It's a winning combination between grandma and grandson
ANNE Littlewood's incredible commitment to her young grandson's development as a skilled sailor has made it possible for him to be on the cusp of winning a world title; incredibly, the second one this year.
For the last nine years, every day Anne, 71, has devoted herself to driving her talented grandson from gym training in the mornings and sailing training in the afternoons, crisscrossing Perth as Zac, 17, pursues his talent to highest level.
Last month he became Australia's youngest open-class world champion when he took out sailing's Laser Radial class world championship in Germany. This month he is in Corpus Christi in the US, racing against the best youth for a Youth Sailing World Championship title.
Anne admits she has had a significant influence on Zac. Their relationship early on became one of mutual respect as Anne took up the role of supporting Zac's sporting ambitions while his mother held down a fulltime job.
Being in tune with her grandson's moods and competition needs, and his program management needs, has allowed the two of them to be compatible travelling companions. "I know not to talk about sailing when it's in the middle of a regatta, for example, because he doesn't want to come home and talk about it at the time," Anne said. "I have always been able to say when he is being grumpy, 'what's the matter' or 'don't grump at me'. He knows he can't get away with it with me."
"He listens to me," Anne added. "He has always been amenable to listening to my advice."
Anne has chaperoned Zac to inter-state and overseas competitions, where she has either volunteered with the event organisers or be an avid tourist. She has accumulated a large group of social contacts which has added to the pleasure of being involved in grandson's development into a top-level sailor.
But, when he returns to Australia late next week, the relationship will change. Zac will have his own car and will be on his own when it comes to early mornings and late evenings of training. The relationship between grandson and grandmother will also change. "I might have to gently remind him occasionally that we need to catch up, but it won't be as spontaneous," Anne says a little sadly. "It will be the nitty gritty that won't happen anymore because we will just be catching up."
Such is the strength of their relationship, Anne said, "He won't scratch me. I feel I am too important in his life because we have such a good grandma, grandson relationship."
The upside of the change in their relationship is that Anne will have more time to concentrate on her seniorpreneur decluttering business, which she has called Elite Concierge, and in working as a scribe for Federal Government recruitment panels, in addition to her sailing volunteer roles. With an active brain and positive outline, Anne fully intends on keeping working for as long as possible.
Anne hopes have more time will mean getting back to her weekly yacht racing on Swan River, which she first started in her early 50s.
Her grandson in the meantime is continuing his meteoric rise in the ranks of the most talented of small boat sailors in Australia. An Olympic Games and an Olympic gold medal could well be the horizon for Zac. "He certainly has the dedication and commitment to do that," a proud Anne said. Will Anne be there if that happens? "Oh yes. At the Olympics? Too right," she added.