Sanford’s Jeffrey Hayden and his sailing team bring home a world championship.
Even though he had played competitive basketball since he was in sixth grade, Jeffrey Hayden took the news in stride when he found out he did not make the varsity basketball team during his junior year at Lake Mary High School. The way Jeff looked at it, he’d have more free time to spend with his favorite hobby, sailing.
Sailing has always been in Jeff’s blood. His family, which was featured on the cover of the May/June 2017 issue of Lake Mary Life, is considered Sanford’s sailing royalty. Jeff was less than two weeks old when he first went out on a boat, and he has had his own personal Sunfish sailboat since he was six years old.
Still, it took the end of his basketball career for Jeff to begin his venture into competitive sailing. Not surprisingly, he has proven to be a natural at the sport.
“We put Baby Jeffrey down below on the sailboat when he was 10 days old,” says mom Angie, “and he’s been on a boat ever since. But it wasn’t until Jeff stopped playing basketball that he started sailing a lot. Almost every weekend, he would sail on his own, with his dad, and with his grandfather.”
Now a junior at Florida State University, Jeff has proven to be much more than a weekend sailor. For the past two school years, he has competed for FSU’s sailing team – where he is race team captain – and this summer he traveled to Greece to compete in the International Lightning Class Association Youth World Championship, where he led his team to a world title.
Jeff’s team, which included Brian Hayes, Jr. and Meredith Ryan, qualified for the biennial World Championship by finishing second at the Junior North American Championship in New Jersey last year. With the help and support of many friends, family, and the Lake Monroe Sailing Association, Jeff raised almost $8,000 to finance the trip.
“I knew we had a good team, and I thought we had a good chance,” says Jeff, 20. “We also liked the conditions, especially the last day. There were lighter winds, choppy waves – stuff we like sailing in.”
In three days, Jeff’s team had to compete in seven races – each covering about four miles and taking about an hour to complete – against 15 other teams from Greece, Brazil, Chile, Canada, Finland, Peru, and the United States.
“Going into the last race, the top five boats were just two points apart,” Jeff says. “Winning the last two races would be very difficult, but we knew if we did, the numbers would work out.”
No one was prouder than Jeff’s family: mom Angie, dad Steve (the commodore/president of the Lake Monroe Sailing Association), sister Faith, and grandfather Fisk. The Haydens’ sailing legacy actually dates back five generations to Jeff’s great-great grandfather, John Hayden.
Jeff’s parents actually met when they were both members of FSU’s sailing team, and now Jeff is proud to continue the legacy. In fact, this past spring, Jeff helped FSU qualify for the Coed National Sailing Championship – the first time the Seminoles had done so since 1989, when Steve and Angie were on the team.
“Jeff just has the gift,” says Angie, who is the marketing director at the Walk on Water boutique in Lake Mary. “I can’t even explain it. I don’t have it. It’s natural – but he practices a lot, too. For Jeff to win this championship, it was very emotional and very cool. You can go through your whole life and not win such a coveted championship. Jeff and his team fundraised and worked really hard for the opportunity to represent the USA. Not only are we very proud of his accomplishment, we are beyond blessed to have such a wonderful son.”
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