Setting the sail right and with the wind blowing pleasantly, Chitresh Tatha, a 14-year-old sailor is the youngest to represent India at the Asian Games. A sensation in the country now, the Class 9 student of Bhavan’s Rajaji Vidyashram, Kilpauk, says he took up the sport as a hobby. “Initially it was something I did for fun. After continuous training, I became serious and competitive about it.”
He developed an interest in sailing when he was just nine years old. “My sister, a sailor herself, used to go for coaching. Watching that everyday got me interested,” he says. But, one wouldn’t guess that the boy was once petrified of water. “I never used to step into the water. Not even at the beach!” he confesses.
So, how did he overcome his fear? “Once, when I accompanied my sister for training, a coach threw me into the water. That’s when I realised water was fun and overcame my fear,” he recalls. “I wanted to sail because it is different from the other water sports.”
With sailing, being more of a mental than a physical sport, he explains having basic knowledge about clouds, water, wind and waves is essential. The national champion has travelled across Ireland, Malaysia, the Netherlands, Turkey, France, Bahrain, Malta and the UK. Talking about his best experience so far, he says his feat in Netherlands was the most memorable. “In 2014, I came first by sailing in about 80 seconds. To win a race between 400-odd boats is a great feeling,” he shares.
The young talent has also won gold at the India International Regatta in the Under 12 category. “Getting selected for the Asian Games was the best moment of my life. Though it is challenging to be the youngest, it makes me feel great and is a great honour,” he beams.
The young sailor trains six days a week, and five hours each day. What challenges has he faced? “While we were training for the Asian games, there was a bad cloud and the fishermen asked us to head back to the shore, but it was too late and we were stuck in the storm. Our boats capsized, sails tore and there was zero visibility. That is something I will never forget. It was scary but adventurous too,” he exclaims.
Chitresh says he is blessed to have the support of his school and family. “My family is very supportive. It’s not easy to support, pay for, and accompany me to my games,” he says. Chitresh is training for his first World Championship to be held in Portugal. “There is scope to excel in sports and academics is not everything. Do what your heart says and not what others think you should do,” he adds.