Advancing women’s youth sailing

Published on May 3rd, 2015

Thirty-two girls from all corners of the USA gathered in New Orleans for three days over the weekend of April 24-26 for the Leiter Spring Women’s Clinic. Held at at Southern Yacht Club, the clinic is a stepping stone to the Ida Lewis Trophy, Junior Women’s Doublehanded Championship, and to the Nancy Leiter Clagett Memorial Trophy, Junior Women’s Singlehanded Championship.

Designed for girls ages 13-18, the clinic drew northern sailors, getting a jump on their season; sailors making the transition to a new class; and girls with well-developed goals for the season. They were there to receive some southern hospitality as SYC is famous for providing, and great coaching at the 22nd edition of the Leiter Clinic. Eight girls came to sail Laser Radials, and 24 were sailing Club 420s.

Coaching this year were: Amanda Clark, 2-time Olympian, 2-time Leiter Trophy champion, now the Director of Coaching for the United States Optimist Dinghy Association; Katy Lovell, former US Sailing Team member in the Europe Dinghy and Match Racing discipline; Alice Leonard, former US Sailing Team member in the 470 class and Match Racing discipline; and Richard Feeny, US Sailing’s Youth Development Director.

The clinic coincides with New Orleans’ Jazz and Heritage Festival and manages to incorporate a little bit of the soul of this unique city into the curriculum. The girls don’t have much time to listen to jazz, but they did get a crawfish boil, with all the fixin’s, a look at the mighty Mississippi, a brief history lesson, and some beignets at Café du Monde.

Conditions this year were variable with two severe thunderstorms blasting through. However, the final day provided champagne conditions, and sailors left with memories of a perfect 3-hour practice. Many thanks to Southern Yacht Club staff and volunteers for bringing together boats and housing for all. KO Sailing also helped immensely by providing five new Lasers for the sailors. Next year the clinic will be held April 22-24, 2016 with an application deadline of March 1. – Richard Feeny

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