We are always on the lookout to spotlight talented new blood in the sport, and of course if that new blood happens to be a young and sexy sailing photographer…all the better.  Here’s a look into the busy life of Jen Edney, a relative newcomer to the game who is going places.  Check out her blog for interesting updates and great photos from around the world, and hopefully, more of the photographer behind the lens…

Nebraska Meets Vallarta
How is it that a 27 year old from landlocked Nebraska ends up in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico on a whirlwind tour of the world of sailing, meaning MEXORC, Kite boarding, J-24 and Optimist one-design, Windsurfing, and a Cruiser’s regatta with big cats? Well, you get an Invite from Mike Danielson to hang out and shoot Copa Mexico and the most action packed month of sailing on Banderas Bay.

I met Mike when I was in PV covering another story last year. He planted the idea of coming back saying, “Jen, you don’t want to miss this! This is all aspects of sailing crammed into 3 weeks with a lot of beer to wash it down. Just get on a Plane. You’ll stay with us and I’ll toss you in the middle of everything.” And that he did.

How do you hitch hike in Mexico?
On arrival to Puerto Vallarta, as I’m quizzing myself how to get to La Cruz based on a memory from a half a year ago, I saw a guy wearing a MEXORC shirt and asked if he was heading to the marina to see if I could possibly get a ride. Being a girl with a camera beats the bikini when it‘s race time. With my ride secured with the crew of Pendragon, the crew helped me carry my gear over the cross walk so we did not have to pay airport tax and of course we had to have a beer before hitting the road. Priorities are important.

Driving Miss Crazy
When I arrived at PV Sailing, Mike came walking across the deck, hands me a cold Pacifico, says “Welcome back!” and proceeds to inform me that my first day of MEXORC I will be in the driver’s seat driving (Photographer) Jay Ailworth around. This is my first time shooting racing ever. “Well Jen, you wanted to learn how and what to shoot. Jay knows it better than anyone around here. The best way to learn how is to drive.” Learning where to be and where not to be, dodging press and spectator boats, learning the ropes and peeing from the back of the boat all part of a day’s work.  The boat was more like a floating VW with a fuel and transmission problem, and half flooding like a VW would. Jay’s first statement, ”Not my boat but we’ll make it work.” He was always ahead of the action knowing what was happening next. At the end of the day the boat died on the way in. Just another day at the office.

The Medicine Man… We’re not going to make it!
The next day Mike invited me to come shoot on Medicine Man. It was a distance race so not as intense, which was a good race to learn where to be, where not to be, when to hike, etc. The guys are all business talking in a language that sounded like a mix of Cali surf slang meets boating. At the finish we completely lost wind and all the big boats stopped. Smaller boats caught zephyrs and zipped past us to the finish line. It was like a traffic jam the last 500 feet. I sailed the rest of the week with the boys of Medicine Man, which is water-ballasted and sailed with half the crew of the other boats because of it. Let’s hear it for multi-tasking. The last day of races we started on port tack while everyone else started on starboard. It’s intimidating when all the other boats are coming straight at you and you hear the skipper yelling “We’re not going to make it, we’re not going to make it!” Then you hear “They’re waving us through!”  Never a dull moment!

J-24’s… shoot at your own risk.
The next week was the J-24 Regatta. The first day shooting I am on committee boat for the day. I was told not to shoot down the start line but I did anyway. I had never shot a one design fleet before let alone 40+ boats on a start line. What an amazing way to start shooting. That evening was a big party, one of many where I learned racers drink a lot of beer. Guess I better keep up! The next day I shot the start from the committee boat then jumped in with Jay Ailworth This time we were in the Judge’s boat so we’re in the thick of it. Trying to shoot moving objects plus shooting from a moving object while nursing a hangover equals an unpleasant day with interesting photographs

On day three The PRO was keen to let me back on the Committee boat again so I decided to try my luck shooting from the water. Bruce, The PRO, said I could at my own risk, so I shot the boats coming by and checking in as well as the starts, fighting the current which was pretty strong, trying to not get carried too far away from the committee boat or be hit. For the rest of the week I shot all the starts from the water, and then hopped in a dinghy to shoot the rest of the races, getting my ass kicked in the process.  The last day I got in the water at the finish line to try and get some spinnaker shots, shooting pretty much the entire fleet fighting the strong wind and currents. My conclusion at the end of the week was that I needed to add two new items to the camera bag: a tether and a helmet.

What… There’s More?
One of the things that they do at PV Sailing is support everyone during events and they have a support program for the International Sailing Academy run by two Canadian sailors, Vaughn Harrison and Chris Dold. Leah Danielson fed a number of the race crews through Copa Mexico and supports the ISA Laser camp with a place to meet for breakfast prior to practice then a dinner and debrief. The camp supports a program for the world’s best Laser sailors.  I went out to shoot Laser practice the next day from the water. I was in the water for three hours with these guys sailing almost over the top of me, using me as their mark. Pretty incredible having some of the top athletes in the world zipping inches away from your head! Among the athletes I had screaming past me were Tania Elias Calles who just sailed non-stop from Cabo to PV setting a world record just a week ago as a fund raiser for her 2nd Olympic campaign, and Lisa Ross who is training for the 2012 Olympics, along with several other world champion athletes.

BBR…. More sailing and more reasons to do it! 
I spent the whole of the Banderas Bay Regatta aboard Blue, a J 160 with the owners Ken and Cheryl, Mike’s crew and Lucy, their Portuguese water dog. This event is three days of racing cruising boats, people that plan to go on to the Puddle Jump or cruise Mexico and South. All are “racing their house.” This event drew 68 entries wanting to race their couch.  On the second day of the event I decided to mount my camera on the second spreader. I went up in climbing harness, which wasn’t the most pleasant experience since I broke a toe on the way up because they pulled too fast and it was caught in a line. Oh well, blame it on the power winch, all part of the job. I got the camera mounted and tied off, but a few minutes from the start, During a gybe, the jib took out my camera!  To my horror it was just dangling from the spreader, thankfully I tied if off with spectra! Mike came up to me, “Give me my lingerie!” (His harness that I was still wearing) “It looks better on you but if you want the camera… Give it up!” He launched up the mast to cut it down, good thing I had my trusty knife already attached to the harness because it was literally two minutes or less from the start. The camera was fine. It got a few shots off before it came down and I was able to use it the rest of the day and we had a perfect start.  I finally felt like part of the crew.

So… What is next?
My time in Puerto Vallarta was full of shooting action, personality, lifestyle, lots of hot foreign men, too many XX’s and Pacificos, tacos on the street, and a ton of time spent in the water getting the crap kicked out of me fighting the currents. And it just happens to be what I love to do.

My next journey will be delivering a 66 Gunboat from Cape Town to France the end of May through July. This will be my third delivery and I am eager to be back out on the open ocean.