Youth Sailors Benefiting From Japan Exchange
by David Sygall
Some of Australia’s up-and-coming sailing talents are gaining a valuable opportunity to race, learn and build relationships with young Japanese sailors as part of an exchange program in the lead-up to the Youth World Championships in the US later this year.
National youth representatives Otto Henry and Rome Featherstone (420), Matilda and Lily Richardson (420), Maddie O’Shea (Laser Radial) and Zac Littlewood (Laser Radial) are in Japan with Australian Sailing Youth Team coach Dan Smith and Olympic sailing gold medallist Belinda Stowell for the Japan Youth Nationals, where they are building their big fleet competitive skills and overall teamwork in preparation for the Youth Worlds in Texas in July.
The 420 is a feeder class for the 470, which is by far the most popular class in Japanese sailing.
“The 470 is sailed in all universities that run sailing programs and is very competitive here,” Stowell said.
“Since the start of our exchange the 420 has now been introduced into schools and is growing larger by the year, with an anticipated 60-boat fleet for this regatta, which starts on Friday.”
Stowell said a major benefit of the program was for the young sailors of both countries to build friendships, learn a bit of each other’s languages “and have training partner and familiar face to work with at the Youth Worlds where there is only one boat per nation”.
The Team had a light wind training session on Tuesday with some local schools teams.
“The Lasers were joined by a team from Hokkaido which is the northernmost island in Japan,” Stowell said.
“They don’t sail from October to about April due to there being so much ice and cold that the mainsheet freezes and doesn’t run through the block. They were happy to be down here in a mild 19 degrees!
“There were some good mark rounding battles in the Laser fleet and some tight starts in the 420s.”
On Wednesday, the Team visited Karatsu Castle on a hill overlooking the race course, did a workout and sat down to do school work before adding finishing touches for the regatta.
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