LANGKAWI, 17 January — Naval reservist Norzuhaira Ruhanie is a tactician on board Zuhal, one of the three Royal Malaysian Navy yachts in the 13th Royal Langkawi International Regatta 2015.
She started on the optimist dinghy at 13 years of age when she joined her school’s sailing programme. “I’ve always been interested in sailing but after school, there was no chance of doing more with my sailing knowledge. I guess life got in the way for a while,” she says.
After completing an International Relations degree in Japan and working for a few years as a journalist at the New Straits Times Malaysia, she started sailing again and in 2009 took part in the Raja Muda Regatta on a Japanese boat.
Then in 2011, at the age of 34, she joined the Navy.
“It’s the uniform but the Navy has always fascinated me. I was a Navy Cadet in secondary school so when I found out that I could join the reservists, I did,” says Norzu who is now an officer under training.
And when Lt. Cdr. Mohd. Hanif, Zuhal‘s skipper who was the Commanding Officer of her reservists unit, offered her a position on Zuhal she took it.
Having a woman on board is not completely alien to Team Zuhal who is based in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, where there are quite a number of women sailors.
“The guys do give me a hard time sometimes but they are also very helpful and I’m such an amateur that I’m willing to learn everything there is to know about sailing. Being part of the team is a big honour and I do sometimes feel like I have to prove myself but I must be doing something right or I wouldn’t be here,” she says.