In a first, four Indian sailors are set to represent the country at the Olympics after qualifying for the Tokyo Games through the Mussanah Open Championship in Oman. It will also be the first time India will be represented in three sailing events at the Olympics.
Yes, history has been scripted. It’s the maximum number of sailors qualified and also in number of events,” Yachting Association of India joint secretary general Capt Jitendra Dixit told PTI. As India gears up for a historic sailing event in Tokyo, please find the details of each of the categories they will compete in.
Varun Thakkar-KC Ganapathy will represent India in 49er class
The 49er class requires two members on board to take different roles while sailing. One of the members steers the boat tactically while the other controls the sail as per the wind or movement of the boat. The class was named after its hull length of 4.99 metres. The men's category of the event was introduced at the Sydney 2000 Games while the women's event came to the fore in 2016 at Rio de Janeiro. In this class, both the crew members present on board, have their own trapeze (for a sailor's harness) the mast can handle a combined weight of 165 kgs.
The boat has a spinnaker area of 400 sq ft. The challenge in this class, majorly, is the co-ordination between the crew members as the pair and their individual roles are equally important to help them finish on a high.
India's KC Ganapathy and Varun Thakkar qualified for the Tokyo Olympics in the 49er category by finishing top at the Mussanah Open Sailing Championships, the tournament was an Asian and African Olympic qualification event. This is the first time that Indian sailors have qualified for the biggest sporting showpiece.
The pair, Ganapathy and Thakkar both from Tamil Nadu Sailing Association (TNSA) had also won bronze at the 2018 Jakarta Asian Games.
KC Ganapathy and Varun Thakkar, have had each other's back firmly over the years and still continue to do so. This partnership forged over a span of 11 years and that is how long they both unanimously mention would take for sailing to take off as one of the major sports in India. "We love training and going out each day to the sea and training in time. We complement each other and are good partners. On the 49er skiff, the crew holds the main sail and one on the steering. That's where we help each other, me from the steering end and Varun from the help end," said Ganapathy during a virtual press conference facilitated by the Sports Authority of India. "There has to be a lot of coordination. Varun's help is really crucial in getting the boat really fast. We both like going really fast. Our disagreements, when we do have, only make us improve."
Varun added that it was all a part of the process to look at the bigger picture. "We have a process and we believe in the process. We are sailing for 10 years now. We help each other and work on our flaws, keep the calmness, composure and so on. During the first three years after our team formed, we had our arguments but then we made a long term goal to bring a medal for the country. We believed in each other more than anything else. Currently, we are only each other's backbone," said Varun.
In this class, small, dinghy-style boats are used single-handedly. The boats have comparatively smaller sail area, which makes it easier for the sailors to cut through the heavy winds. The event first made its debut at the Beijing 2008 Olympics. It was specifically chosen for the singlehanded women's discipline.
Nethra Kumanan (laser radial class) sailor from Tamil Nadu Sailing Association (TNSA) became the first Indian female sailor to qualify for the Olympics after grabbing the first spot. She is the 10th sailor to qualify for the Games and the first to earn a direct entry. Kumanan explained the major challenges of sailing in this category.
"And the racing comes down to a couple of meters in a good fleet of boats so everything counts," she added.
Nethra Kumanan will represent India in Laser Radial Class.