Sailing: Ryan Teo is latest Optimist winner

Ryan Teo.

For the past eight days, a sail numbered "SIN 111" has floated proudly off the shores of Hayama, Japan.

Perhaps it was a sign of things to come: After all, the sailor who helmed that boat - Singaporean schoolboy Ryan Teo - on Thursday became the Optimist champion of Asia.

The 14-year-old from Victoria School won four of nine races to beat 104 other sailors from 14 teams including the likes of Japan and South Korea, and also non-Asian nations like the United States and New Zealand, to claim the top spot.

Taking a break from setting off victory firecrackers after his win on Thursday, Ryan said: "I'm really happy and actually quite surprised with my win because there were many other good competitors here."

Indeed. He even outdid compatriot Loh Jia Yi, the defending champion and newly-crowned world champion.

Jia Yi, 15, finished fifth after 10th and 20th placings in Races 2 and 4 respectively put an end to his championship chances.

Pondering his latest success, Ryan, the European Championship winner, said the relatively light winds off the Hayama port of four to five knots during the early days of the competition might have helped him edge out the world champion.

He said: "It depends on the weather. In strong winds, Jia Yi is better. In the lighter winds here, I did better."

The boys' compatriot Bertha Han, the best-performing female at the World Championships, continued her good form by claiming second spot with 21 points - six points behind Ryan.

Edward Tan and Samuel Neo took third and fourth positions to complete a top-five all-Singaporean finish at the Kanagawa prefecture event.

The 12-member squad's latest results, including their one-two finish in the team event on Thursday, cemented their status as the dominant force in world Optimist sailing.

This follows their all-conquering form at the World Championships in Italy, where they swept all four titles on offer - individual, team, best female sailor and best performing nation.

Coach Fernando Alegre hopes that the latest results bode well for December's SEA Games, where three golds are up for grabs in the Optimist event.

He said: "We are on a good track, the sailors are well-prepared and are in a dominant position."

Picking Thailand - whose sailors were sixth and seventh - as Singapore's biggest threat at the Myanmar Games, the coach added: "We respect them. If our sailors get distracted for a single moment, Thailand will get you."

There was more good news for SingaporeSailing, as Bernie Chin and Samantha Yom both finished in the top five at the Byte CII World Championship in Rhode Island, United States.

Their results secured one male and one female slot in the event for next year's Youth Olympics.

ugenec@sph.com.sg


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