Hubert Burda Media

Going Against the Tide

Life throws us curveballs now and then, as we find out from one of Singapore’s top laser sailors, who once had a phobia of being at sea.

The cruise to the top was not always easy for Scott Glen Sydney, who is currently the top-ranked Asian sailor in the ISAF World Rankings (Laser Men). His first few encounters with the sport had him floundering out in open sea, unlike his counterparts who were unfazed by the strong winds and waves.
“The wind went up to 20-30 knots and the waves hit two to three metres at times. That used to scare me a lot! I was extremely reluctant whenever I had to sail in those conditions and prayed very hard that I would make it back alive,” Sydney recalls with an embarrassed grin.
A combination of dogged persistence and sheer determination saw him overcome his fear, enter the Singapore National Team by age 10 and from there, conquer the nautical world. He has competed in six World Championships to date, achieved the bronze medal at the 2010 Asian Games and even qualified to represent Singapore in the 2012 Olympics at the 2011 ISAF World Championships.
And did we mention, he’s only 22?
The young sailor, who studied at the Singapore Sports School, comes across as confident and eloquent. We are seated at the VIP lounge of the Extreme Sailing Series 2013 at The Promontory@Marina Bay, where he tackles every question thrown at him with energy and panache. “I was never adept at other sports besides sailing. I have been sailing for more than three-quarters of my life now and I am still so in love with it,” he enthuses.
“Sailing is a versatile sport. Anyone from eight to 88 can sail as long as they put their minds to it. I enjoy the independence out at sea, free from all worries and distractions. And I get to travel and meet new people all the time.”
From the beautiful St Moritz in Switzerland to the breathtaking Adriatic Coast in Croatia and the Canary Islands in Spain, he counts himself lucky to have traversed exotic destinations to sail and win medals along the way. “There is no recipe for a victory. Sailing is very much a nature-influenced sport with an element of luck in it. But you can grasp the tools to deal with it in the best way. My strategy is a good start and great technique. There must be excellent timing, the correct execution of manoeuvres, precise acceleration and good boat handling,” Sydney rattles off.
Back home in Singapore recently for the Extreme Sailing Series (April 12-14), he made history as the youngest skipper and tactician in Team Aberdeen Singapore to compete against Olympic sailing greats such as Leigh McMillan, Hans-Peter Steinacher and Roman Hagara.
“It was a fantastic privilege. These people are superstars of the sport. It was tough trying to find a balance between being too star-struck and trying to focus on the race,” he admits. “But I managed to take away some great lessons on improving my skills and technique.”
He looks up to 28-year-old Tom Slingsby (reigning world champion and Olympic gold medalist in the Laser class) and aspires to compete in the 2016 Rio Olympic Games. A math and statistics major at the University of Sydney, he sails regularly and coaches part-time at the Woollahra Sailing Club. Last year, he also got hooked onto rock-climbing — clearly an adrenaline junkie at heart.
Sydney bubbles with optimism as we discuss his future and confides — most surprisingly — that he would eventually like to become a doctor. “Sailing is my passion but I have always been interested in medicine,”says Sydney, who will be competing in the European Championships in Ireland in September.
“I cannot imagine separating myself completely from the sport though, so I see myself going back to it from time to time in the future, whether in a coaching role or in a team like the America’s Cup.”