Plain sailing

Plain sailing

Four youngsters from Hong Kong and Singapore are looking to make waves this weekend

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China Cup Youth Team members (from left) Cosmas Grelon, Gerald William, Najwa Jumali, Ryushda Jumali and Philippe Grelon sailing in Sai Kung
China Cup Youth Team members (from left) Cosmas Grelon, Gerald William, Najwa Jumali, Ryushda Jumali and Philippe Grelon sailing in Sai Kung
Photos: Edward Wong
Echoing the title of Ernest Hemingway's beloved sailor story The Old Man and the Sea, four junior seafarers from Hong Kong and Singapore are aiming to write a new chapter in Hong Kong's sailing history this weekend which they are calling "The Youngsters and the Sea".

The teens are hoping to put in record-breaking performances when they set sail at the fourth China Cup International Regatta, which kicks off tomorrow in Shenzhen and ends on Monday.

The "Fantastic Four" are Cosmas Grelon and Gerald William from Hong Kong and Najwa Jumali and her younger sister Ryushda Jumali from Singapore.

The Youth Team will compete in the Fareast 26 category against other teams mainly from Asian countries.

On Sunday the team hosted a reporter and photographer from Young Post on their boat at Hebe Haven Yacht Club in Sai Kung. As there was a typhoon warning, the sails had been stored away and movable parts on deck had been secured with ropes.

The young sailors needed more than an hour to get ready for setting sail. It was no child's play. Your reporter and photographer came within centimetres of being bonked on the head with the sail several times. All the ropes on deck, meanwhile, acted like trip wires underfoot.

"We are always very careful and concentrate on our job," noted 14-year-old Gerald, who studies at Kiangsu-Chekiang College International Section. "That's how we have prevented many possible injuries already."

As the Youth Team has only four members, not the usual eight, the young sailors have to do double the duties. Cosmas is the helmsman, Najwa the tactician, Gerald the jib trimmer, and Ryushda the main sailor. Except for Cosmas, who remains at the wheel, the others rotate their duties as need arises.

Despite their youth, they are no greenhorns. Cosmas and Gerald were in the same team last year. This year they invited the Jumali sisters to set sail together with them for joint Hong Kong and Singapore glory.

"Gerald and I are sailing friends and we met Najwa and Ryushda in other overseas competitions," explained Cosmas, 15, a student from the French International School. "This is the first time we have had girls on our team."

Cosmas' father, Philippe Grelon, is the team's skipper. He will be on hand to help out the team in emergencies, but will let the youngsters handle the boat on their own. "I trust their ability to perform confidently and well in tough situations," he said.

"Last year we won the cross-boundary race, which is the first race of the regatta from Hong Kong to Shenzhen." This year, Cosmas said, the team will set out straight from Shenzhen on a boat lent by the event's organisers.

"Luckily, we don't need to go to school on Monday, which is the last competition day of the regatta," he said. "So we won't lose points in the overall ranking, like we did last year, when we had to pull out from the last day's race to go to school."

The four youngsters already work well as a team, noted Najwa, 16, who studies at Raffles Girls' School in Singapore. "Usually the guys do the physically demanding tasks," she said. "But I and my sister are also well-prepared."

At 14, Ryushda is this year's youngest participant in the China Cup. She looks forward to the challenges with calm confidence. "No sailor cares about age," she said. "During the competition we'll need to face adult sailors and they will treat us as real competitors."

Young Post will be following the team's progress at Vanke Longcheer Yacht Club in Shenzhen this weekend.

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