Bad Weather Sinks Hopes for Burma’s Teen Sailors at SEA Games

Nyein Nyein The Irrawaddy

NGWE SAUNG, Irrawaddy Division — Malaysia is leading the overall standings for yachting at the Southeast Asian Games, ahead of Burma and four other countries with three days of competition to go.

On Tuesday, Thailand finished first in the youth team sailing competition at Ngwe Saung Beach, beating out yachters between the ages of 12 and 15 from five other countries. Singapore, which has been a strong competitor for Thailand’s youth team in the past, finished in second, followed by Malaysia, Burma and Indonesia.

“They trained every day at sea near Pattaya, for three months after school,” Bundit Kongyai, general manager of the Thailand yacht racing association, said of the young Thai sailors, many of whom began sailing when they were just 7 years old. Pattaya is a popular beach resort city in Thailand.

Burma’s squad had hoped for a better finish in the three-hour youth team race but blamed windy conditions. “We expected gold medals in the majority of competitions, but we will have to accept the results because bad weather can be tricky,” Myint Win, vice chairman of the Yangon Sailing Club, told The Irrawaddy.

The youth team competition is one of 13 classes of yachting at the SEA Games, a biennial sporting event hosted in Burma this year for the first time in over four decades. The other yachting lasses, including individual and team races for adult men and women, as well as two crew races, will continue this week.

One class is the half-rater competition, where sailors head out on boats made from wood rather than metal. Half-rater boats, which were first developed by the British at the end of the 19th century, have long been used in Burma, and the Burmese team is currently ranked first in this class after two days of a four-day half-rater competition.

“We expect a gold medal,” Phone Kyaw Moe Myint of Burma’s half-rater team told The Irrawaddy on Tuesday. “We did well for the first half, but we have to compete in another six rounds over the remaining days.”

Six countries—Indonesia, Malaysia, Burma, Singapore, Thailand and the Philippines—are competing in the 13 classes of yachting at Ngwe Saung Beach, near Pathein in Irrawaddy Division. The competition kicked off Sunday and closes Friday.