MUHAMMAD SHAIFUL BAKHTIAR SHARIFF is an old hand at sailing, having spent a good part of his teenage years on the water racing in Optimist, International 420 and International 470 classes.

After a stint as national sailor in 2008, he moved on to bigger boats taking part in races organised by the Royal Selangor Yacht Club (RSYC) near his hometown of Klang.

Shaiful later became involved in match racing, mostly due to having two older brothers in the sport. He was initially a jib trimmer but since 2012 he has skippered his own team in the local match racing circuit. At the Liga Layar Malaysia (LLM) in Langkawi which ended yesterday, Shaiful and his brothers teamed up with two other sailors to compete as SPA Sailing Team.

Those not in the know would think the name was for a health and wellness centre but SPA is actually the Malay acronym for the Public Service Commission (Suruhanjaya Perkhidmatan Awam).

The team’s formation came about after Shaiful was accepted as an administrative assistant at SPA in Putrajaya. His superior officers came to know about his sailing career and gave support to a proposal for Shaiful to lead a team. Even the SPA chairman, Tan Sri Mahmood Adam, gave his blessings.

“My fellow sailors had urged me to form my own team and I’m really grateful for the support given by my superiors and also Tan Sri Mahmood,” Shaiful said when met in Langkawi.

Shaiful, together with his brothers who are with the Public Works Department (Jabatan Kerja Raya – JKR), make up the bulk of the SPA team.  Another crew member is also a JKR staff, making the team somewhat unique as it is not often do you see a group of public servants out on the water in a sailboat.

In Langkawi, Shaiful ended his campaign in fifth place.

“We made tactical mistakes during the qualifiers which could have been avoided,” he admitted.

Shaiful had set an aim to finish in the top two at each LLM legs to have a chance to qualify as Malaysia’s representative to the Monsoon Cup, the final leg in the Alpari World Match Racing calendar.

He admits he has a tough task ahead but is still sticking to his target.

“I think we could do it.”

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