Fifteen-year-old Yogev Alcalay of the Sdot Yam Sailing Club in Israel took home four gold medals and a trophy from the EurILCA (International Laser Class Association) 2019 Laser 4.7 Youth Europeans  in Hyeres, France, concluded on May 25.
Yogev made history by besting male competitors not only in the under-16 category but also in the entire under-18 boys’ category in both the open and European divisions – meaning he was the top laser sailor among 270 male competitors. Altogether, the competition included 400 participants from 50 countries.
The ninth-grade honors student from Caesarea trains six times a week in the water and two in the gym at Sdot Yam Sailing Club, where he had his first sailing experience during a summer camp in 2012.
“After a week, he came home and said, ‘Mom, I want to sail,’” Limor Raiten Alcalay tells ISRAEL21c. “He goes directly from school to the club every day to work out. He arrives home about 8 at night.”
Dean Bikel, Yogev’s coach at Sdot Yam, tells ISRAEL21c that Yogev was one of two boys and two girls chosen to represent Israel at the Laser 4.7 Youth Europeans based on the results of several regattas.
The International Laser Class sailboat is one-person dinghy. Laser 4.7 is a class for sailors from about 13 to 17 years old; laser radial is until age 18 or 19; and the highest class, laser standard, is the Olympic class for boys, Bikel explains.
“Yogev has a long way to go but I’m sure he will succeed,” says his coach. “He is very talented and performs well in all conditions, in both strong and light winds.”
Because Yogev’s big win in France was unexpected, the Sailing Association in Israel did not budget enough funds to send an Israeli competitor to the 2019 ILCA Laser 4.7 Youth World Championships  in August, to be held in Canada. “We’re trying to find a sponsor to get him there and to more international competitions,” says his mother.
Windsurfer Gal Fridman, another “graduate” of the Sdot Yam Sailing Club, won Israel’s first, and so far only, Olympic gold medal for his performance in the 2004 Summer Games.