Wanaka girl has wind in her sails

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Laura Erichsen is on top of the world after returning from the Open Bic world championships, competing against 186 contestants from 12 countries.

The Open Bic is a single-handed sailboat for young sailors.

Held on Lake Garda in northern Italy, Laura (16) competed in the under 17 category.

Six New Zealanders were selected to attend by Sir Russell Coutts, with Laura the only girl.

“It was pretty awesome, it was quite a privilege to go over there, especially being the only girl from New Zealand,” Laura said.

After arriving in Italy the challenge for Laura was getting to know the area.

Lake Garda is the biggest lake in Italy, about twice as big as Lake Wanaka.

“It’s quite like sailing in the ocean, but on a lake – the wind was like being on the open sea,” Laura said.

“We had two weeks in Lake Garda, we had a week of training [during] which we went out every morning and afternoon, and then we had racing for a week.”

Laura was accompanied by her mother Rachel and sisters Thea and Maya.

Father Michael Erichsen was in Australia at the time.

“He was really proud and wished he was there,” Laura said.

Brand new boats were chartered in Italy for the duration of the race.

Laura said the sailing went well but she had problems with her mast .

“It affected the shape of the sail, so my speed wasn’t as good as it could have been.

“We realised after the third day of racing that it was happening, so we changed it and the results went up from there,” Laura said.

Final results for Laura were 13th girl and 45th overall.

Laura was excited by the year ahead as she would be moving to Auckland for six months to get more sailing experience and more training with Sir Russell Coutts.

“Quite a lot of people I sail with and race with here are going to university next year, so it’s the perfect opportunity to go up,”Laura said.

“Up in Auckland I will be trying all different sorts of boats so that I can get more experience and find a boat that I can go further in.”

At the moment she was interested in the Laser or the 49er FX which were both Olympic class boats.

“They are fast, there’s lots of regattas and opportunities, because they are very well known.”

“But mind you, I tried the foiling WASZP the other day and it was amazing.”

Head of Wanaka Yacht Club’s youth sailing programme Craig Fahey said Laura was a great example of what could happen when young people had the drive and desire to succeed through focus and hard work.

“She has all the ability in the world and I have no doubt that we will see her achieve lofty goals in the years ahead.”

Mr Fahey said the Wanaka Yacht Club was taking a fresh look at junior sailing following the America’s Cup win with a festival of sail sports in January.

Sir Russell Coutts would join other Olympic and America’s Cup winners at a new three-day overnight junior sailing camp run by the yacht club.

“We are harnessing the momentum that winning the America’s Cup has generated in youth sailing and endeavouring to present the options that are out there for kids in a fun, engaging, thoughtful way,” Mr Fahey said.