Image Credits: ©Ishwariya Ganesh

  • Sep
  • 27

Ishwariya Ganesh: ‘I want to be the best sailor in Asia’

Author Image Mervin LR

It has been a truly remarkable ride for Indian sailing in recent times, with a new wave of young sailors embarking upon monstrous task of competing against the world’s best that often goes under the radar. One such talent who has certainly covered more than her fair share of nautical miles in her short life is the 18-year-old Ishwariya Ganesh.


Ranked No.1 in windsurfing (RSX), Ishwariya is blossoming into one of the burgeoning sailing talents in the country. What constantly shines through when speaking to 18-year-old is the enthusiasm in her voice.


Ishwariya from an early stage of her life looked set to have a career of some description in sports:


“I was so sporty at school, I enjoyed doing every sport there was, I competed in every sport there were. I have tried archery, rifle shooting, karate, horse riding, surfing, rowing and sailing in my summer holidays. Windsurfing is a combination of both sailing and surfing. And I found windsurfing to be a more intellectual sport where you apply your endurance, knowledge, decision-making skills and science.”


When sailing came calling


After a life of playing different sports, the Chennai native never thought she would find herself swayed but unexpectedly everything was about to change when her father saw a newspaper cutting of a summer sailing camp and enrolled both Ishwariya and his younger brother Sachin, but little did he know what the future had in store for her.


Like most sports that people love, initially they casually explore it, learning the rules and just appreciating the spectacle of what they see. Then slowly they start to develop a greater understanding of the tactics and techniques of the athletes involved. So it was with Ishwariya.


She used to browse the Internet for hours learning the technical know-how, training drills, sail trimming and even down to fitness exercises related to windsurfing. She learned to manure on the windsurfing board in the Besant Nagar Beach, Kovalam backwater and in Palar river with the help of local fishermen.


It is a sport where you hardly see any audience or fans. It is a sport where you do a lot of preparation for everyday practice. It almost takes two-hour preparation for three hours of training.”


“I have had an amazing upbringing with huge amounts of support from my family in whatever I wanted to do and couldn’t ask for any more, I love them all to bits.”


Flourishing and prospering


From 2014 to 2017, she enjoyed sailing optimist boat and in 2018, she tried windsurfing and decided to be a professional sailor because she saw a lot of scopes to represent India at the International Championships.


Sailing alone for some people sounds terrifying for the extreme loneliness as much as anything else and making it as a career and be a champion deserves more than applause.


Ishwariya managed to win 14 medals so far including an Asian Windsurfing Techo Girls silver medal, three All India Board Sailing RSX Youth silver medals, multiple senior gold medals and most recently gold at the 2021 YAI Senior Nationals, Mumbai (Asian Games Trials 01/09/2021) RSX and many more.


The days are long and relentless for Ishwariya including multiple sessions during championship time, but the never-ending aspect of her life is something she revels in. The love of what she does drives her forward. Ishwariya accepts what is needed. An understanding nothing is given in life:


“During championship time, I spent 4 days training, 3 days schooling and social life. Otherwise, I spent 2 days training, 5 days schooling and social life.”


Even though sailing is still not very popular in India, the country does have a very old history with the sport. According to Ishwariya sailing is just not only a sport but also a science. Applying navigational skills, handling ocean currents, analysing the wind, using the wind shifts efficiently is the real strength in the sports.


Focused and balanced


Ishwariya is the type of person who has to excel in everything she does. Taking part isn’t enough, a winning mentality to be the best she can be at whatever discipline she applies herself to:


“It’s all or nothing, I am so focused. If I want something, I will do everything I can to get it.Every day is a new day with new opportunities to learn and reflect. Even at a professional level, there was something new to learn every day. My practical sailing experience has helped me understand the subject better in Naval Architecture and Offshore Engineering degree.”


When asked about her craziest experience on the sea, the Indian No.1 in Windsurfing (RSX) said:


“I once got drifted from Chennai harbour to Kasimedu beach, which is about 7kms away during the Chennai cyclone in 2018. It was the craziest experience in the middle of a cyclone all alone.”


An environment of positivity is vital for progress, too many sailors’ careers dwindle away when they train somewhere that has a negative impact on mind and body but the youngster remain confident of succeeding in sailing and drawing a well-liked comparison that motor vehicles can reach the maximum speed depending on the engine capacity, whereas in sailing, the sailor decides the maximum speed he/she can exert from the wind.


On being asked what is her favourite and hardest part of sailing, the 18-year-old student from Vels University, Pallavaram, Chennai said predictably measured statement that balancing tactical manoeuvres and good techniques during races have been the hardest and finishing her race in the first place and hearing the whistle on the finish line have been her favourite part of sailing.


Fearless pursuit of dreams and ambitions of making big in sailing


The reigning National champion for consecutive 3 years is nothing if not driven, a determination to succeed in everything that she does and is fully aware of the progress and has ambitions to go a very long way. There is a goal, she wants to become the best in Asia:


“Five years ago, as a school kid, I wanted to be the best sailor in Tamil Nadu. Now I want to be the best sailor in Asia.”


Her recent triumphs have thrust the spotlight onto the young girl for the first time in her career, really.


“Any Olympic qualifier is the most important championship for a sportsperson. For me, clinching a gold medal at Asian Sailing Championship is as good as winning in Olympics.”


The ambitions are big, and with a lack of depth the only lingering problem her sport has, her talent and development is one to look forward to. Ishwariya will give everything in pursuit of her dream:


“I am looking to go as far as I can within the sport, I want to get to the top and I will give every aspect of myself to the sport in trying to get there. My goal is to represent India in the forthcoming Asian Games 2022 and Olympics 2024.”




Do you have a sailor you particularly like?


Emma Wilson, Britain


What is one weird thing you always have in your sailing bag?


Knife and lighter, to cut ropes and blunt the ends.


What will be your snack of choice on the trip?


Chips and dark chocolate


Non-sailor that you admire the most?


Kalpana Chawla


If you could sail anywhere in the world, where would you go?


Canary Islands, Spain

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