Seaworthy teenagers

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 26 November, 1995, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 26 November, 1995, 12:00am

They breathe the breeze and win the wind. They may be teenagers, but they are captains of their own boats - tiny sailing dinghies.

Wood Hudson, 13, started sailing in the United States when he was nine.

'Sailing makes you feel much freer than other sports, where you always have to listen to somebody else. When you go sailing, you just listen to yourself.' Now in the territory, Wood switched from the bigger laser to the 'bath-tub like' optimist - a small one-handed dinghy ideal for children aged between nine and 15 - and joined other budding young sailors at the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club for their weekly races with the wind in Repulse Bay.

'The most difficult part is to cope with the wind and to get a good position. Some days the wind is my friend, and some days it is my enemy,' said Wood.

Once the dinghies are rigged and launched, the young sailors become their own coach.

'You have to be alert all the time. The wind might keep changing. It is important to decide what route to take,' said Gosta Bostrom, 14, from Sweden.

Cathy Carroll, 13, who will be setting off for Singapore next month for the Asian Sailing Championships, said the sport not only developed one's sailing skills, but also sharpened one's mind.

'It helps you to become self-reliant and make quick decisions. It also develops your sense of responsibility, as you can't leave your boat dirty,' she said as she cleaned her dinghy after a racing practice.

To most local teenagers in Hong Kong, however, the sport seems to be the exclusive pastime of well-off expatriates. Rare though they may be, there are some local youngsters who have shown their skills in this aquatic sport.

Tiger Mok of Aberdeen Technical School is one. He took up the sport thanks to encouragement from his father, who is a sailing enthusiast.

'None of the schoolmates I know are into this sport. They have too many other things to do.

'For me, sailing is more fun than other activities. It is so pleasant to be out there on your own. It is too crowded and noisy in the town,' said the 15-year-old, who started sailing when he was 10.

Tiger, along with five other youngsters, was recruited to join the Hong Kong squad to represent the territory in the international sailing championships. The team has just returned from the Asian Optimist Championship in Malaysia.

Another squad member, Daniel Beard, who started sailing at the tender age of two, said it is a real thrill to go sailing in other countries where there are bigger waves and more exciting sea adventures.

'When we were in Malaysia racing as a team, there was a squall with big waves of about two metres high as we were trying to get back.

'We were quite a far way out at the time, and it was really fun. You don't get such strong winds and big waves in Hong Kong that often,' said the 13-year-old 'veteran'.

Beginners' courses for youngsters ($400 for four sessions) are offered by The Hong Kong Yachting Association and operated by the Sail Training Association (sponsored by the Urban Council and the Regional Council) at Little Palm Beach at Sai Kung throughout the year.