I recently discovered many of my early results preserved on a website maintained by New Jersey’s Barnegat Bay Yacht Racing Association. It was fascinating to study these long forgotten races, and it was a reminder of how important sailing was to me as a junior competitor. The experience of browsing through my own past coincided with an exhaustive look into the performances of more than 300 junior sailors as I finalized my 2012 Jobson Junior All-Star selections. Narrowing the field was a Herculean task, but I’m excited to present a new group of talented sailors, all making my list for the first time. So long as these seven sailors keep at it, our sport is in good hands.
Bradley Adam, 17, of East Greenwich, R.I., sails for the Rocky Hill School and the East Greenwich YC. He sails his Club 420 constantly and is always near the front of the East Coast’s biggest fleets. His regular crew is Chas MacBain, but he’s also sailed with Matt Coughlin and Emily Vasiliou. Adam’s 2011 highlights include winning the New Bedford Regatta against 87 boats, the Falmouth Regatta (64 boats), and Marblehead Junior Race Week (57 boats). Adam credits his father for being the most influential person in building his sailing career. He also competes on Rocky Hill’s cross-country team and finds the mental aspect of both his sports to be significant and similar. He hopes to attend the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in the fall of 2012 and join the sailing team.
When asked if he had an embarrassing moment he was willing to share, he said, “I was flagged by the on-the-water judges during the Optimist New England Champs a few years ago, and the video ended up on the Internet.”
Zack Downing, 16, is from Encinitas, Calif., and sails out of the San Diego YC. He is a junior at The Bishop’s School, where he competes on the top-ranked sailing team. Like many Southern California sailors before him, Downing cut his teeth in the Naples Sabot. Today, he races a 29er with crew Andrew Cates. They won the 155-boat 29er European Championship. Downing also races Etchells and Melges 24s with his father.
Graham Biehl, who crewed for Stuart McNay in the 470 at the 2008 Olympics, coached Downing and Cates at the European 29er regatta and has been a major help with their development. “Graham is a phenomenal coach,” says Downing. “He taught Andrew and me everything, from how to sail the 29er to how to perform at a major regatta.” Looking to the future, Downing plans to race in college and campaign a 49er.
Paris Henken, 15, is a member of California’s Coronado YC. Henken and crew Connor Kelter, 16, from Newport Harbor (Calif.) YC, won the 29er Youth Championships last summer. “We’ve sailed together for two years. If it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t be as successful as I am now,” says Henken. Her brother, Hans Henken, crewed for her at the 29er European Championships in Switzerland, where they finished fourth in the Gold Fleet. The brother-sister team also won the 29erXX class at Kiel Week and the German National Championships on Lake Walchensee. She credits several top sailors with helping her development, including Charlie McKee, Chris Rast, Kristen Lane, and her brother Hans. The 2016 Olympic Games will feature a co-ed multihull and women’s skiff disciplines. Henken could be a strong contender in either.
When not sailing, Henken skis competitively. “[The two sports] are comparable when it comes to equipment, mental preparation, and commitment,” she says. “Before a ski race, you make sure your skis are waxed and tuned. You also must know the conditions. Sailing is the same, because your equipment must be tuned correctly for the wind.”
Henken is a high-school sophomore and hasn’t started looking at colleges seriously. “I might like to attend Stanford like my brother or do something different and attend a college on the East Coast. Either way, I really want to sail in college.”
Lily Katz**, 16, lives in Brooklyn, N.Y., goes to school in Manhattan, and sails out of Bellport, Long Island, during the summer. Katz and crew Fiona Walsh won the U.S. Youth Championship in the Club 420. Like our other All-Stars, Katz is planning on racing in college and has been looking at several schools in the East. She and Walsh are training with the goal of qualifying for the ISAF Youth Sailing World Championship in the International 420. Asked what motivates her, she says: “Watching the older, more experienced sailors has always inspired me to push myself harder. Sailing has brought richness into my life that’s hard to find anywhere else. I’ve been able to experience this wonderful sport, have learned a lot about life, and made friends with people from all over the world.”
Olin Paine, 17, lives in San Diego and sails for the Mission Bay YC. He started sailing when he was 6 years old in a Naples Sabot. “I tagged along with my brother to a clinic led by JJ Isler,” he says of one pivotal moment in his career, “and she told me I wasn’t too young to start sailing.” Paine is a member of the Point Loma High School sailing team, which has qualified for the Interscholastic Sailing Association’s national championships every year he’s been on the team. In 2011, Paine won the Laser division at the U.S. Youth Sailing Championships. He prefers Lasers and multihulls, which he races with his friend Grant Rickon.
Olin recalls an embarrassing moment on the water. “I was winning the first race of the Cressy [ISSA High School Singlehanded Championship for the Cressy Trophy], and did not read all the sailing instructions,” he says. “I passed on the wrong side of the finish boat and ended up DNF.”
Katja Sertl, 17, sails out of the Rochester (N.Y.) YC in the spring and fall and the Conanicut (R.I.) YC during the summer. She enjoyed an active year in 2011, racing Club 420s and J/22s. In the C420 she races with Ailsa Petrie. “Racing with my best friend against some amazing sailors is a ton of fun,” says Sertle. They competed in events in Ohio and Massachusetts, as well as the Club 420 North American Championship. At the 2011 Rolex International Women’s Keelboat Regatta, in Rochester, she placed eighth with a J/22 crew that included teenagers Merritt Moran, Julia Weisner, and Christine Moloney. Sertl credits her mother, Cory Sertl, who won 2011 RIWKC, for giving her pointers about sailing keelboats. Like Henken, Sertle is a competitive ski racer. “Both sports require discipline and mental stability,” says Sertle. “The number one thing I’ve learned from both is to never stop trying.”
Sertle didn’t always enjoy sailing. “When I began sailing the Optimist, I was terrified of even a breath of wind,” she says. “Without my parents’ push and passion for the sport, I don’t know if I’d still be sailing. Now, I absolutely love it, especially in heavy-air conditions.”
**Nevin Snow **races out of the San Diego YC and is a member of the Cathedral Catholic Sailing Team. He’s a perennial presence in the A Division at high-school regattas. Today he races Lasers, F18 catamarans, and likes match racing. Showing his versatility, Snow placed third in the Laser at the U.S. Youth Sailing Championships and third at the U.S. Youth Multihull Championship. He also won the Governor’s Cup, an international junior match race regatta. He credits his parents, Chris and Mary Snow, as most influential in building his sailing career. The latter was an All-American sailor at the U.S. Naval Academy, and the former is a J/24 class champion and sailmaker with North Sails. Snow gained inspiration reading Fatal Storm, Rob Mundle’s book about the deadly Sydney to Hobart Race in 1998. When not sailing, Nevin likes to surf. “Surfing really helps with my downwind Laser sailing,” he says, “knowing the waves and where to position my boat.”
**All-Star Honorable Mentions **
Ian Barrows, Scott Buckstaff, Alex Curtiss, Pat Floyd, Christine Moloney, Kelly McGlynn, OJ O’Connell, Pearson Potts, Taylor Reiss, Tristan Sess, Scott Sinks, Axel Sly, Elizabeth Tell, Holly Tullo, Callie Tullo, and Nick Valente