Alessandra Sensini: born to win

Alessandra might have taken on different roles but the trend that saw her take the windsurfing world by storm ever since her very first years on the water remains the same. From having won the most Olympic medals in female sailing history to being the only female sailor on the Italian Sailing Federation's technical team, as Youth Director.

Today, we find out what it takes to boast the strongest national youth team in the world, a team that will be competing to defend their record at the upcoming 'Youth Sailing World Championships' on Lake Garda!

©Elena Giolai/SLAM



Alessandra Sensini, the Italian windsurfer who has won the most Olympic medals in the history of female sailing following six Games (bronze in Atlanta 1996 and Athens 2004, gold in Sydney 2000, silver in China 2008) and covered the role of vice-president of CONI (Italy’s National Olympic Committee), continues her lifetime trend of victories, this time as Youth Director for the Italian Sailing Federation. Alessandra is capable of transferring her wealth of experience as an athlete and as a coach to Italy’s under-19s, leading the Italian youth team to achieve exceptional results. Since covering this role, she has led Italy to win the Nations Trophy at the Youth Worlds an amazing three times (2016-2017-2023), having won gold herself in 1986 at the then IYRU Youth Worlds (now World Sailing) in Greece.

For the 2023 Worlds, those preceding the edition taking place in Italy this year, from 12th to 20th July, Alessandra was in Buzios, Brazil, 35 years after claiming her own silver medal at the same venue in the women's overall world championship. A coincidence that allowed Alessandra to relive some of her most intense personal and sporting moments. 

In this interview, we tried to understand what it takes to be a Youth Director; what decisions are needed in order to be prepared and motivated for the most important event on the calendar in a segment, that of the under-19s, that can be so delicate, and at times complex, but certainly stimulating due to the very age of the athletes competing, athletes who are given the opportunity to grow up in a highly formative reality. One thing is certain: medals (6 won in the last edition alone) don’t just drop from the sky, they are earned through hard work, which starts from the basics, from the clubs, the coaches, all the way up to federal technicians and athletic trainers, whether at the club or from CONI itself. A chain of talent that, once it finds its balance and the right motivation, bears its fruits in the form of medals, victories, podiums. But first and foremost in the form of human and sporting experiences, which help young sailors mature with important values, such as believing in their team and giving it their all both as an individual and as a crew.


Winning a medal at an event like the Youth World Championship is a formative moment above all else, one that gives you so much. This is why I try to make the kids experience an event like this in such a way that it can become an important stage in their career and teach them something, regardless of the result


How did it feel to be back in Buzios where you won a silver medal at the women's world championship at 18?

It was a thrilling experience; that silver medal meant the world to me because it was the first time I had won a medal at an overall world championship. Winning a medal at an event like the Youth World Championship is a formative moment above all else, one that gives you so much. This is why I try to make the kids experience an event like this in such a way that it can become an important stage in their career and teach them something, regardless of the result.

What can taking part in the Youth World Championship, an event that we will be able to follow on Lake Garda from 12th July, represent for a young sailor? 

It needs to represent a moment of growth, a moment in which those who qualify have the opportunity to experience an event that is markedly different from those they have experienced so far, because racing with only one athlete per nation is completely different compared to 'open' events, such as the Class Championships, where there are more sailors.

Also, the importance of teamwork becomes more apparent and a lot of new factors come into play: the athletes don’t have their own coach but a national coach, the boats, sails and boards are provided by the organisers, and each athlete has to manage so many phases on land and in the water by themselves. These changes alone allow for a great deal of personal growth, regardless of the final outcome.


70 nations, 418 under-19 athletes

🥇🥇Men's and women's iQFoil: Pilloni - Colasanto

🥇🥇Men's and women's Ilca 6: Pascali - Arseni

Men's and women's Kite foil

🥇Nacra 15 Mixed: Sirena/Dessy
🥇Men's and women's 420: Vucetti/Bonifacio

Men's and women's 29er

How much work goes into winning the Nations Trophy?What has been this team’s trump card in previous editions?

Since taking up the role of technical director we have won the National Trophy three times now. There is a lot of work that goes behind it since you need to follow the kids through their coaches in planning the season as whole. 

There are also joint training sessions in which all those qualified have the chance to spend time together and get to know each other. What I really liked about this year was that the kids were really motivated from the get-go: they waited for each other, helped each other out. This is key as a sense of being part of a team can truly make the difference.

Another key factor is that Italy has always managed to win when the event takes place in the southern hemisphere, towards the end of the year, having had time to prepare during the summer months, something that will not be the case this year on Lake Garda. For the previous team we knew we had very good individual athletes, demonstrated with victories at international championships, but it was essential to create a positive environment that could keep them focused on the event, while at the same time managing to make them have fun and experience it all with a bit of lightness. This is the balance that needs to be struck, the aim of the technical staff, who need to work alongside various figures and, in the months leading up to the event, contribute to achieving the goal.


It would be a dream come true to see some of them win the Olympics some day; perhaps as early as Los Angeles or Brisbane



Italy retained their Nations Trophy in style as a tremendous week at the Youth Sailing World Championships 2024 was capped off with closing ceremony celebrations in Riva.

The hosts rocketed to claim six world titles on Lake Garda thanks to countless displays of precision and skill across 11 events and six classes.

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