Hi Jonathan! Tell us more about yourself!

I am an easy-going and approachable person who can hang out with almost anyone. My easy-going personality has allowed me to make friends easily. Over the years, I have built strong relationships with some of my peers who have become my close friends on whom I can count on in times of need.

I hope that I will be able to qualify for this year’s Asian Games as it will be a breakthrough for me if I succeed in doing so. Missing out on SEA Games 2017 by a hair was a setback and I am giving my all to reach my goal of participating in a major game. It is my dream to hold the Singapore flag high and with pride at a major game.

When and how did you start sailing?

My father signed me up for the SailSmart programme during the September holidays when I was in Primary 1. He firmly believed that sailing is a good sport and I had a few classmates who continued the journey of learning to sail together with me. At first, all was enjoyable until I started competing in regattas. Once things got competitive, I started to dislike the sport. I remember being scared of  the strong winds, big waves and even the seaweed and sand in my booties. I almost wanted to quit but quitting was not an option with my parents. I hung in there. After some time, with the support of my family and friends, I started to enjoy sailing. I’m thankful for the support of my family and friends over the years – thank you to all who’s been there for me all this time!

What were the best memories of your early regattas?

I started racing in Primary 3 after graduating from the OptiRacer course. During my early days of racing, I never took regattas seriously. In fact, I used the time at sea playing with my peers rather than focusing on getting good starts.

A vivid memory was of my first SAFYC regatta. A storm hit and I was not ready for it. I saw a coach’s boat that seemed to be heading my direction, so I unclipped my mainsheet from my boom. To my horror, that coach’s boat went to help another sailor. I tried to put my mainsheet back on but I could not. I started to drift away. I tried screaming my lungs out for help but no one came. The coaches were busy towing other sailors back to shore and wind was blowing ferociously at 15 knots. I drifted so much that I found myself close to the aircraft carriers. Furthermore, my sail tore. Right when I thought I was about to crash into the blue buoys that separated the ships and I, a coach came to my aid just in the nick of time. He took my towline and immediately towed me back to shore. I remembered telling my mum on shore that I thought I was going to die.

That incident changed me and I learnt to always remain alert out at sea to prevent another of such incident. After that, my sailing performance improved rapidly. From the Advance C squad, I advanced straight into the Advance A squad. Soon, I made it into the Development Squad and thereafter, the National Team.

How was your overseas training experience?

I have been to many countries over the last few years, both for training and competitions. These places include Netherlands, Lanzarote, Perth, Portugal, Langkawi and Pattaya. Travelling overseas is fun and enriching. Through these trips, I improved on my sailing skills, strategies, and tactics. I also learnt to be more independent and I made many new friends all over the world.

However, these trips also call for much sacrifices as I miss weeks of lessons and at times, tests. That means that I have to study and focus on my races at the same time while competing. My most memorable trip would be my first trip to the Dutch Youth Regatta. I was only in Primary 5 and going to such a faraway place made me very homesick. I would cry every night as I thought about home and I was not allowed to call home. I had to survive on my own. To make matters worse, my entire toolbox, that was filled with my equipment and tools, had to be discarded at the airport. It was my first trip and I was clueless about airport rules. I was thankful for my helpful teammates who helped me tide through that trip. With every overseas trip, I learn new things and I grow and mature, both as a sailor and a person.

How do you cope with school and competitive training?

Over the years, I have learnt to make use of the pockets of time that I have, to study and do my work. Each trip typically lasts 2-3 weeks. That means a lot of work missed, especially in school where lessons are fast-paced and weekly tests are a norm. I dread the return of every trip as I rush to catch up. I have returned from trips to take tests immediately.

Having said that, I’ve never regretted any trip or let them affect my studies negatively as I understand the need to prioritise my studies. I have very helpful and understanding teachers who will do their utmost to support me and help me catch up with my work. They will rejoice with me when I qualify for an overseas event and fork out time to sit with me for consultations after school hours. My helpful classmates will also help to collect homework I have missed and even help me take down notes in lessons. I also pay careful attention in class and at consultations, so that I can clarify doubts and catch up with my work. All this has become a routine for me in my sailing journey. It is imperative that no time is wasted, and I remain focused and give my best effort in whatever season I am in, whether it is in studies or in sailing.

How has intensive training affected your studies?

