From Port Coogee to Paris: One young sailor’s quest for gold

Back in 2019, Live proud magazine caught up with Olympic-hopefuls and ‘Sailing Sisters’, Elyse and Jacinta Ainsworth from Port Coogee in Western Australia. This year, Elyse is going it alone with an eye on competing at the Paris Games in 2024.

26 April 2023

Elyse Ainsworth has been sailing since she was a little girl. Learning the ropes on the family boat, under the guidance of her dad Richard—a keen sailor himself, Elyse says she didn’t fall in love with sailing right away, but the ice creams that Richard bought his daughters as a reward certainly helped. “Thank goodness we were sporty kids,” laughs Elyse. “Because boy, did we love all the Paddle Pops and ice creams he bribed us with to sail with him. But eventually you realise you’re good at it and it becomes something you want to do all the time. So, I gave up on playing basketball and got into competition sailing instead.

”Solo sailing is an intensely demanding and competitive sport. Last year, Elyse spent 228 days away from home, competing in regattas all over the world, including France, Germany, Spain, Netherlands, and the USA. When she’s at home in Port Coogee, an oceanfront community by Frasers Property, she’s training for more than 30 hours a week while balancing studying for her degree in Exercise and Health from the University of Western Australia, as well as working part-time as a major events coordinator. Somehow, she even manages to find time to coach others in the art of sailing at the Royal Freshwater Bay Sailing Club and Fremantle Sailing Club.

It’s an exhaustively full dance card, but Elyse has the ultimate prize on her mind—competing for gold at the 2024 Paris Olympic Games. She’s one of an elite squad of four who will travel to Marseille early next year to compete in trials. A tight-knit group who regularly hit the road together for international competitions, only one will be chosen to represent Australia at the Games.

"It's a weird thing to go up against your squamates at trials,” admits Elyse. “But that’s the nature of competition. We all support each other and cheer each other on. You never begrudge when they win, but you can be your own harshest critic if you feel like you didn’t do your best. As an athlete, that sense of letting yourself down is really what hurts the most.“

"In such an intensely competitive sport, where long hours on the water test your concentration and the slighted shift in wind require lightning reflexes to respond and correct course, mental and physical agility are paramount. At the tender age of 23, Elyse says competition sailing has taught her a range of life skills that benefit her in her work, study, and training too. "One of the reasons I love sailing is that it’s not only physically and mentally challenging, but it teaches persistence, patience, and problem-solving. It also creates great friendships and memories along the way, because no journey like this can be a solo endeavour.

"One of the corporate sponsors in her corner is Frasers Property Australia, whose support is helping Elyse’s tilt for the Paris Games. It’s a relationship that dates back to 2014, when the Ainsworth family first made Port Coogee their home.

Frasers Property’s General Manager of Development WA, Tod O’Dwyer, says the company is proud to support homegrown talent in their journey to compete at sports’ highest level. "We're all in awe of Elyse’s talent and determination,” says Tod. “When we see her in her boat, racing across the water at Port Coogee with the wind in her sails, it’s a sight to behold. She’s a hometown hero for sure.