who held on to his number two spot from Thursday with 45 points.
Muhammad Farhan Hamid did the host country proud when he came in third (52 points).
The pint-sized Carlos, the only representative from Spain, said he could have toppled Poonpat from top spot in the final race, which was off course sailing, but was unable to exploit the chance.
Carlos, with limited assistance from French coach Gael le Mauguen, was placed 47th on Monday, but found his rhythm to rocket to 17th spot the next day before securing second position on Thursday, and maintaining it at the end of the seven races.
The Barcelona lad has also made an impression here with his eloquence and precociousness. Introduced to sailing by his father, Dani, at the age of six, Carlos is now training under countryman Toni Rivas back home.
Carlos was placed in the top 10 at the last World Championships.
He hopes to return to Langkawi next year for a one-week training stint for the world meet. Both he and his 11-year-old sister, Flavia, train in Garras, 20km from Barcelona, while Dani, aged 43, still sails but on a bigger boat.
Looking Ahead To 2010
The smooth running of the Optimist Asians augurs well for next year's IODA World Optimist Championship, also to be held at the same venue.
Haji Lukman Haji Abu Bakar, deputy president of Malaysia Yachting Association, the Asian meet's organiser, said there were some minor flaws that needed to be ironed out, ensuring next year's World Championships will be free of hitches.
Lukman was speaking at the closing ceremony of the Asian meet at the Royal Langkawi Yacht Club on Saturday.
"I am happy that everything was smooth sailing and I would like to thank the organising committee for that. We'll be conducting a post-mortem to see where we went wrong, and rectify the mistakes to prevent them from recurring," said Lukman, who also thanked MYA and the Langkawi Development Authority (LADA) for their support.
"The feedback from the competing teams has been positive, and we know that we need to improve some of the equipment while the number of boats will also be significantly increased next year.
"The MYA technical team has shown its expertise and capability of handling a meet of such a scale and will be up for the challenge at the coming world championships [held from 27 December 2010-7 January 2011]."
However, Lukman hoped the Tourism Ministry would rally to the MYA's call for assistance while the Ministry of Youth and Sports could have provided stronger support.
He was particularly grateful to Kentucky Fried Chicken as MYA's main sponsor, which has pumped in RM1.5 million annually over the last two years.
"Things have certainly improved in the MYA ever since KFC stepped in with their sponsorship. The money is disbursed equally to all the States, which have seen development moving at a rapid rate. There are now more sailors in every State with championships also getting more competitive.
"Every State are also organising their own regatta, which is a good sign, and the number of participants is also on the increase."
Lukman said to date, some 60 countries with 300 participants have confirmed their participation for next year.
At the last World Championships in Brazil in August, Malaysia finished overall champion in the world championships and next year, they are targeting both the individual and overall titles.
Meanwhile, Borhan Dolah, deputy secretary general of the Ministry of Youth and Sports, said sailing was the first sport in Malaysia to qualify for the Youth Olympic in Singapore in August 2010.
He added that with youth comprising 62 per cent of the national population of 27 million, the Government has focused on sporting excellence as the apex of youth development.