PE Sailor headed for Youth World Championships

DECEMBER 7, 2015

Algoa Bay Yacht Club based youth sailor Jenna Bailes (15) is off to Langkawi, Malaysia to sail in the Youth World Championships from 27 December 2015 to 3 January 2016. Jenna will be crewing for Gauteng based Micaela Robinson (15) in the 420 Olympic Class dinghy.

The Collegiate High School pupil has been sailing on keel-boats with her parents, Sigi and Tony, for many years - it was only two years ago that the competitive dinghy sailing bug bit. Jenna sails competitively in the Mirror and 420 Dinghy classes having sailed her Mirror Dinghy in the African Championships and Mirror Worlds 2014.

An ambition of Jenna's is to sail with a team such as Team SCA - the first all female team to compete in The Volvo Ocean Race in 12 years, and the only all female team in the 2014-15 competition.   

Jenna's partner on the 420 Dinghy, Micaela Robinson, is a two time Mirror World Champion having won with her brother Ryan in Ireland in 2013 as crew and then in South Africa in 2014 as helm with Ryan as crew. Micaela more recently finished 5th in the Tera World Championships in Aquavitesse, The Netherlands during July 2015.

Jenna and Micaela qualified for selection to the South African Youth Worlds team by winning every race but one in the selections event held on the Henley Midmar Dam in October 2015.

The youth World Championships bring together the best competitive sailing talent from all over the world and has been the breeding ground for Olympic and America’s Cup stars such as Russell Coutts (NZL), Alessandra Sensini (ITA) and Ben Ainslie (GBR).

Open to sailors who are under 19 years of age Jenna and Micaela now have the opportunity to hone their talent over the next three years with an eye on Gold for South Africa and a place in the history books of South African sailing.

With an eye on the future Jenna says; "We are both young competitors at the ISAF Youth Worlds. This will be the first time that Micaela and I are competing, so have no expectations. We would like to do the best that we can - of course."

With Micaela in Gauteng, Jenna has been clocking up the air miles to train on the water with Robinson whilst doing intense land based training at home. Holidays and most weekends have seen the two train in Gauteng with early morning starts on the water and lots of theory from Micaela's brothers and other 420 sailors.

The Robinson brothers - Ricky, Brennan and Ryan - all sail at an international level and have put a lot of effort into getting these two young ladies up to speed.

The physical training schedule for the 420 involves mainly core muscle exercises and upper body strengthening for the trapeze work on the boat. Sail training on the Vaal was chosen as the wind conditions there are the closest to the expected light conditions in Malaysia this time of the year.

Asked why she chose sailing as a sport Jenna said; "Sailing is very physical and mental, and at the same time so much fun. When sailing, you are outdoors enjoying the sea or water, wind and friends. Sailing encourages you to try something different - all sailing boats are different - but also the same."

"I have learned a huge amount! Teaming up with Micaela who is very experienced and fiercely competitive has taught me a lot. My most important lessons learned are learning to anticipate the wind, especially when on trapeze! A flat boat is a fast boat - so hiking and trapezing is important. Also your weight forward and to the back of the boat. Changing gears like, sail settings, for the different conditions is also important. The 420 is a very good boat to teach us about the basics of advanced sailing with all the elements," enthused Jenna.

Asked what her strengths were she said, "My strength is that I am keen to constantly learn. Team work is very important on a two man dinghy, and I have learnt to trust Micaela with many decisions. I feel the boat angle and make sure the boat is flat. I think that flying the spinnaker on the Mirror and the keel-boats has helped, as I am confident flying the spinnaker on the 420."

"I thoroughly enjoy big competitive regattas and realise that apart from good racing, you also make good friends for life. Maybe the ISAF Youth Worlds is going to be my new best memory," concluded Jenna.

Algoa Bay Yacht Club (ABYC) Commodore Alan Straton heaped praise on Jenna Bailes' achievement noting; "Jenna is the first female youth sailor in the history of ABYC to be selected for the Youth World Championships and we at ABYC are proud of her quiet steely determination to rise to the highest levels of the sport of sailing. We wish her fair winds and best of luck in Malaysia."

Robinson and Bailes will sail in the SA Youth Nationals starting 12 December 2015 and leave for Langkawi, Malaysia on 26 December 2015 returning 4 January 2016.


Photo caption: Jenna Bailes sails on a Sonnet Dinghy during the 2015 RYC 24 Hour Sailing Challenge held on North End Lake. Photo: Alan Straton