Barry Warner, skipper of the winning boat in the 18-foot Tangaroa class outrigger vaka, is in his 80s. George Newman-Holt, who captained the boat that came in third, is just 14 years old.
Old and young, these two closed out sailors in the prime of life.
Tom McDonald, Rarotonga Sailing Club commodore, said it was a “terrific” event. “The National Champs is always one filled with a bit of apprehension at the start, and a bit of quiet tension in the air. But once we were out on the water, they let the boats and their skills do the talking.
Barry Warner and Te Akuao Framhein, an up-and-coming Olympics prospect, took out the title.
It was hard-fought: they beat brothers Tony and Peter Heays into second place.
“In third place, a huge special mention has to go to our young teenage competitor, George Newman-Holt, who was skippering his vaka supported by Max Cumming, an old boy of the club and a force to be reckoned with,” McDonald said.
“The calibre of sailor we’re getting now out of our junior sailing programme is huge – they’re exceeding expectations in the vessel we’re training them in. We’re then moving them up to the next step.
The modern sailing vaka, a popular revival of the early traditional dugout sailing canoes, was designed by Rarotonga Sailing Club life member Thomas Koteka in 1999. He constructed an upgraded version with a modern tiller and sails and built the first boats in his garage,
“And of course, the Tangaroa class is actually one that only we have,” McDonald said, “so it was the World Championships in fact!
“The fact that we can put our natural voyaging and wayfinding culture and merge that in with local sailing knowledge – it’s perfect.”
This year, an additional highlight was the involvement of Marumaru Atua captain Sam Timoko and crew member Rachel Reeves – they came in a creditable fourth, showing the skills required to sail a giant voyaging vaka are transferrable to an 18-foot outrigger.
“We had a couple of guys representing the Voyaging Society involved as well, because it’s a Sailing Cook Islands event,” McDonald said.
“It was awesome to have our brothers and sisters of the sea out there, getting amongst our members, and giving them an opportunity to see what we’re about as well.”
1: Barry Warner (skipper), Te Akuao Framhein
2: Tony Heays (skipper), Peter Heays
3: George Newman-Holt (skipper), Max Cumming
4: Sam Timoko (skipper), Rachel Reeves
5: Shane Warren (skipper), Rhys Warren