Rohini Rau

For the love of sailing

YOUNG LIKE US Despite handling the pressures of the sport and pursuing her degree in medicine, Rohini Rau manages to stay afloat. R.NARAYANAN


It started as a leisure activity and soon became an addiction . And soon the addiction transformed her life so much that she simply refused to get out of it. Meet Rohini Rau, whose addiction to sailing has fetched her one Asian Championship gold medal, many national titles and also made her the first Indian woman sailor to be ranked in the international chart.

When did it all begin?

It seems I was hardly a year old when my mom, who was also a sailor, took me to the Royal Madras Yacht Club. That must have been my first tryst with sailing. When I was 11, I used to take part in camps organised by her and slowly got hooked on to the sport.

You have been sailing for a decade now. Tell us about your experiences.

I started off in the Optimist Class. Since I was too big for the boat, I never made it big in this class. Unfortunately, I was too small for the Laser Radial Class boat. That’s when I got into the 420-class and tasted my biggest success in the Asian Championship in Mumbai in 2004 along with Pallavi Naik. Now, I have moved over to the Laser Radial Class.

Given the vagaries of this sport, you have been fairly consistent and successful. What is the secret?

The love for the sport keeps pushing me all the time and that is reflected in the good results. When you enjoy doing something, you tend to go all out to make things happen.

Sailing must have taught you to handle the ebb and flow of life.

Yes. It has helped me grow as a person and also given me the independence to make my own decisions. I have to chart my own course when am all alone in the sea. I used to be a tomboy when I was younger but things are different now.

Isn’t it tough battling the elements of wind and water?

Many people think that we are fighting against nature. It isn’t so. We sailors have learnt to respect and embrace nature, and use it to our advantage. We know that every day is different, and we have to be prepared all the time.

You trained in Europe before going to Portugal for the Beijing Olympics qualifier. What did you learn there?

That I was as good as the best sailors in the world! Initially, it was hard but slowly I got used to the competition and took pleasure in beating some of the top sailors. In New Zealand recently, I even finished eighth in one of the races and was so overwhelmed that I cried.

You are pursuing medicine as well, aren’t you?

Yes. I am doing my second year MBBS at the Chengalpattu Medical College. I take my studies very seriously and even got a distinction in one of the subjects (anatomy) in the first year exams. I plan to specialise in sports medicine. I want to prove that one can excel in both academics and sports at the same time.

Do you have any plans as a doctor?

Once I finish sports medicine, I want to open a sports centre in India which will have all the facilities under one roof.

Who are the other sportspersons you are in touch with?

Squash champion Joshna Chinappa and I are very good friends. World Junior Billiards champion Pankaj Advani and I hit it off really well when we met in New Delhi at an awards function. Despite his achievements, Pankaj is down-to-earth. He never forgets to call me on my birthday.

The funniest moment in your life was…

My two best friends in sailing come from Belgium and Latvia. We enjoy each other’s company and once shot a video of us singing songs. Whenever we watch that video, we burst out laughing.

What is your dream destination?

South America. Brazil in particular.

What is your Olympic dream?

I am eyeing the 2012 Olympics in London. For this year’s Beijing Games, I started as late as 2007. Even if India gets a wild card entry to this year’s Olympics, only one can make it. I am third on the Indian wild card entry list. Who knows, I might get lucky and be on the plane to Beijing too!

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