THE sailing community is in mourning after one of its young stars was found dead.
From an early age Jess Eales had trained in Chichester Harbour and the Solent, and her blossoming talent meant a promising career ahead of her.
But just a day after celebrating her 17th birthday, she was found dead in woodland.
Members of Hayling Island Sailing Club, where she had trained in their youth programme, were devastated by the news.
She was a hugely popular member of the club at Sandy Point.
Mark Nicholls, youth racing manager, paid tribute to Jess on behalf of the RYA and Hayling Island Sailing Club.
He said: ‘The RYA is aware of the sad passing of British Youth Sailing Squad member Jessica.
‘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.’
The tragedy comes 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 (RYA) Youth National Championships in Weymouth and Portland.
Jess, from Lymington, was found in woodland at Sway in the New Forest.
She was found at 9.30am on Thursday, July 31.
Police were called and a spokesman confirmed that the death is not being treated as suspicious.
Officers have passed on a file to the coroner and an inquest will be opened.
Tributes have been posted online about Jess.
One friend tweeted: ‘So young and such a bright talent.’ Another said: ‘Too young, much loved, missed.’
In April, Jess was filmed by the RYA for a promotional feature about the world championships.
Looking happy, she said it would be ‘amazing to represent my country and fly the flag for Great Britain’.
Councillor Leah Turner, who represents Hayling East, said: ‘Although I did not know Jess personally, I am very sad to hear the news and can only say what a terrible loss of life it is for someone so young. It’s a dreadful loss.’