Hi Daniel! Can you share with me about when and how you started sailing?

I started sailing as a CCA in primary school, when I was 8. The school was organising a beginners’ sailing course for us to try out, and I was fascinated by the idea that I could go out on the sea in a tiny boat and direct the boat to wherever I wanted it to go. Feeling that it was an exciting activity, I asked my parents to let me try it and they were supportive of the idea. I was hooked after the first day and have been sailing ever since.

What were your early regattas like?

To be completely honest, I don’t really remember much of my early regatta experiences since it was about 8 years ago. I do remember being a very puny sailor who struggled to handle the boat. At 8 years old, I was only 25 kg and was as skinny as a stick. I have memories of having difficulty pulling my boat up and down the slopes, because the tyres of the trolley would often sink into the wet sand. I would be pulling and pulling with all my might and the boat would not budge. I remember being so exhausted while sailing because my small form was not enough to flatten the boat, even when i was hiking out as hard as I could.

I also recall being unable to round the mark when there were strong currents. At that age, I simply could not comprehend why my boat was moving, but it seemed to be moving further and further away from the mark as I did tacks in vain. However, the strongest emotion I can recall, even in all these trying moments, is the determination and joy when I succeeded.

How was your overseas training?

I have sailed in Bodrum, Helsinki, Perth, Lanzarote, Netherlands, Dublin, Oman, Antigua, Doha, Sri Lanka, Vilamoura, Karatsu, Langkawi, Monaco, Thessaloniki, China, Okinawa, Palma de Mallorca. The most memorable place that I have sailed in was English Harbour, Antigua, where I competed in the 2015 Optimist North American Championships. The conditions there were spectacular! Warm, sunny, big waves, strong winds, and magnificent scenery – the best conditions any sailor could ask for! We were sailing in the middle of 2 cliffs, and at times, we would sail as close to 50m from the cliffs during the race. Antigua, as a country itself, is also amazing. The people there were very friendly and hospitable, and the culture was also very diverse. The journey there was also an adventure itself. We took a whopping 48 hours to reach our destination!

To train overseas is a real privilege. We get to venture out of our comfort zone, being away from home, and pushed to our limits when we are overseas. We are also able to interact with sailors from all around the world and make new friends. We get to learn all about culture, history and way of life not from a school textbook, but first-hand. It is truly an experience to cherish and be grateful for.

How do you cope with school and competitive training?

Ever since I started sailing competitively, I would often take time off school to travel overseas to take part in various competitions and training camps to gain experience. On average, I would skip 30 – 40 days of school a year. It is not easy to juggle both studies and competitive sailing. As I have had hectic schedules since I was young, I have been trained to make use of any spare time I have to catch up with school work. I strongly believe that time is money and I make sure that I make full use of the 24 hours I get every day. As such, I would like to think that I am quite disciplined and I prioritise the things I need to get done, and stick to a schedule.

However, I could not have been able to further enrich my sailing experience through overseas training without the support of my school, Raffles Institution, and my family. My teachers are endlessly supportive and always seem to be able to make time for me to go through concepts, and my friends who are my pillars of support whenever I am going through a tough training period or just need somebody to talk to. My parents are my number one fans who are always encouraging and supportive of me.

How has intensive/overseas training affected your studies?

I have been training intensively since I was 11 in the Optimist National Training Squad. As such, juggling academics and sports has become a habit now; almost like something that has been ingrained into my memory. Doing so is no mean feat, as I have much less time to study compared to an ordinary student. I try to give full attention to my teachers in class, and absorb as much knowledge and content as I can so that I am able to cut down on the amount of time spent at home studying.

As the years passed, I have definitely seen a slight slip in my academic performance but I believe there is nothing hard work cannot achieve. 

How do you use your weekends to train or catch up with school work?

For an ordinary student, weekends and school holidays are the only time where they can catch up on school work and make time for family and friends. For me, it is the complete opposite. I often joke with my classmates that my holidays are the most packed, because I will usually have a local competition or I will be travelling overseas for competitions or trainings.

Because of this, I have had to make many sacrifices socially. I have missed countless birthday parties, numerous school events, and even family commitments have to be overlooked at times. Whenever I have to cancel with my friends, I feel a small sense of loss, but I remind myself of the reason why I train so hard and make these worthwhile sacrifices. I am aware that I miss out on so many things a teenager should do, but I am willing to make these sacrifices for my sailing journey.

What does it it mean to qualify for the Asian Games?

It has been a dream of mine since I was young to represent Singapore in a major event, and don the Singapore flag around my shoulders. Thus, it would be a dream come true to qualify for the Asian Games.

How is sailing is a mental game?

I have always believed in the saying, ‘mind over body’. As much as your body wants to quit, it is ultimately up to your mind to push you on and keep going. Furthermore, regattas are often carried out over a few days with many races. Even though you might do badly in a race, the regatta is still not over. It is crucial to pick yourself up immediately and focus on the next race.

What does success mean to you?

Success to me means outdoing yourself and achieving what you might think is impossible.

What is one change you want to see in this world?

I want to see people learn how to support each other, instead of putting each other down. People are so quick to hate, so quick to compare, so quick to retort. There should be more affection and care, more interdependence, and more consideration. That is how we should be moving forward together.


Read more about Daniel

Sailing duo showing maturity beyond their years – TODAY, 10 Aug 2017