Drake JensenSailor of the Week: May 12-18
Drake Jensen (El Sobrante, Calif.), an 18 year old senior at De Anza High School, is recognized by those who know him as a fierce competitor on the water, but more importantly, as a determined survivor in his ongoing battle with Hodgkin Lymphoma.
As soon as Drake’s father John introduced him to sailing at the age of 12 he was hooked for life. Drake joined the Richmond Yacht Club Junior Program, where he began sailing the El Toro. Soon after, he moved to the Laser program and started sailing competitively through high school in both the Laser and Laser Radial. He fondly remembers sailing at the 2008 Orange Bowl Regatta, where he received on-the-water coaching for the first time from experts, including US Sailing Team AlphaGraphics member and 2008 Olympic Finn Silver Medalist Zach Railey.
Over the past three years, he sailed in as many events as possible, including US SAILING’s U.S. Youth Championships, U.S. Junior Championships and the Pacific Coast Interscholastic Sailing Association (District - PCISA) Cressy Championship. Drake was looking forward to peaking well in his last year to qualify for these events, but he was diagnosed with Hodgkin Lymphoma, a cancer of Lymph tissue, and his sailing was put on hold.
“My sailing world has proven to be a special bonding and support mechanism,” he said. “Acquaintances, competitors, coaches, instructors, parents, yacht club authorities, sailing organizations and friends from around the world have responded with well wishes. The Richmond Yacht Club (RYC) Junior Program responded with unbelievable interest and support.”
The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society invited Drake and his family to a Leukemia Cup Kick-Off. He was an Honorary Captain in this year’s Leukemia Cup Regatta on San Francisco Bay.
Drake was restricted from activities for most of the sailing season due to a blood clot complication and extra chemotherapy treatments. He finished his treatments in February and was released to begin activities. He then began radiation that continued for most of March, but he was able to sail in and win the St. Francis Yacht Club Spring Dinghy Regatta, and compete in the last NorCal High School Regatta. In April, he sailed two Laser events, including the Laser NorCal Championships and the St. Francis Yacht Club Elvstrom Zellerbach Regatta. “These were both relatively heavy air events and I had to change from full rig to Radial with breathing difficulties and limited stamina,” said Drake. “Still, I enjoyed great results and was happy to be back in my favorite boat.”
Right now, Drake is focused on getting back to health, graduating from high school and sailing whenever possible. He has aspirations of sailing in college some day as well. Drake plans to work in a sail loft while attending a Junior College to complete his general education credits. “I had to work extra hard to make sure I graduated with good grades instead of delaying a year,” he added.
Drake is excited and looking forward to racing his last season as a RYC junior. He is part of a permanent team with crewmate Erica Quinn for the 2011 BAYS season in 420s, which he explained won’t tire him as much as the Laser.
In May, Drake’s final scans, tests, pulmonary work up and final conference confirmed him clean of active cancer cells. However, he expects it to take as much as a year or more to recover from damage from treatments with careful consideration to exercise and diet.
“At first it was very difficult to accept my illness, but people continued to wish me well and this helped me keep my mental strength and I was determined to strive and continue fighting the disease,” said Drake. “My advice to others who have been stricken with Hodgkin Lymphoma is to try not to linger in self pity and depression, but to try and accept the fact as soon as possible, and allow the love from family and relatives and friends to bolster you and build a strong foundation of hope.”