Not all smooth sailing for this determined South Island sailor

Being at the top of the local rankings is just the start, Dolf Hendriksen tells Young Post

Ariel Conant |

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Dolf Hendriksen is already one of Hong Kong's best sailors - but he has his sights set even higher.

Every sports star has to start somewhere. An old football handed down from an older sibling, some spare table tennis paddles from school, a cricket bat on loan from the local youth team. For Dolf Hendriksen, his first piece of sporting equipment was even more unusual - bin bags.

“When I was seven, there was a ‘try sailing’ event, so I signed up,” says the 14-year-old student at South Island School. “We did sailing, but with bin bags, instead of sails. It was really fun, so I kept sailing.”

As Dolf progressed from bin bags to real sails and competing in Optimist events, he also climbed the ranks. Now Dolf is ranked second in Hong Kong. “My ultimate goal is to qualify for the Olympic games,” he says.

And that dream may not be too far away. Dolf has qualified for the World Championship three times, and just recently completed the final qualifying event for this year’s World Championships in Portugal.

At the end of February, Dolf took the waters in Hong Kong to show is sailing skills. Racing against 120 sailors from 13 countries, the competition was tough. “My greatest threat in this tournament was the Chinese team, who sailed at an exceptionally high level,” says Dolf, who came in fifth.

Dolf says that international competitions are always daunting. “The greatest challenge that I face is to be able to keep at a high level compared to other countries,” he explains, “due to the small group of Optimist sailors in Hong Kong.”

But while competition is fierce on the water, when on land it’s a different story. “What I enjoy most about sailing is the social aspect that comes with it,” Dolf says. “On the water everyone is competing fiercely, fighting for every position, but on shore everyone is socialising with each other. It is especially great to meet new people at overseas competitions.”

Socialising with other sailors is the best part of sailing says Dolf.
Photo: Guy Nowell

Bench Notes

What movie title best describes you when you’re playing your sport?
Morning Light. I chose this movie because not only is it about one of the most prestigious sailing competitions, but it also teaches how hard work, dedication and team spirit can be the key to overcoming the greatest of odds.

You can have any superpower you choose for 24 hours. What do you choose and how do you use this power?
It would be the ability to manipulate the wind, as this would give me a huge advantage over my competitors.

If you could have an unlimited supply of anything, what would it be and why?
Knowledge, as this would make my school life a breeze.

10 years in the future, you are a famous athlete. What company do you sign on as spokesperson for, and what product do you promote?
I would promote Rooster Sailing, as they produce great gear and have given some of it to me for free.