Having won the open, girls and team events at last year's International Optimist Dinghy Association (IODA) Asian Optimist Championships, the next challenge is for Singapore to step it up to the world stage, and they go to the Columbia with the aim to emerge in the top five placing.
The South American Championships is a good training ground for the sailors to prepare for December's Asian Games and the IODA World Championships in Uruguay in December. The best performance displayed by a Singaporean at the IODA World Championships so far was Wee Chin TEO's fifth placing in 2001. TEO went on to win Singapore's first gold medal at the Volvo Youth Sailing ISAF World Championship in the 420 last year.
Andrew SANDERS, Executive Director of SingaporeSailing, says of the South American competition, 'There are extensive records of top Optimist sailors who have gone on to be the world's best sailors at the Olympic level. South American countries have traditionally been strong in the Optimist class, producing many World Champions. Our sailors are now at a level where we can match it with the world's best. With this trip, we are continuing our preparation for the Asian Games and for the World Championships later in the year in Uruguay. SingaporeSailing's intention is to further develop our Optimist programme so we are consistently among the world's best.'
Sean LEE, Rachel LEE, Griselda KHNG and Timothy SEET, 15, who were members of the victorious Asian Optimist team in 2005, fresh from their recent successes at the Asian Sailing Championships had barely a week to rest before they departed for their next competition. Younger sailors Rachel LEE, Russell KAN and Ko Chuan YANG, are being trained as the next batch of Optimist sailors to succeed the 15 year olds (the age limit for the Optimist class is under 16). Says Sean LEE, Asian Sailing Championship gold medallist, 'I'm really excited to go to such a high level competition, and I hope to do well enough to be placed among the top five sailors.'
The seven sailors will be accompanied by Team Manager Jefri ISMAIL, Optimist Sailing Coach for SingaporeSailing's High Participation Programme, and Coach Fernando ALEGRE, Optimist World Championship runner up coach in 2005.
The annual IODA South American Championships is taking place from 6-16 April in Cartagena de Indias, Colombia. This event is one of the five continental championships has attracted over 190 competitors. Besides a mostly South American dominated competition, the other countries taking part are Switzerland, Germany, USA, Malaysia and Singapore (the only two Asian nations). Prizes will be awarded to the open, girls, junior, a and nations categories.