CHENNAI: When Alia Sabreen Faisal visited the Royal Madras Yacht Club with her mother for the first time, three years ago, little did she know that sailing was going to be an inseparable part of her life from then on.
Since 2021, Alia has been no stranger to the stormy winds, the inconsistent waves, and the challenges that came with sailing. Recently, she won a bronze medal at the YAI Youth Multi Class Regatta at Mysuru and is currently the only girl sailor from Tamil Nadu sailing the laser class of boats representing the State nationally. Alia interacts with CE, sharing her experiences so far.
A balancing act
“Sailing requires both physical and mental strength. In other water sports, like swimming, if you have enough physical power, you can perform well. But for sailing, you need a lot of mental strength and strategies as well. If you lack in either one, it’s going to be tough,” says Alia.
Initially, there were fewer requirements for physical fitness and as the years went by, she had to dedicate more hours for training. Currently, she trains at the Tamil Nadu Sailing Association (TNSA). Describing a day of practice, Alia says, “I wake up at 5.30 in the morning and then do a lot of physical exercises to prepare myself for sailing. I train for at least five hours at the club and sometimes even stretch the hours longer depending upon how free I am on that day.”
A class 10 student of APL Global School Chennai, Alia also balances her studies and piano classes along with sailing. “I am trying to balance academics and sports. It is a bit tough because my boards are also coming up. But, I study every day after I come back from a competition or will figure out something to catch up with my classes. Sailing also relaxes my mind and has improved my concentration and memory,” she says. Even though Alia was into swimming and rowing earlier, sailing, in the beginning, was slightly hard because it was a new sport and there were new rules to be learned. Also, getting used to the boat was a bit of a challenge, comments Alia. She used to train individually under coach Chinna Reddy. Her current coaches are Puthuvakkal Madhu and Patrick.
Spotlight on sailing
Alia follows Olympians Nethra Kumaran and Vishnu Saravanan, her inspirations, and she learns from their techniques by watching videos on the Internet. In June, Alia represented India at the 2023 ILCA Asian Championship in Ningbo, China. Even though there are opportunities in the country, Alia says that there is not much awareness about the sport when compared to other sports. She says, “In China when I went for the tournament, I observed that there are a lot of clubs and more facilities.
The kids were more experienced and it felt like it was easier for them to compete.” Concurring, her mother, Dr Nadia Faisal shares, “I felt like in foreign countries, there is more sponsorship from the government. It is sometimes difficult because people don’t understand the sport that much. I feel like there should be basic awareness among everybody about the sport so that we are able to reach out and ask for help to sponsor us or take us to the next stage. The equipment is expensive as it is important and there are other requirements also.”
Dr Nadia also asserted the need for more sailing clubs. She says, “We have a beautiful coastline, (but) Madhya Pradesh tops the sport. They have made the most out of the limited water resources they have. In our state, I feel like surfing has gotten more awareness. Sailing should also be promoted. I would request the Tamil Nadu government to encourage and support her endeavours to represent Tamil Nadu and India next year at the Asian and world championships.”Alia is now preparing for the Junior National Regatta in Mumbai in October. She also hopes to represent India in the International Championships soon.