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Friday 29 July 2011 | Published in Regional


Excitement has been at an all time high on Aitutaki Lagoon as sailors battle in the Oceania Singlehanded Championships.

Sailors are taking part from New Zealand, Papua New Guinea as well as sailors selected from Aitutaki Sailing Club, Rarotonga Sailing Club and Manihiki Sailing Clubs to make up Team Cook Islands.

After the official opening ceremony on Monday, it was down to business with two races finished by the fleets of optimist and laser 4.7 sailors.

On day two the fleets got off to some fine sailing in 8 to 10 knot winds with small choppy seas. Lighter sailors enjoyed the conditions as they were able to power their boats up and enjoy the challenge of getting through to the front with the more seasoned sailors.

It was great to see the techniques shining through product of excellent coaching by National Opti Coach Jim Btijtin and the pre OSAF championships opti clinic run by Henry Wilkinson from Kohimarama Club in New Zealand.

In the laser fleet Aitutaki sailor Aquila Tatira was the early leader clearing first place with style, closely followed by Tanus Henry and Teau MacKenzie also for Cook Islands.

Yuri Cowan NZL is steadily coming up through the fleet as he familiarises himself with the boats and the lagoon.

Team Papua New Guinea also saw good results for the day with Leonard Isiah 4, 6, 7.

On day three the first race started in about 14 plus knots and topped out at 24 knots during the second race of the day.

Eliza Wilkinson raced very well to lead by a large margin in the first Optimist race of the day followed by Duane George of the Cooks.

Young Jonathon Weston also of New Zealand was an inspiration to any young sailors as he braved the elements in a very feisty day of 14 to 24 knot winds very testing conditions.

Using good techniques of running fast and loose 10-year-old Jon was able to finish with a fourth place in the last race of the day. The race was taken by Dean Tetuaiteroi of Team Cook Islands followed by team mate Titi Kaukura.

The race saw capsizes, filled boats and heaps of bailing going on but the day would have to be characterised by the sheer determination of the young competitors to carry on racing.

In the laser fleet it was thrills and spills with great downwind battles for speed.

These young sailors had a great day and there will be plenty of tired young people needing a good carb up and rest.

Aquila Tatira excelled in the weather with clear leads, with Teau MacKenzie and David Paolo and Tanus Henry in close pursuit.

King David Paulo revelled in the heavier weather and joined in the fight for places at the top of the fleet.

Yuri Cowan New Zealand and the PNG team are closing the gaps and its all on with the Laser fleet with the last day of racing to compete.