13-year-old sailor from India wins gold at Phuket’s King’s Cup Regatta 2023

In another race, my rudder came off, and I watched in dismay as the rest of the fleet gained on the precious lead I created. I had no choice but to jump in the water, fix the rudder, and get back in the race. Somehow, I managed to take second again.

  • 1 year ago
  • March 4, 2023
6 min read
Anandi Nandan Chandavarkar sailing Anandi Nandan Chandavarkar sailing | Photo courtesy of Anandi Nandan and printed with permission
Interview Subject
Indian Sailor Anandi Nandan Chandavarkar won Gold at Asia’s most prestigious 34th King’s Cup Regatta 2022 in the Overall Open Skiff category. Hailing from Mumbai, the 13-year-old has been sailing in the Open Skiff category for a couple of years and has won several accolades at international events. Anandi has been sailing the Open Skiff class for the past three years. Recently, she participated in the French Open Skiff National event and finished 5th in the U-15 category. Anandi also participated in this year’s Japanese Open Skiff Nationals 2022. She has trained under Coach Dipesh Nerpagare and is mentored by Amish Ved. Anandi is working hard towards fulfilling her dream of a podium finish at the Open Skiff World Championships in July 2023.
Background Information
The Phuket’s King’s Cup Regatta started in 1987 to celebrate the late King Bhumibol’s birthday on December 5. A yachting enthusiast himself, King Bhumibol also happens to be a patron of the King’s Cup. The King’s Cup Regatta attracts some of the world’s best yachtsmen, yachtswoman and their boats to the waters of Kata Beach, off the island’s west coast, where these local and visiting sailors vie for the coveted trophy, creating a truly spectacular sight. The races often begin in early December, lasting for a week.

MUMBAI, India ꟷ I went sailing for the first time at nine years old and fell in love with the sea. By 13, I won a gold medal in sailing at the King’s Cup Regatta in Thailand. Sailing feels adventurous, and it was different than anything my friends were doing. When I arrived back home after that first time on the water, I told my parents I wanted to keep sailing and learn as much as I could.

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Sometimes, I feel like I am growing up too fast. My definition of fun remains is different for me than it is for my friends. When they go have a picnic, I go train. For five years, I have not had a single day off. Competing at such a high level demands mental and physical strength, making you feel older than you are. At the same time, I wanted to continue and to have more sailing adventures.

From a 9-year-old dream to a world-class, international sailing event

My parents supported my passion for sailing from the start. They probably viewed it as a passing hobby, but I never stopped. As I got better, I began sailing in the Open Skiff category. [This category mainly applies to youth and combines competition with fun, utilizing regatta style courses.] Over the subsequent three years, I would win at many international events, but I had a bigger goal in mind.

I wanted to win the 34th King’s Cup Regatta in Phuket, Thailand. [This major, international competition attracts about 90 boats and 2,000 sailors annually.] From the moment I enrolled myself in the competition, I began training for the race. Eight hours a day, three days a week, I trained in the water. I also engaged in strength training at the gym. When I arrived at the famous event, I saw all kinds of boats from small dinghies to multi-million dollar Transpac 52 yachts for racing. I felt mesmerized and inspired. I arrived at the place King Bhumibol himself enjoyed the competition [Bhumibol was the longest reigning King of Thailand from 1946 until his death in 2016].

At the waters of Kata Beach, I saw some of the world’s best yachtsmen, yachtswomen, and their boats off the island’s west coast. It proved a truly spectacular sight. Three participants represented India at the championship, and while there was immense pressure to win, I have also learned to accept failure. Of the 182 boats registered, I took the gold, Luv Sakpal ranked 5th, and Armaan Malhotra ranked 12th.

Facing weather, penalties, and malfunctions, he fights on

Throughout the race, the cold winds got as high as 25 knots, and I faced a small thunderstorm. It proved difficult dealing with the weather. I had to be smart to sail smoothly and avoid challenges with the boat. The race utilizes a fixed course, so I did not have to plan my passage. I had to rely on my training to sail in foreign waters. Each race was about 50 minutes with four to five legs at one to two nautical miles each. That means each leg is about five nautical miles.

Every event I have entered became a learning experience, so I remembered to keep doing my best and focus on the race, not the outcome. Contrary to the perception that sailing remains a fairly safe sport, I remain cautious. I wore my life jacket and felt comforted that rescue and coach boats hovered on the water nearby. If my equipment failed or an accident happened, I had support.

The words of one of the On Water Jury members resonated in my mind: “It’s not over till you cross the finish line.” He explained that no matter how you start on the line or if you make a mistake, you must keep fighting until the end. I needed this advice. At the start line I received a yellow penalty flag and had to make two penalty turns. Yet, I recovered and managed to achieve second place.

In another race, my rudder came off, and I watched in dismay as the rest of the fleet gained on the precious lead I created. I had no choice but to jump in the water, fix the rudder, and get back in the race. Somehow, I managed to take second again.

Taking the gold and returning to India to prepare for the world championships

Presence of mind makes all the difference out to sea. I needed physical strength, agility, and mental aptitude to win races, especially when I had trouble with my boat. Someone once said, “We cannot direct the wind, but we can adjust the sails.” This remains true for me in racing and in life.

At the Regatta I never imagined I would take the top prize in my category, but I did! I endured 12 intense races, forcing myself to think only about one race at a time. In the end, it paid off and I took the gold. I felt so proud of myself when I won. Happiness overwhelmed me and I wanted to jump in the water right away. Looking back, I had such a fun time competing, so I continue on. This even served as a training ground for the world championships and I am working hard to do well in that race.

When I came back to India after winning the gold, the media and public swarmed me. I liked it, but it also felt like too much attention. My family and friends encourage me to keep going and not stay stuck in the wins I already achieved.

As I train for the Australian Open Skiff Championship in Perth and the Open Skiff World Championship in Rimmi, Italy in July 2023, I feel pride. The gold I won for India motivates me and inspires other teenagers to chase their dreams with passion.

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