Sailing: No more sinking feeling

Sailing: No more sinking feeling
It was not smooth sailing initially for Bernie Chin who feared being attacked by a shark, stung by jellyfish or stranded out at sea all alone.

IT WAS 4pm on a scorching Tuesday and Singapore sailor Bernie Chin, 15, was aboard his dinghy, practising drills he could do with his eyes closed.

Coach Tracey Tan, looking on from her safety boat, sensed his boredom so she decided to challenge her prodigy.

"720, on two whistle blows," she yelled out, meaning his task was to turn his craft 720 degrees.

It seemed like a routine drill - until a wave crashed in and the dinghy almost capsized.

But Bernie clung on and turned to grin at his coach, as if to say: "Is that all you've got?"

Dealing with adversity is almost second nature to the Raffles Institution student, who missed almost 100 days of class last year owing to national team commitments.

To understand Bernie the "tiger", as Tan calls him, one needs to look beyond the affable, smiling and easy-going teenager, and go back to the beginning.

When he started sailing as a curious nine-year-old, he often lagged behind the fleet.

Said the avid cyclist: "I was very bad and many times I dropped way behind the group."

And when a storm was looming and winds would hammer his sail, Bernie would scream in fear.

He was afraid of being stranded at sea, worried that his boat would go belly-up without anyone noticing, and fearful the boom would suddenly swing and knock him out.

He dreaded getting stung by jellyfish or prickly catfish and, above all, being bitten by a shark.

The struggles continued even after he became a national sailor at 11.

At last year's Byte CII World Championships, he was the leader in one race and the finishing line was in sight.

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