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Thursday 31 March 2011 | Published in Regional


An intense year of training is on the cards for Cook Islands sailors under new coach and task master Laura Baldwin who is directing the athletes on their mission to qualify for the London Olympics in 2012.

An Olympic sailor herself, having competed at the 2004 Athens Olympics for Britain, Baldwin is committed to helping the Cook Islands Olympic squad achieve their Olympic dreams too.

Baldwin is currently in Aitutaki and will be based in the Cooks for the next month to take Olympic squad sailors Junior Charlie, Taua Eliza and Helema Williams and the youth development squad through their paces.

Baldwin has been with the local sailing squad since November when she coached the local crew throughout the Australian and New Zealand regattas they competed in.

“It’s a tall ask,” says Baldwin of the Olympic squad’s mission to qualify for the London Olympics next year.

“It’s going to take 100 percent dedication and the local sailors have the potential to achieve their goal. We also have a full programme lined up and it’s going to be intense.”

The national squad’s main event this year will be the Pacific Games in New Caledonia in August.

But before the Pacific Games the sailing team will head to Holland and the United Kingdom in May for a series of regattas there.

This series will be used as a trial for the Cook Islands sailors as each country can only enter one athlete per sailing class in the Olympics.

Both Junior Charlie and Taua Eliza sail in the Laser standard class but only one will be allowed to represent the Cook Islands at the Olympics.

After the May regatta – the local squad will take part in the Olympic sailing test event in August.

Sole female Olympic squad member Helema Williams sails in the Laser radial class and has put her studies on hold to pour all her energy into making her Olympic dreams come true.

“Helema is throwing herself into qualifying for the Olympics and she has plenty of potential in the lighter winds and we need to work on her strength for the stronger wind conditions,” says Baldwin.

Meanwhile youth sailors are preparing for the National Optimist Sailing Championship in Aitutaki from April 6 to 9 and the National Laser Championships later in April.

The national events will be the launch pad for the Olympic squad’s full on year of training and preparations for the Pacific Games and to qualify for the Olympics.

- Matariki Wilson

Have boat,

will fly, p15