Samoa set for first female representation at ISAF Youth Worlds
In the ISAF Youth Sailing World Championships history the Samoan flag has been flown four times thanks to representatives in the Boy's Laser Radial fleet.
Blake Milroy was Samoa's first Youth Worlds athlete in 2003 which he followed up in 2004. Eroni Leilua stepped into Milroy's shoes in 2009 and 2010 however since then the Youth Worlds has lacked a Samoan presence.
That is all to change in 2015, with thanks to World Sailing's Emerging Nations Program (ENP).
After sailing at the Oceanic ENP Clinic in Suva, Fiji with six other nations, Biana Leilua received an ENP Scholarship to sail at the 45th edition of the ISAF Youth Worlds in Langkawi, Malaysia from 27 December through to 3 January.
Leilua is set to become the first female Samoan sailor to compete at the Youth Worlds and is excited about the prospect, "I reckon it will be a really good experience, not only in that but also to get Samoa's name out there in the sailing world. It's going to be cool."
The 18-year-old first started sailing at nine years old in the Optimist and took up racing at 12 and the sport remains one of her deepest passions, "To me it's like another world, away from everything so that's why I enjoy it. I enjoy the social side and the competitive side, it's a real challenge, it always challenges me and I love challenges," she said with a laugh.
"Going to different competitions you never know what to expect from the other sailors. It's really interesting to be able to compete against people from other countries and see the different skill levels."
Leilua has experience of competing against other nations regionally after she sailed in the Laser Radial competition at the 2015 Pacific Games in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea. In a fleet of 11 Leilua finished fifth overall but it was at the Emerging Nations Program where she fine-tuned her skills thanks to the guidance of World Sailing's coaches.
"To be honest I wasn't sure what to expect when I heard about it [ENP Clinic] but it's been really good and I think it's been really beneficial, especially for our specific nations because we don't get this level of coaching where we come from back home.
"It's really beneficial for us and a lot of us have taken heaps away from it which is good."
When it comes to 'taking heaps away from it', Leilua elaborated, "Probably just the level of knowledge, knowing about all the theoretical side as much as the practical side so knowing and learning about all the different weather patterns and how to read the weather.
"[It helped] to build my confidence when it comes to competitive sailing and I learnt a lot on the water as well. I think I just need more training and more practice on the water to put the skills I learned on land into action."
Leilua's long-term goals includes competing at the Olympic Games, but in the next few weeks she'll be aiming to put the skills learned at the ENP clinic into action at the 2015 ISAF Youth Worlds in a 56-boat Laser Radial fleet.