Intensive overseas trainings are not only time-consuming, but also exhausting. The minute I reach home, I will be tempted to use my handphone or sleep. But my parents’ constant reminders that I should only rest when my job is done spur me on to use my time wisely and study. I learn to balance and prioritise my tasks. When it is peak season for sailing, I know I have less time for studies. Thus, when it is off-peak season for sailing, I will increase my efforts for revision. When I know I have trips scheduled, I will inform my teachers early so they are aware and we try to schedule consultations. This is crucial as there are many subjects in Secondary School. Classmates will update me on our chat groups and my coaches will allow me some time to catch up on academic matters after every trip. All this have enabled me to achieve reasonably good results and receive praises from my teachers. I am very glad when I can do well in both my studies and my sailing.

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

To excel in both studies and sailing, many sacrifices must be made. I hardly have time for recreational activities. Most peers will be out with friends and family on weekends and holidays, but I spend mine training and competing in regattas. I spend weekends training and going to the gym. After that, I rush back for a quick dinner with my family and back home to continue with work. We do not even have time to go far for our dinners so that no time is wasted and I can get home quickly to complete my work. Though at times, I envy the lives of my friends, I tell myself my efforts will help me to succeed in whatever I set out to do and make me a better person. My passion for sailing outweighs all the sacrifices and I am thankful that my family is willing to go through this together with me.

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

Qualifying for the Asian Games will be a breakthrough for me! Missing out on SEA Games 2017 was a setback. But with renewed focus and determination, I am giving my all to reach my goal of participating in a major game. It will be such an honour to hold the Singapore flag high at a major event!

What has been the most challenging part about getting to the Asian Games?

The most challenging part is striking a balance between my studies and sailing. As I progress every year, the demands of school work intensify. This makes the task of excelling in both, even more challenging. Since I have only been sailing the Laser 4.7 for about half a year, I will need to put in extra effort to match up to my peers who have been sailing the laser 4.7 for a longer time. That means that I have to put in more effort for both in order to achieve the excellence I  desire. And this must be done within a short frame of time if I want to qualify for the Asian Games.

How has sailing help you to build resilience?

Being resilient is to be able to recover quickly from a difficult situation. This is crucial in sailing as it is a sport where anything can happen out at sea – unpredictable weather and other crazy conditions. Even when things do not go my way at the beginning, I can always try to get back on track in the race. Having resilience will determine my actions if I have a bad start. I have never chosen to give up on my races, despite the unfavourable circumstances that may be in my way. With resilience and a “never-say-die” attitude, I manage to get back in the race, sometimes even miraculously winning the races. This resilience that I have built up in sailing has also helped me through my daily life. For instance, after a tiring gym and training session, I press on to complete the tons of homework waiting for me at home.

How is Sailing is a mental game?

Sailing is not only a physically demanding sport, but works the mind a lot too. My parents, coaches, and even my primary school principal, taught me that having the right mentality in any situation is half the battle won. For example, upon arrival at an overseas competition, I always tell myself to think positive and be focused on my objective. That way, I already have an advantage over my competitors. Having a strong mentality will aid me in staying focused through my races and make me hungry to win. This gives me the determination to do my best and even recover quickly from setbacks. I can even hike longer when I’m determined to beat my opponents on water!

What is your biggest fear?

For every regatta, I set targets that I want to achieve. My biggest fear is not achieving satisfactory results in my races, especially for qualifiers that lead to major events. This fear sometimes causes me to be unusually quiet. At times, I may even need to take deep breaths to calm myself. The fear of getting reprimanded by my parents sometimes lead to extra pressure as well. When my dad reprimands me, it usually means I have made some fundamental mistakes on water. He is constantly reminding me to improve myself as a sailor. Inevitably, that leads to some fear when I am unable to perform at races.

What does success mean to you?

Success means that I am able to achieve my targets for the tasks I have set out to do. For example, if I have set out to have good starts for my training and I have fulfilled that task, I will have achieved success for that day. With each success that I achieve, I believe I that I grow stronger in the different areas in my life. I have taken setbacks and failures in my sailing journey pretty well over the years. This has taught me to be thankful for every small success I achieve and not to dwell on failures for too long. The failures will help me to improve and eventually become better at the sport.

What legacy do you want to leave? How do you want to be remembered?

I would like to be remembered by people as someone who is not just an excellent sailor, but also a person with a good heart. I believe values are of utmost importance in my life. Displaying good values in the way I live my life and treat others will bring me much further than attaining success. Showing respect towards competitors and team-mates, having integrity to sail within the rules and boundaries, and displaying tenacity and resilience to overcome obstacles, are more important to me than being a champion. I want to be a respected sailor who can hold his head high and if possible, I’d like to be an influencer in this sport that I love – sailing!