by The Nation
Thai sailors 'sailed' home yesterday with three gold medals from the 15th Asian Sailing Championships 2012 in Malaysia. Among the gold-winners was Olympic hopeful Laser sailor Keerati Bualong who battled shifting winds to finish first in seven races and second in four, for a winning total of 15 points in the Olympic Laser Standard class. Malaysia's Kahirulnizam Bin Mohd Afendy was second on 24 points and China's Zhou Jinfu third on 36 points.>
The Thai Asian Sailing Champs team
In non-Olympic classes, Thailand's Damrongsak Vongtim and younger brother Kritsada headed the Hobie 16 fleet with eight first-place finishes, while Chaninat Poolsirikot won Thailand's third gold, in the Optimist Girls class.
Noppakao Poonpat and crew Dylan Whitcraft sailed to a silver in the 29er class. The Asian meet saw 196 sailors from 16 countries descend on Langkawi.
Keerati's next major challenge is May's World Laser Standard Seniors Championship 2012 (Laser Worlds) in Germany, where he is aiming to become the first Thai sailor to qualify for the 2012 Olympics. His Olympic bid was boosted in Langkawi by an impressed Singapore sailing team, who presented him with new equipment.
In addition, Oman Sail generously invited Keerati on a two-week Laser training camp in Oman from March 4-16, with a sailing clinic held by world No 2 Laser sailor Nick Thompson.
'Training in Oman with Nick Thompson will be of great benefit for Keerati,' said coach Veerasit Puangnak of the Royal Thai Navy. But Keerati still needs sponsorship for the airfare and daily expenses in Oman. 'The top Laser Standard sailors [of South Korea, Singapore and China] are already training in Europe,' noted Veerasit. To compete with the best, you have to train with the best.'