Undergraduate reveals how CCA kick-started sailing career

SINGAPORE - Gaining and losing weight is par for the course when Mr Justin Wong, 27, gears up for sailing competitions.

He and his crew of four had to lose weight to fulfil the 285kg weight limit for the Etchells Australian Championships in January. They came in third.

But for the 2006 Asian Games keelboat race, he and four Singapore teammates had to pile on the kilos, taking into consideration the strong wind that was forecasted. They clinched the gold.

Fortunately, there is no weight restriction in the Extreme Sailing Series - the Formula One of sailing - which debuted in Singapore this year. 

Mr Wong and fellow national sailor Scott Glen Sydney, 22, along with three British sailors, made up Team Aberdeen Singapore, which raced as the invitational team - which allows host nations to compete with some of the world's best sailors.

Mr Wong is pursuing an event, sport and recreation management degree at Edith Cowan University in Perth, Australia.

What do you do to keep fit?

I run between 5 and 8km four times a week in the school field, so I do not have to worry about avoiding traffic on the roads.

I also head to the gym thrice a week, focusing on working out the core stabilising muscles and improving my pulling power. I use fitness equipment such as the bosu ball, wobble board and Swiss ball to work on my balance.

I do gym exercises that include pull-ups, squats, single arm cable rows and deadlifts.

How did you get started on sailing?

The night before I was to choose my co-curricular activity at St Hilda's Secondary School, my parents told me to join the Boys' Brigade.

I went to school the next day and saw members of the Boys' Brigade marching. They looked very sharp but I did not like the idea of regimentation.

My two good friends back then wanted to join sailing. The sailors at the booth were super friendly and I was sold.

Thanks to a great coach, I clinched top spots at local regattas. I was later invited to train with the national squad. While it was hard in the initial years to keep up with the guys, I eventually managed to do so.

After the 2006 Asian Games, I was introduced to a keelboat sailing team, Foxy Lady, which was made up of a few expatriates and Singaporeans. They introduced me to sailing on big boats and I have since been competing with this team in local and Asian regattas. Also, as of last December, I have been sailing with a full-Australian team called Black Betty Racing.

How do you tweak your training to meet the challenges of sailing?

When I was 15, I made my first transition from a relatively light boat known as the Topper to the International 420 Class Dinghy, which is 4.2m long.

I realised I lacked the strength to properly adjust the sails according to the wind direction, so I worked on that area during training.

In fact, I adapt my fitness programme to the type of boats I sail. For example, during the 2006 Asian Games, when we used bottom-heavy keelboats, I went to the gym a lot to work on being powerful and agile.

For the 2010 Asian Games, when we used Hobie 16 catamaran, my role on the boat required me to have a lot of pulling power. That was when I just practised pulling weights in the gym.

Has there been a time when you were not fit and fabulous?

I was an active child. I ran around at the playground and played on the monkey bars.

I spent many afternoons at the playground or on my all-time favourite activity, catching. So I was never overweight or unfit.

What is your diet like?

I do not count my calories, but I do deliberately stay away from fast food, which is super unhealthy.

In the mornings, I have muesli or yogurt, followed by a chicken or beef sandwich or wrap in the afternoons and pasta in the evenings.

What are your indulgences?

The occasional beer. I generally try to stay away from ice cream and chocolates. That being said, I do eat Easter bunny chocolates.

How do you relax and maintain a healthy work-life balance?

I go sailing. Sailing is enjoyable whether or not I am preparing for a competition. Being out on the water feels great and sailing is always fun if you have someone to talk to.

Besides sailing, I enjoy the company of good friends and eating cheese and crackers.

What are the three most important things in your life?

In order of priority: My family, studies and sailing.

When I was younger, there were many instances when I prioritised sailing over my studies, such as going sailing a week before the exams or missing half a semester in polytechnic to sail overseas.

I guess there comes a time when you wake up and realise that school is important as well. Furthermore, I know how much it costs my parents to send me to study overseas now.

What is your secret to looking fabulous?

LOL (text messaging acronym for laugh out loud). You obviously have not met me.

Would you go for plastic surgery?

Absolutely not. I am happy with the way God has made me.

Do you think you are sexy?

I am the kind of guy who gets in the gym, exercises and then gets out. I do not stare at the mirror to admire myself.

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