Traditional boat racing has been part of Cambodia’s true water culture for hundreds of years and now the Kingdom is turning its sights on the more conventional competitive sailing, which is all about the art of moving a boat by harnessing the power of the wind.
Blessed with a coastline of 440 kilometres, Cambodia enjoys a unique status among Southeast Asian countries when it comes to its bond with water. For the first time in decades, Cambodia is well poised for a turnaround in its its sailing future as three sailors make their way to the ensuing SEA Games in Malaysia, opening new vistas for this Olympic discipline in the Kingdom’s sporting pursuits.
“These are exciting times for the Cambodia Sailing Federation. A sport that was badly hit like so many others during those dark days of history is being resurrected by the National Olympic Committee of Cambodia,” said Meng Wang, an experienced sailor from Singapore who is sharing his expertise with the CSF as an adviser to the federation to help the sport grow.
“The federation, which has just been admitted to the World sailing body, is set to ride on the country’s wave of positive growth to broaden and develop Cambodia as a strong sailing nation like some of its neighbours,” Meng told The Post on Monday.
It is no secret that the federation, in collaboration with the NOCC, has been working closely with the Ministry of Tourism in promoting several elements of sailing to the general public during recent sea and river festivals as a means of raising awareness to draw bigger participation. Free public tryouts on windsurfing, laser boats and various other water sports equipment have been common in these annual events.
While this initiative is being pursued with great fervor in the public domain, the federation has been diligently working on a plan to turn out competitive sailors. The outcome of that sustained effort is the creation of a team of three sailors to represent Cambodia for the first time in history at next month’s SEA Games sailing to be held on the Langkawi Island.
Since identifying the members of the team in September last year, federation President Gordon Tang, a passionate sailor himself and also one of the vice presidents of the NOCC, has provided both financial and logistical support for the national team to compete in major events and get best possible training.
“With our first sailing participation in the SEA Games water sports, enthusiasts can look forward to more and more activities. It augurs well for our federation’s vision to make sailing one of the core sports on offer when Cambodia hosts the 2023 edition,” Tang told The Post.
Echoing this sentiment, NOCC Secretary-General Vath Chamroeun, who is also vice president of the Sailing Federation, commended Tang for taking such deep personal interest in promoting the sport. “He has taken the lead in arranging and sponsoring our sailors with the best in the game in China and Singapore and the results have been very encouraging,” Chamroeun said.
Meanwhile, windsurfers Heng and Mesa, both 15 years old and residents of Riem near Sihanoukville where the federation’s activities are held in a navy base, left Monday morning for China, resuming their SEA Games preparations until the middle of August. They are being trained in Guangdong by coaches who have had the credit of bringing China Olympic gold and silver medals.
The Cambodian duo took part at the RS One windsurfing world championship and Vietnam open sailing regatta in early June at Hoi An in Danang, Vietnam.
They finished in the respectable positions of 24th and 25th overall in the 13-race event among 35 experienced competitors. According to the federation, it was a remarkable improvement from their performances in the Singapore and Pattaya opens where they had finished bottom of the pile.
The laser boat hope Duch Bunthoeun, who works in the navy, finished 17th out of 20 at the Vietnam regetta despite training for only three months.
The 33-year old Bunthoeun will now train with Singapore national laser sailors until the start of the Malaysian Games.
According to one of the vice presidents of the federation, Rathasak Thong, efforts are also being made to grow kitesurfing which is fast gaining traction in Cambodia.
“Cambodia can offer a lot to eco sport tourism. Sailing is a good way to explore our enchanting country. We hope the recent opening of the first sailing club Knap Bang Chait in Kep will serve those keen on taking up sailing and help us develop a healthy pool of new sailors,” Thong said.