TRIBUTES have poured in after the tragic death of a teenage girl who was one of Britain’s best young sailors.
Jess Eales was found dead aged 16 in New Forest woodland just weeks after representing her nation at a youth sailing championship in Portugal.
The news has rocked the sailing community in her hometown of Lymington and friends have spoken of their grief.
It came just weeks after she represented Great Britain at the ISAF Youth Sailing World Championships in Tavira, Portugal, which she described as the “biggest week of her career”.
More than 365 of the world’s Olympic hopefuls from 63 nations competed in the sailing in the Algarve where Jess finished 11th.
In April she won a gold medal at the Royal Yachting Association Youth National Championships in Weymouth and Portland.
Her death has shocked friends and colleagues who have praised her character and talent.
Mark Nicholls, RYA youth racing manager who worked with Jess, said: “She was a young sailor who showed promising talent which can now unfortunately never be fulfilled. Our thoughts are with the family and friends at this sad and difficult time.”
She was also a member of Royal Lymington Yacht Club and club commodore Phil Lawrence added: “This is a tragedy and we are giving her parents all the time, space and privacy they need.”
Her achievements saw Jess included on the RLYC roll of honour earlier this year for the fourth time, following in the footsteps of Olympic champion sailor Sir Ben Ainslie.
Having learnt to sail in 2009, Jess went on to compete in the RS Feva XL class before moving into the high performance 29er skiff class.
The Brockenhurst College pupil spent a year competing in the double-handed 29er and then made the transition into the multi-hull catamaran Spitfire class. She was then among 10 Brits to compete in the championships in Portugal, and took part in the mixed multihull SL16 class alongside helm Oli Greber, a bronze medallist in the same event the previous year.
Jess was found near Shirley Holms Car Park in Sway at around 9.30am on Thursday, July 31. Police attended the scene and a spokesman confirmed the death is not being treated as suspicious.
Officers have passed on her file to the coroner and an inquest will be opened in due course.