A COLLEGE mourning the death of teenage sailing star Jess Eales says she was one of its brightest students and had “huge potential”.

Jess, a student at Brockenhurst College, was found dead in woodland just weeks after representing her country at a youth sailing championship in Portugal.

College principal Di Roberts said: "Jess was one of our brightest students and a pleasure to know.

“Intelligent, articulate and with a maturity beyond her years, she had huge potential.”

Today it was revealed that Jess, of Lymington, died 24 hours after celebrating her 17th birthday by joining friends on a sailing trip in the Solent.

Her 24-year-old cousin, Misty Eales, of Pennington, said: “It looks like she had a lovely day out.

“She posted photos online and was laughing in every one. She looked really happy.”

Misty’s mother, Donna Chase, added: “She was very clever and talented. She was always getting As in her results.

“She had a lovely personality and was a beautiful girl. Her parents were very proud of her.”

Jess was one of Britain’s best young sailors and her death has shocked friends and colleagues, who have praised her character and talent.

Jess’s body was found near Shirley Holms car park, between Boldre and Sway, last Thursday at 9.30am. Police have confirmed that her death is not being treated as suspicious but an inquest will be held.