Veerle ten Have is about to take the next step she hopes will lead to international success.
The Tauranga Yacht and Power Boat Club windsurfer leaves next week for Europe to compete in two major regattas that will be a key pointer to next year's Youth Olympics.
Veerle, 16, will first train with the Dutch RS:X Youth team before she is off to the RS:X Youth Worlds in Italy, Lake Garda before competing at the Techno293 Plus Worlds in Brittany, France.
The Year 11 student at Mount Maunganui College is the only New Zealander competing at the youth worlds so Yachting New Zealand is sending coach Bruce Kendall to be with her in Italy.
Kendall, who won a gold medal and bronze model at successive Olympic Games in boardsailing, knows more about the intricacies of the technically difficult sport than most in the world.
He says Veerle has got some attributes that are "really quite hard to teach even at Olympic level".
"One of the things that are really hard to find in women's windsurfers is an ability to know exactly where they are on the course relative to everybody else and what the wind is doing around the course," Kendall said.
"And she already has got that. I think the high level of hockey that she played helped with that. She is not afraid to get in close to the other sailors on the start line and her time on distance is also pretty good as you have to be able to hit the start line at full speed."
Kendall is realistic about her chances at the worlds in Italy, seeing it more as an opportunity to test where she is at against her peer group.
"She needs to work on her power to body weight ratio as she is not as fit or as strong as the other top girls her age overseas.
"So we are not expecting her to go overseas and get on the podium this time but it is a stake in the sand and she is still relatively young. The first time my sister (triple Olympic medalist Barbara Kendall) went overseas she finished last at the world championships."
Veerle is reaping the benefits of spending time with Kendall.
"I do learn from going out by myself and other coaches but because he has had so much experience he really knows what he is doing," she said.
"I think the first few times I saw him I went from one to 10 in a month in skill level."
She is excited about the seven weeks ahead of her in Europe.
"Because it is my first youth worlds on the RS:X class I don't really know how I stand against others yet. I hope to do well and see if I can get top 20 hopefully and have fun of course," she said.
"Going to events like the ones I am going to keeps me motivated to keep training but the Youth Olympics is my overall goal from now until next year."
Veerle was honoured at this month's end of season prize-giving at Tauranga Yacht and Boat Club with the Legends Trophy awarded to the Youth Sailor of the Year.
Past winners include Peter Burling, Sam Meech and Thomas Saunders.