With summer just around the bend, the young sailors of the Port Shelter based J-Asia racing team, under the guidance of coach Marek Nostitz-Jackowski, are preparing for their intensive European regatta program: two-and-a-half months of nonstop competition and training at several venues along the Baltic and Atlantic coastline, ultimately building up to three World Championships in the Laser 4.7, Men’s Laser Standard Under-21s and Laser Radial Youths classes; the first two located in Nieuwpoort, Belgium and the latter in Medemblik, Holland. For a few of the youngsters, this trip will be their first taste of senior level competition alongside notable Olympic athletes.
Marek formed J-Asia in 2012, after a five-year run as racing coach at Hebe Haven Yacht Club. He began with three of his original sailors and a seaside shed near his home in Ma Lam Wat village across from Trio Beach, where the team remains based to this day. “It’s my venture,” Marek told BUZZ.
The local team consists of just over a dozen sailors between the ages of 14 and 19, all training and competing in one of 3 Laser classes, the only differences between which are the sail sizes: the 4.7 (17 and under), the Radial (Women’s Olympic single-handed class, and Standard (Men’s Olympic single handed class). Some older athletes are based overseas as they attend university. The team trains on the water every weekend and holidays, and in addition have intensive fitness training sessions on four weekdays after school. ” You need to be very fit to handle single-handed boats,” he said, so all the teens participate in strength and endurance training, as well as regular 4km runs on weekends.
When asked what he had to say about his sailors, he said, “they are all stars. I take only committed racers.” So how does he find sailors with such passion? “They grow dedicated when they join the group. The environment changes people.” BUZZ also spoke to Cam Highfield, mother to Molly and Nancy. “[Marek] is very, very dedicated. I have never seen someone so much so before.”
Molly added that the dynamic interplay between sailors themselves is also crucial to the development of the athletes. “Though sailing is mostly an individual sport, the relationships we have built within the group have played a huge part in our growth. We push each other to be better.”
Under Marek’s leadership, these aspiring sailors – most of whom are Sai Kung district residents – have already achieved impressive results worldwide, including but not limited to:
-4 podium finishes at the Polish 4.7 National Championships 2016 (Girls: Nancy Highfield, 2nd overall and 1st U17; Marian Williams 4th overall, 2nd U18 of 52 / Boys: Preston Tso, 2nd overall, 1st U18; Thomas Norton, 4th overall and 2nd U18 of 73 )
-First place Laser Standard at Travemunde Week, Germany for Gerald Williams (whose name is now embossed alongside former event winner Robert Scheidt, also five time Olympic medallist). Gerald is currently one of the top-ranked collegiate single-handed sailors in the US, and has been competing at the senior level for two years.
-Participation of last two editions of the Youth Sailing World Championships in Malaysia and more recently New Zealand in the Laser Radial as part of HK National team ( Nicholas Bezy 2015-2016, Molly Highfield 2016 ). Nicholas finished 18th of 57 in Auckland, Molly 34th of 47.
-First girl and 9th overall at the Singapore Youth Championships 2017: Molly Highfield
-India International Regatta ( 2014: Christopher Bezy, 2nd 4.7 / 2016: Christopher Bezy, 2nd Radial ; Nancy Highfield, 1st 4.7 girl; Marian Williams, 1st Radial girl)
-3rd U16 Radial Boy, Europa Cup Dziwnow, Poland (Christopher Bezy).
-Asian Sailing Federation Youth Cup Series medallists:
2016: Stephanie Norton, 1st 4.7 girl
Molly Highfield, 2nd 4.7 girl
Preston Tso, 2nd 4.7 boy
Thomas Norton, 3rd 4.7 boy
2017: Molly Highfield, 1st Radial girl
Stephanie Norton, 2nd Radial girl
Nicholas Bezy, 1st Radial
Malik Hood, 3rd Radial