Hello Xavier! Tell us more about yourself!

I am currently a JC 1 student who is positive and joyful. Friends know me as someone who is easygoing and supportive.

My progression into competitive sailing has allowed me to develop a strong sense of discipline and drive to succeed. SEA Games’ preparation and participation last year has cultivated a sense of resilience in me to cope with pressure, especially when I need to sit for the ‘O’ level examinations concurrently. I concluded that these strengths were developed from years of racing in highly competitive international regattas.

I strongly believe that I have to put in my best effort in everything I do so that I would not have any regrets when I look back, regardless of the end results. I will continue to pursue my dreams and cross every handle that comes along as every roadblock that I overcome will make me a stronger person.

When and how did you start sailing?

I first learnt sailing through my older brother. Subsequently, I started attending the SailSmart programme when I was 7 years old. I managed to attain my racer certification by Primary 2 and started taking part in regattas. During those days, there were no Gold or Silver Fleets. The sailors raced in 1 big fleet with different starts. Thus, I would have top Opti sailors in my fleet and I always needed to struggle to finish the race within the stipulated time. It was such an achievement each time when I managed a ‘number’ finish instead of an ‘alphabet’ finish.

Also, I was a fearless young sailor who will fight for good starts with the National Training Squad sailors, though I can never beat them.

How were your first / best memories of your early regattas?

I went for my first overseas regatta in Langkawi when I was 8 years old with Tao Nan School, led by Coach Sommai. Family members went along and it seemed more like a tour than a sailing trip. It was a fun experience and that trip has influenced my love for sailing in the early years.

Knowing that it was going to be strong-wind condition in Langkawi, our parents organised physical trainings such as running and swimming sessions 2 months before the regatta to prepare the sailors. These trainings were tough but they brought both parents and sailors closer prior to the trip.

As I was the youngest sailor in the group, my mum was very worried that I could not cope with the strong winds condition. She asked all the seniors to keep a lookout for me and told my coach to send me back to shore if I struggled. True enough, immediately after I launched, I capsized! Very quickly, my seniors came to my rescue. At that time, I was not affected by the incident but I was sure that my mum was!

How are your overseas training experience?

I was lucky to be given many opportunities to train overseas. The places that I went to include Malaysia (Langkawi, Kota Kinabalu, Port Dickson), Thailand (Hua Hin), China (Qingdao, Haikou), Korea (Seoul), Japan (Karatsu & Okinawa), Greece, Monaco, Spain, Finland, Germany and Norway. I will be heading to Indonesia (Jakarta) and Portugal this June/July as well.

Trainings overseas are very valuable. We get to sail in different conditions, meet sailors from different cultures, and learn from each other. Besides, we are trained to be independent and responsible. We need to eat well and rest well in order to train well. Thus, we will prepare our own recovery food, cook as much as we can instead of eating out so we can ensure that our meals are nutritious, and at the same time save on our expenses.

Since I moved on to sailing the 470 class, I was exposed to the ‘adult world’. Sailors in this class are highly motivated. We make friends and expand our network when we travel. We see each other as sparring partners more than competitors.

How do you cope with school and competitive training?

Since I started sailing the 470 class, we have been traveling extensively for trainings and competitions as we do not have many 470 boats locally and there is no local regatta. Thus, we miss school very often. Last year, we travelled more than 100 days in preparation for the SEA Games and it was my O Level’s year! Training was intensive but I needed to cope with my studies. For that reason, I needed to be very focused and disciplined when I return to school. I even flew back from Langkawi to sit for my O Level Chinese Listening Comprehension Examination and return to the training camp the next day.

Looking back, the tough times have built my resilience. I am not afraid to face the hurdles ahead; I always believe that when there is a will, there is a way.

How has intensive/overseas training affected your studies?

We definitely do not have as much time as our peers when it comes to studies. We have been missing lessons due to our overseas trainings. When we return, we need to catch up as much as we can in the shortest period of time.

I am blessed that my school teachers and classmates are very supportive. They keep me posted on the lessons when I am away and assist me when I return. The school even adjusts the examination weightage distribution accordingly to my travel schedule.

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

It is always an achievement to represent Singapore. As we are very new to the 470 class, which is an Olympic class, we are not expecting to medal. However, we always train hard and put in our best efforts. To us, every journey is a learning journey and it will definitely gear us for bigger challenges in the future.

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

The most challenging part is having to cope with the intensive overseas trainings and studies. I am a JC 1 student and school work is very demanding. For now, I am concentrating on the trainings and I will give it a full swing for my studies immediately after the Asian Games. Hopefully I am able to clear and be able to be promoted to JC2.

How does determination help you in your sailing journey?

I was given the opportunity to be sent by SingaporeSailing to the Han Gang International Regatta 2011, held in Seoul, South Korea, when I was in Primary 4. I fell sick on the first day of the regatta and started to vomit. I was advised to go back to the hotel to rest but I refused. I felt that it would have been a wasted trip if I did not race. I took a quick nap in the tent which was cold with a temperature of less than 10 degree celcius. When it’s time to launch, I told myself that I could make it and that I could win. I sailed out of the bay for some warm up and I felt my energy returned. I ate all the food that I packed out and I was ready to race! I did very well in that regatta and bagged a Bronze in the Overall Category and Gold in the Under 12 Boys’ Category. That event taught me one very valuable lesson: never give up!

What does Sailing teach you about learning to lose?

Results of a sailing regatta is cumulative of many races. Through many years of participating in multiple sailing regattas, I learn that losing one race does not mean much. Recovering from the lost race and focusing on the next race are more important. In life, when we are faced with a failure, we just need to learn from the mistakes and go back to the starting line to prepare for the next challenge.

Describe any sporting injury and how it has affected your performance. How do you deal with it?

I have enzyme issues on my palms and feet since I was 8 years old. They will get very dry and my skin will crack and blood will ooze out. I have seen many doctors, specialists, TMC, etc. but the condition does not improve. The advice I was given was to stop sailing but that was not going to happen. It is common to see blood on my bed linen and skin flakes on the floor. I have learned to live with the pain and keep my palms and feet moisturised as much as I can. However, this does not affect my training and my passion for sailing.

What does success mean to you?

To me, success means to achieving the targets that I set for myself. I believe in setting achievable targets and celebrate every successful attempt when targets are met.