FREMANTLE sailor Zac Littlewood’s hopes of representing Australia at the 2024 Paris Olympics are back on track after his favoured type of dinghy narrowly avoided being cut by the sport’s international governing body.
The 18-year-old is one of Fremantle Sailing Club’s emerging stars, becoming Australia’s youngest open-class world champion last year in the radial laser class.
But last year World Sailing’s council announced a review of the one-person dinghy events for the Paris games with the view to replacing the lasers with more modern variants such as the D-Zero, Melges 14 and the RS Aero.
At trials in Valencia, Spain earlier this year the RS Aero came out on top, but late last month the council decided to ignore the advice of its equipment committee and stick with the lasers.
The sailing community was divided by the proposed changes, with some saying it would destroy grassroots sailing by cannibalising the large contingent of laser sailors into smaller fleets while others saw it as a chance to modernise and develop emerging classes.
A petition protesting the changes got more than 25,000 signatures.
Littlewood has been sailing for a decade, but in the last five years had been focussed on the laser and said dropping it would have been bad for the sport.
“The other options wouldn’t be as competitive,” he said.
Littlewood, who has been supported and funded by his grandmother, said it could have also left them in a financial hole. It would mean everyone would need to buy a new boat and it would be hard to sell laser gear.
Fellow Fremantle sailor Richard Maher was also puzzled by the proposed changes, saying World Sailing had promoted the laser as a way of encouraging less affluent countries into the sport, but it had then started chasing technology-driven classes with expensive boats and equipment.
by MACKENZIE TAYLOR