Australian ILCA Laser Youth Solidarity Program

The Australian Laser Class Association launched its Laser dinghy Youth Solidarity program at the 2023 ILCA Laser Oceania Australian Open and Youth Championships sailed from the St Georges River Sailing Club in January.

Six teenage girls, one from each Australian state, were selected to sail their first ILCA nationals in the 55 boat Laser 4.7 division, in Lasers provided by the Victorian Laser Association. A coach and on-water and shore support was provided for the girls and their families from their pre-event arrival till the end of the Regatta. Australia’s Tokyo 2020 Olympics representatives Mara Stransky and gold medallist Matt Wearn, and members of Australian Sailing’s Laser squad had a mid Regatta session with the Solidarity group. They discussed the finer points of sailing a Laser and the pathways available from club sailing to State, National, International and Olympics events and training programs in the ILCA Laser class.

The feedback from the Youth Solidarity group and their parents at the ILCA Laser Nationals was very positive. Maddy English from Victoria commented that this intense experience improved her confidence sailing in larger fleets. She found herself sailing in 20+ knots on a few of the days, She said she learned how to better trim her sail and after several capsizes in choppy, blustery conditions, staying upright was a great incentive to focus attention on setting sail controls right! She said she had some amazing experiences out on the water, met some wonderful people and made some great friends.

The Laser Youth Solidarity Program was started by the Victorian Laser Association (VLA) in 2022, with rollout in other States and in the Oceania region to follow. The program is designed to help transition young sailors from junior classes to the Laser 4.7 (ILCA4) which is the youth stepping stone to the larger rig ILCA6 (Laser Radial) and ILCA7(Laser Standard). The VLA program includes training programs and regattas, the availability of a fleet of six Laser 4.7’s, and assistance in boat purchase and setup.

The focus for the ILCA Laser Nationals component of the Youth Solidarity program in 2023 has been on selection and support of a group of teenage girls. The intention is to expand the offering to a group of ten teenage girls for the Nationals in Adelaide in January 2024, with six state representatives and representatives from New Zealand, and three Pacific Island Nations.

The Australian Laser Class Association has appreciated support for the Solidarity program at the 2023 nationals provided by Vaikobi who supplied Solidarity sailing jackets and tops and Performance Sailing Australia with Laser parts and on-site support.

Aust Champs Photo Jon West
Aust Champs Photo Jon West

For further information on the ILCA Laser Youth Solidarity program contact a State Laser Association or the Australian Laser Class Association.

Rod Thomas
Commodore, Albert Sailing Club
for Victorian Laser Association

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