KUALA LUMPUR – Thirty-three year old Jeremy Koo, Malaysia’s top ranked sailor, considers his team to be in pole position to take gold in the Match Racing sailing event in this year’s Asian Games that will be held from 19 September to 4 October 2014 at Incheon in South Korea.
After a landmark year in which his Sime Darby Foundation-Koo Racing Team (SDF-KRT) received support from the Foundation and began gaining valuable experience in overseas regattas, Koo and his teammates have racked up a string of impressive results and seem set to bring back the glory to Malaysia’s competitive sailing scene. In June 2014, the Sime Darby Foundation pledged RM490,000 for a one-year period to help Jeremy and his team participate in at least 16 local and international competitions. The support covers sponsorship of the team’s accommodation, meals, transportation, allowances, branding and uniforms.
Most recently, they won the Putrajaya leg of the Liga Layar Malaysia (LLM) in early August (they remain unbeaten in the LLM this year), and came out second in the Dutch Match Racing qualifier on 23 and 24 August, which was incidentally also the first time the team raced in Europe. This has also earned them a Wild Card slot for the Dutch Match Cup.
Speaking after the Putrajaya race, Jeremy said: “We have stepped up our training both in terms of physical and mental preparation. Based on our most recent race, the team was pleasantly surprised at how much we have improved. The speed of movement and crew work on the boat was incredible. Everyone was moving very fast.”
Their strong performances are a powerful testament to the sustained training efforts and sacrifices the team has made this year.
“Everyone is very positive and has committed themselves towards what we are aiming for. Everyone knows how much they have sacrificed – such as taking unpaid leave from their day jobs – and are really looking forward to the Asian Games,” said the skipper.
The last time Malaysia won gold in Asian Games sailing was when Rufina Tan emerged victorious in the Women’s Optimist event in Doha 2006, while in the 2010 championships, Malaysia only managed two silvers and a bronze.
The last Malaysian male to bring back gold was Ryan Tan, who won the Open Optimist event exactly 20 years ago in Hiroshima 1994.
Having already raced against the teams that will feature in the Asian Games, Jeremy knows his team’s fate lies in their own hands.
“We have raced before with the same teams who will be participating at the Asian Games – namely Japan, Korea, Singapore and Thailand – and we know we are pretty strong. The teams who will challenge us are Singapore, who have been racing in the States and have been doing well, as well as Japan and Korea. If we race with confidence and reduce any mistakes, we have a good chance to come out on top,” he said.
Jeremy has picked his strongest crew for the task in Korea, including Fauzi Mustaffa as main trimmer, Looi Sing Yew as Trimmer & Pit and Sean Ong Khong Shing as Bowman.
Of the quartet, only Jeremy and Sing Yew have Asian Games experience, after placing sixth in the Men’s 420 sailing event twelve years ago in Busan.
With less than a month left to the games, Jeremy says the final training push will be to build their strength and endurance as they prepare for an unknown venue and course.
“We are focusing on physical and endurance training and will need to spend some more time in the gym. We have heard from others who sailed at the venue this year that the current is very strong. We don’t know right now how difficult the course is going to be but we are excited to find out,” said a confident Koo.
SDF-KRT’s upcoming race will be the next leg of the LLM, which has been moved from Malacca to Pulau Indah in Kelang, and following the Asian Games, his team will turn their focus towards qualification for the Monsoon Cup.
“We were selected to race in the Monsoon Cup for the last four years via the qualification race. With our 5-point lead in the LLM, we should emerge champions after the final race in Port Dickson in October and hopefully the selection committee lets us compete again,” said Jeremy.
Although his team emerged last place when competing against the very top teams in the world during the previous instalments of the Monsoon Cup, Jeremy says that the time gap has gotten a lot closer over the years and his team even led for a couple of races last year.
“Where we used to be a minute behind, we are now just a few seconds behind. In the last year, we gave a good fight and even led for a couple of races. This year, we have had a very strong support from the Sime Darby Foundation, so hopefully we will see some big changes,” he added.
Jeremy maintains that the experience of racing in a World Match Racing Tour event such as the Monsoon Cup is an invaluable experience for him and his team.
“It is great in terms of exposure, and it’s cheaper for us to compete as it is in our home country. We really want to show that locals can race with the top sailors in the world, and it also helps our local sailors to further develop,” Jeremy said.
Jeremy is already enjoying the best competitive ranking of his career at No.32 in June this year but was recently edged down to 41, being outdone by his Singaporean counterpart. This, however has made him more determined to bring home that Asian Games gold medal. Jeremy says the best is yet to come and sees opportunity for even further improvement, perhaps with the addition of a manager and coach.
“If we do well this year, there is a good chance we will be able to expand the team next year, by having a coach and manager. We can truly benefit from that, because in sailing, it is a never ending process of learning,” adds Jeremy Koo.
About Sime Darby Foundation-Koo Racing Team (SDF-KRT)
Sime Darby Foundation-Koo Racing Team (SDF-KRT) is a sailing team made up of passionate Malaysian sailors. Ultimately, their goal is to be a permanent feature on the World Match Racing Tour. The team is made up of Jeremy Koo (Skipper), Tiffany Koo (Skipper), Looi Sing Yew (Trimmer & Pit), Tiger (Trimmer & Pit), Ong Khong Shing (Bowman), Saifullah (Bowman), Hakimi (Trimmer) and Fauzi Mustaffa (Main Trimmer).
The team has won the Malaysia Match Race from 2010-2012 and skipper Jeremy is ranked No. 41 in the world by the International Sailing Federation (ISAF) in the match racing category as of August 2014.