(Source: www.straitstimes.com)

The winds are in Muhammad Daniel Kei Yazid’s sails as he makes the switch from Optimist to the 420 youth sailing class.

Competing in his final race in the 15-and-under class, the 13-year-old retained his Optimist Asian and Oceanian Championships title in Hong Kong yesterday.

Even though Daniel is still eligible for the Optimist for another year, he will be making an early transition to the double-handed 420 class.

He said: “As my last (Optimist) event, I wanted to give it my best shot.”

And he delivered a stellar performance, finishing with 48 points after 10 races, comfortably ahead of Turkey’s Demir Dirik (64) and China’s Lin Xilun (65).

Singapore’s Finian Lee came in fifth (106), while Samuel Hung was ninth (114). Faith Toh emerged as the top girl sailor with 10th place (123 points) in a fleet of 130.

Daniel’s victory extends Singapore’s reign as the champions in the regatta for the eighth consecutive year, since Kimberly Lim won in 2010.

He also became the first back-to-back champion since Lim managed the feat in 2010 and 2011.

The Victoria School Secondary 2 student had arrived in Hong Kong on Sept 24, six days before the regatta began, to prepare for his title defence.

He said: “There was of course pressure going on as the defending champion. So I came here a few days earlier than the rest of the team to train by myself.

“I spent a lot of time to get myself familiarised with the event venue. I wanted to go the extra mile to make sure that I got the advantage going into the regatta.

“It feels great to win this not once, but twice in a row.”

The win was also sweet redemption for Daniel, who admitted that his 40th position at July’s Optimist World Championships in Thailand was a huge setback. It was the first time in 12 editions that Singapore had failed to bag any medal at the event.

Daniel said: “It’s more satisfying that I could redeem myself from the big disappointment at the World Championships.

“It came to a point when I didn’t want to remember what happened at that event any more. I wanted to forget that quickly, block it out and just move on.”

In August’s SEA Games, Daniel won a bronze in the Optimist mixed team racing event with Finian, Max Teo, Ron Koh and Radiance Koh.

Chua Tan Ching, Singapore Sailing Federation’s high performance manager, has high hopes for this batch of young sailors.

He said: “One of our goals is for them to carry on towards the Olympics. So we want them to have the right frame of mind and attitude to prepare for the next stage of events.”

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