Australian champion Paige Caldecoat enjoys the close racing that ensues when sailing Laser Radials.
“It’s a one-design boat. It has just three control lines and it’s very physical,” Paige, 17, of Bonnells Bay, said.
“When you’re sailing a Laser every little thing matters, and can be the difference between a first and a 10th placing.”
So it stands to reason, then, that when the racing is so close, the elite sailors are always looking to build on their technical skills and experience.
For Paige, that means travelling to Europe for half the year to train for the Youth Sailing World Championships in Gdynia, Poland, in July.
Among the previous winners at these world titles are Lake Macquarie Olympians Nathan Outteridge and Iain Jensen, and New Zealand’s America’s Cup skipper Chris Dickson.
Paige was chosen to represent Australia after strong results in Laser Radial classes at two national events in Tasmania in January.
At the 2019 Oceania and Australian Laser Championships, an open event, Paige took out the youth women’s category in a field of 250.
Days later, she contested the 2019 Australian Youth Sailing Championships in Hobart. She was the first female sailor to finish, and was 9th overall.
She has since packed her sails and bags and jetted to Europe.
“I’ll be going to Spain, Italy, Portugal, France and Greece,” she said.
Sometimes she’ll stay alone. At other times she’ll share accommodation with a team of international sailors coached by the two-time Hungarian Olympian Tamas Eszes.
“Two of my training partners are in the Top 10 in the world,” she said.
It’s that exposure to elite sailors and coaches that Paige hopes will help to take her results to the next level.
Paige is no stranger to travel, and the prospect of a lengthy stay overseas doesn’t faze her.
“Last year I started racing in senior fields overseas, including at the Sailing World Championships in Denmark,” she said.
“My parents get more nervous than I do. I’ve done it three times now, so it’s not that big of a deal.”
And there’s more international travel on the horizon for Paige.
After the world titles in Poland, she plans to race at the 2019 Laser Radial Youth World Championships in Kingston, Canada, at the end of July.
Paige attended Morisset High School up to year 10, and is now studying for the Higher School Certificate (HSC) online over three years.
She learned to sail with South Lake Macquarie Amateur Sailing Club, at Sunshine, and represents Belmont 16 Foot Sailing Club.
Her father, Chris, is a boat builder who runs Performance Sailcraft Australia, at Fountaindale, on the Central Coast.
Paige’s sailing idol is another Paige – the American Paige Railey – a three-time Olympian and 2006 ISAF World Sailor of the Year.
And Paige’s ultimate goal?
“Hopefully, I can sail at the Olympics and win a medal – preferably gold,” she smiled.