When did you start sailing?

I first started sailing at age 7 when my primary school offered the SailSmart programme.  Sailing was completely new to my family but I instantly liked it. When I turned 8, I took up sailing as a CCA in Tao Nan School. From there, it has only gotten more fun and I’ve never looked back.

What were the early regattas like?

My best memories of my first few regattas are of the constant support that my parents showed me.

Back then, it would be common for me to come back with a few DNFs (“Did Not Finish”). However, my parent kept encouraging me to enjoy the races and not worry about the results. For every regatta, my goal became to get less “alphabets” and to complete the race. These targets were what kept me focused during the early regattas.


Lee Wonn Kye at the 2017 Laser All Japan Championships

How does sailing challenge you?

Sailing challenges me to always be aware of everything around me – what the boat’s doing, what the wind’s doing, what the fleet’s doing, making me broaden my view of my surroundings to make split-second decisions while racing.

How has determination helped your sailing?

Recently I competed at the Australian Laser Nationals, and during one of the windy races I was determined to push the boat throughout the race. On the upwinds where it was physical and tiring, what kept me going was the determination to out-hike my opponents, to stay in front of the pack. That feeling of being faster in the windier conditions is awesome.

How do you cope with school and competitive training?

Competing overseas is always hard as we miss two weeks of school. However, I have never regretted going to any competition as these are once in a lifetime experiences, whereas I can always catch up on schoolwork at my own pace.

Fortunately, my studies have not been affected by my training and my grades have kept up.  I make it a point to pay extra attention when I am able to attend class – so that I can build strong foundations in my subjects. This makes catching up with schoolwork much easier after overseas trainings.

My parents are also major pillars of support for me throughout this journey. They not only follow closely with the latest results, policies and regattas, they also actively make sure that I’m able to cope with my studies.

I’m extremely grateful for this, as without them I would not have been able to out my attention purely on sailing.

What is it like training overseas?

Training overseas is a whole different experience. I’ve trained at China, Australia, Spain, Netherlands, Germany, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Japan, Wales, Belgium and the conditions there are all unique.

It is an incredible feeling to be able to dedicate an entire week or two to focus on training. I learn and improve a lot faster when I’m training overseas, as I’m exposed to conditions that can’t be found in Singapore.

What do you do in your free time?

I have relatively little free time. There’s always a feeling of being overwhelmed with work. When I’m not training, I would be clearing schoolwork and studying at night. You get used to seeing your friends use their weekends to study or go out, while you would be training.

However I believe that these intensive trainings are not a burden on my studies. On the contrary, they really allow me to switch off from the worries of schoolwork, and to focus on improving in sailing.

The feeling of training, putting in the hours and seeing the rewards, far outweighs any sacrifices I’ve had to make for my free time.

What does success mean to you?

Success means knowing that I’ve done the best I’ve could, that I’ve put in 100% on the water. So far I do not think that I’ve achieved that yet, as there are always areas where I lost focus or could have tried harder.

What is your biggest fear?

There have been many trainings and regattas where I doubt my own ability, my ability to do better. This can leave me both fearful and disappointed.

However, I am working to overcome this fear as it will limit me from being the best that I can be.

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

I would like to see sailors from all around the world interacting and training together. This is already happening in Europe with many of the teams but I do hope that more Singaporeans can be involved in international training clinics soon.


Read more about Wonn Kye!

National B Div Sailing: Boys’ title goes to Raffles for ninth consecutive year; Nanyang defend theirs after close fight – Red Sports, 17 Apr 2018


Deborah Kay

Deborah Kay is the Head of Digital Transformation at the Singapore Sailing Federation. She looks for new ways to realign marketing, sponsorships and business processes with technology for SSF to be more effective in digital economy.

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