Imagine spending about six hours every day on water instead of land, working with the tide and the wind? That is the average day in the life of 14-year old Ananya Chauhan who is the only sailor from Hyderabad to be selected in the core probables for the Asian Games 2014.
Selected for the National coaching camp being held at the Yachting Association of India at Chennai, Ananya is being trained under the tutelage of coach Peter David Conway for a period of three months, post which two sailors will be selected to represent India at the Asian Games depending on their performance.
Relatively new to the sport, Ananya’s fascination with sailing came when she saw her father’s friend, a naval officer, go on a solo sailing trip around the globe. Encouraged by his feat and fascinated by the idea of sailing throughout the world, the then 12-year-old took the plunge.
“Through my uncle, I started talking with an Australian girl who was undertaking a similar solo journey and kept in touch with her asking her different questions about sailing,” says Ananya.
Since then, the youngster has been gaining experience through a various means, including books. “I read about the wind, sailing techniques like trim, heeling and how to make sure the boat doesn’t drift. It helps in better understanding when one is getting briefed before going into the water.” However, since there are not many books on sailing available in the city, Ananya’s parents have to source them from abroad.
Currently training with about a score of other sailors, all vying for the privilege to represent the country and the opportunity to compete at the international level, Ananya stands a good chance considering she’s among the top three females being trained and stands at number 13 in the overall rankings.
The youngster though feels her practical understanding of the sport’s dynamics give her an edge over the others. “I have a practical understanding of sailing techniques and wind patterns that gives me a better instinctive response to sudden changes than others. This is because of the extensive reading I’ve done. Also, my boat is quite old and has passed many hands. I have learnt to tackle that, which is relatively harder than sailing a new boat,” she explains, suddenly sounding much older and wiser than her 14 years, and giving us a glimpse to the focused sailor who has her eyes set firmly on the prize.
While better part of the holidays are spent on the waters, the class eight student at Gitanjali Devshala, Balamrai, is forced to practice at the EME sailing club everyday for just an hour on school days. Setting sail in an Optimist boat meant for children, Ananya has so far been coached by various experts. “I first trained in Mumbai then went to Chennai and it was initially sailing during the weekends for three months which gradually turned to full time training under different people,” she tells us.
With sailing involving quite some physical strength, Ananya’s training also includes sessions at the gym with light weight-lifting, back strengthening exercises besides cycling, skating and swimming for flexibility.
The teens’s hard work and dedication though, has definitely borne fruit making her a very busy girl in the past year. Having debuted at the National inland championship, Kochi in December 2012, she has since participated in National Coastal Optimist Championship (Marve, Mumbai), Fifth Monsoon Regatta (Hyderabad), India International Regatta (Chennai), National Open Championship (Langkawi, Malaysia) and also won the award for the best girl sailor at National Inland Optimist Championship at Pawana lake near Pune. As compared to others who have been training for more than seven years, Ananya has managed to reach the 13th position in the all India ranking with just one-and -a-half years of training.
For their part, her parents support her unconditionally. Her father, Pranay Chauhan, an interior designer by profession says, “My wife and I accompany her wherever she needs to go for her training. Seeing her interest, I bought a boat for her which was 18-years old and even on that she has fared very well. However the equipment and apparel does get expensive,” explains Pranay who has spent close to `3.5 lakhs on equipment like rigs, sail, keel, apparel among other expenditures. However, despite the cost intensity, the father remembers the enthusiasm his daughter shared on a boat ride on the Hussain Sagar lake, and her passion for the sport ever since has been their driving force.
Having participated in many championships, the adolescent has had her fair share of learning experiences as well. “When I was taking part in the race at Langkawi, it started raining suddenly and at one point of time the wind was at 20 knots which is really strong and other times it was just 5 knots. So that was a different experience as we had to deal with different wind speeds in one single race. Another time I remember is when a fish caught the centreboard of my boat. I found it scary and funny but that happens to a lot of optimist boats,” shares Ananya who is presently aiming for the International Optimist Dinghy Association (IODA) World Championship to be held in Argentina and the IODA Asian Championship to be held in Bahrain.