This week we spoke to former ISA Academy Laser Radial sailor Tiffany Brien who's swapped the slipway for the catwalk as the current Miss Northern Ireland...
: Tiffany Brien
: Ballyholme Yacht Club/Royal North of Ireland Yacht Club
: Studying Marketing at University of Ulster but currently taking a year out.
: Miss Northern Ireland
Sports as a Junior
: Sailing, netball, hockey, athletics, cross country
How did you start sailing?
I live next to RNIYC so spent my summers doing the sailing courses and crewing in whatever I could get my hands on. My dad is also a very keen sailor and taught me in a Squib.
What boats did you sail as a junior?
I sailed the Topper and Optimist at the same time to try and improve my sailing at a quicker rate. I also crewed for my dad in the Squib.
What did you learn from these boats?
The Oppi taught me a lot about fleet sailing and racing. The Topper kept me fit and taught me to go fast. Sailing the Squib with someone like my dad taught me so much, I admire him and think he is a fantastic sailor and I learnt a lot from a young age sailing alongside him. Sailing the Squib enabled me to learn double handed sailing and spinnaker skills.
What boats did you sail in the ISA Academy?
What did it involve being in the Academy?
Being 100% committed to the sport. It takes a lot of time and effort to do well in sailing and being a member of the Academy enabled me to train hard in fantastic venues. I had to be driven and determined even when it got tough and keep producing results!
The Academy involves a lot of commitment in terms of time and preparation in Sailing... did this help you improve as an athlete / sailor and what do you think you learnt from it?
Looking back on my time in the Academy I now realise how much I gained from the experience. I look back on it very fondly and not only did I have so much fun doing something I love but it set me up for life. From a young age I was thrown into huge amount of responsibility, there is a lot of organisation and maturity needed in comparison to an average 16 year old. It teaches you that everything in life worth having requires time, preparation, effort, determination and 100% commitment.
What is your current occupation?
This year I'm actually Miss Northern Ireland which is a far cry from the days of Laser sailing with countless bruises and hiking legs! I took up the opportunity to have a go and came out winning it, so this year I work full time as Miss Northern Ireland doing fashion shows, photo shoots, press calls and attending events. I still find time to train every day in the gym, captain my netball team, race with my running club and still sail my Laser! You can take the girl out of the boat but you can't take the boat out of the girl!
Most importantly did it help to prepare you for life down the road in any way outside of sailing?
Being on the Academy taught me so much, little did I know at the time but now looking back aged 22 everything that I did has helped me. Being 16 and organising transportation, paying coaches, structuring your life in terms of the sailing calendar and training, making sacrifices and being disciplined, all of these things we had to deal with and address, we were all a lot more advanced than any other kids our own age. None of us realised this at the time as it was just routine and the way we lived. By the time I was 18 when many of my peers were leaving home for the first time I had already travelled the world, lived on my own, fended for myself, organised my life and given myself goals such as the Olympic Games. Looking back it really was incredible that I was involved in such a good organisation with amazing opportunities and I most definitely wouldn't be where I am now and have the mind-set I do if it wasn't for my 4 years competing in the Academy.
Do you still sail and if so what class?
At home I sail RS Elites, which are a new 3 man keelboat. I helm and my dad and brother crew for me. I also still race my Laser full rig at Ballyholme Yacht Club and try and give the boys a run for their money!