New format, including stadium racing, for SEA Games
The Singapore Sailing Federation (SSF) is set to break new ground when the Republic hosts the 28th South-east Asia (SEA) Games in June.
Speaking to The New Paper yesterday, SSF president Ben Tan revealed that sailing will boast a record 20 events - the most at a SEA Games - across two venues: the National Sailing Centre and The Promontory at Marina Bay.
And for the first time, a stadium racing concept will be introduced at both venues in an effort to engage more spectators.
The sailing centre at East Coast Parkway will host 16 events, while Marina Bay will feature four - two in keelboat match racing, one Laser and one Laser Radial.
"Since we are hosting the Games, we want to leave a legacy and break new ground," Tan said.
"We want the format for the events to be spectator-friendly, so we are introducing shorter races (30 minutes instead of one hour).
"The start and finish lines for medal races will be close to shore (within 30 metres) and there will be running commentary during the races."
The goal is to engage non-sailing fans as well and the SSF has been training commentators on using layman's terms to describe the action.
The Promontory at Marina Bay has successfully hosted the international Extreme Sailing Series since 2013, with the stadium-racing concept well received by fans.
According to Tan, the sailing centre will have a more natural spectator stand, with viewers gathering along the beach and natural slopes on the breakwater.
"We piloted this format during last year's Fish & Co Youth Sailing Championships," he revealed.
Sailing at June's SEA Games will feature a modernised format.
Similar to other sports, the events will progress from the preliminary rounds to the final - instead of the usual Race 1 to 11 or 12.
Points in the final medal race will also be doubled, to avoid having a runaway leader.
"As the host and organisers, we have the leeway to decide on the format," Tan said.
"We could have used that leeway to our sailors' advantage but we chose to be magnanimous, for the good of the sport. Once the other countries see how we do it, they can do the same when they host the Games."
The Republic finished as the top sailing nation at the 2013 SEA Games in Myanmar, bagging 12 medals in total and five of the 13 golds on offer.
After an impressive showing at last year's Asian Games in Incheon, where Singapore finished second to South Korea with seven medals, including three golds, expectations are high for this SEA Games.
An Asian Games gold medallist (1994) and three-time Sportsman of the Year (1992, 1995 and 1996), Tan acknowledged that many of Singapore's sailors have more international experience compared to their regional rivals.
"Stadium racing has some peculiarities. It's close to the shore so the winds can be shifty," he said.
"Our more-exposed sailors will have an advantage, but it's not an unfair one.
"The winds during the Games should be good because June is during the south-west monsoon.
"It will be milder than it is now, but looking at Marina Bay, the wind doesn't have to travel over land to get to the venue.
"So that should make for some exciting races."