Jane Macky ’09 may have finished second in the New England Intercollegiate Sailing Association women’s singlehanded championship this weekend, but the New Zealand native was a sailing success long before she was cutting up the Charles in her laser.

Macky started sailing when she was only eight years old, exploring the water near her home with her family.

“I’ve been around boats my whole life,” she said.

By her senior year of high school, the intrepid Kiwi had built an impressive resume, finishing second in the New Zealand singlehanded championships and sixth at open women’s worlds in April. This weekend, she proved she’s determined to extend her success into college sailing, as Macky and teammates Emily Hill ’07 and Molly Carapiet ’06 finished second, third and fourth in the New England championships, snagging three of the four berths to nationals for the Bulldogs.

Macky’s finish was enough to prompt a Harvard coach to ask Yale head coach Zack Leonard ’89, “Who is that girl?”

Leonard said he was impressed with Macky’s approach to college sailing, which is very different from what she was used to at home. He explained that although Macky has great skills in singlehanded boats, she is willing to develop her skills in the doublehanded boats that are the bread-and-butter of U.S. college sailing.

“She has an open-minded approach and she is working really hard in practice,” Leonard said, “She is a solid influence on the team.”

But Macky has not only impressed her coach. She is also making an impression on the sailing community and at Yale.

“I absolutely love sailing with her,” said Hilary Shapiro ’08, who often crews for Macky. “She is a nice person on and off the water.”

Carapiet, the captain, said Macky is only part of a strong freshman contingent this year. But according to Zach Brown ’08 — widely mentioned as the best recruit in the nation in his class year — Macky is one of the best the Elis’ Class of 2009 has got. Carapiet said Macky brought the team great strength in singlehanded racing, but still had a lot to learn about doublehanded regattas.

“Jane was one of the top laser radial sailors in the world coming into college,” Carapiet said. “She has a lot of experience sailing lasers on big courses. She has to learn about a whole new type of racing now, with shorter courses and new types of boats.”

Macky said she feels positive about her first season sailing for the Bulldogs, but the conditions and style of sailing are different than she is used to.

“Sometimes I feel a few steps behind in America,” Macky said. “But straight away I was amazed how friendly and helpful the team was. It has just been amazing. It is sort of like another family.”

And that suits the girl who learned to sail with her family just fine.