Helena began racing competitively relatively late after a soccer-obsessed childhood. Thanks to her father, sailing has always been a part of her life, having grown up on Lake Washington near Seattle. Thanks to her coaches in high school, especially Jen and Ben Glass and her skipper Katy Cenname, her 29er racing career took off quickly and soon she was selected for the US Sailing Development Team. Helena graduated from Stanford University where she competed for the varsity sailing team for four years, including leading as co-captain for two years and competing in 10 National Championships for Stanford.
While racing at 49erFX Worlds in September 2013, Helena was hit by a boat which broke her spine and two ribs as well as lacerated a kidney. It was a wake-up call to the risk involved in racing high-performance boats at the world class level and took a while to sink in. She healed miraculously well and time off the water only strengthened her drive to pursue her sailing goals. Helena knows that she wouldn’t be anywhere without the support from her coaches, friends, family and especially her tireless father.
Helena has fought through several injuries that might have derailed others. In 2013, at the 49erFX World Championships, one week before her senior year of college, Helena was struck by a boat which broke her spine and two ribs and lacerated her kidney. Fortunately, she healed incredibly well and the time off the water solidified her drive to pursue high-performance sailing. “Everything can change in an instant, so you had better be doing what you love,” she said.
In 2015, she underwent carpal tunnel surgery on both hands only one year before the Olympics due to severe and persistent symptoms. Most recently, in 2018 she fractured her hand while training in the Nacra 17 and was back on the water with a titanium implant just seven weeks later because of her dedication to her recovery.
Helena previously sailed with close friend Paris Henken (Coronado, Calif.) in the 49erFX. Together they won Olympic selection for Rio 2016, and finished 10th overall at the Games.
What excites Helena about the Olympic sailing journey is the community that comes together to support the athletes. The Olympic campaign grows from a personal, seemingly solo endeavor into a true team effort. Fellow U.S. teammates and staff, sponsors, college sailing teammates, family/friends/fan donors, yacht club and sailing school fans, and friends made around the globe make it all happen. She particularly enjoys the challenge and camaraderie of doublehanded sailing, which involves intense teamwork with one’s partner. With sailing as one of the few sports where men and women can compete against each other, in the same divisions, Helena knows that supporting women in sailing, through new and existing opportunities, will always be a part of her life.
- Olympian at the Rio 2016 Games, 10th in 49erFX
- 2015 Pan American Games Bronze Medalist
- 2014 Seattle Yacht Club’s Bob Gibbons Memorial Trophy: One-Design Sailor of the Year
- 2014 Intercollegiate Sailing Association: Academic All-American Sailing Second Team
- 2013 Intercollegiate Sailing Association: Academic All-American Sailing First Team
- 2013 Stanford Athletics Board: Block “S” Award for Outstanding Female Junior
- Stanford Varsity Sailing Co-Captain 2012-13, 2011-12 seasons
- 2012 Intercollegiate Sailing Association: All-Pacific Coast Collegiate Sailing Conference (PCCSC) Crew
- 2010 Seattle Yacht Club: One-Design Sailor of the Year (with 29er skipper Katy Cenname)
- 2010 29er Pacific Coast Circuit: Maxam Trophy for Top Female Crew