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Top singles paddlers prepare for Te Aito

Tuesday 8 May 2012 | Published in Regional


Local paddlers are grinding it out in training ahead of the Te Aito Cook Islands race on May 26. This year Te Aito will include some big paddling names from New Zealand and Tahiti.

In its third year running the V1 oe vaka race has earned a spot on the international Te Aito circuit joining Tahiti, New Zealand, Fiji, New Caledonia and Australia.

The new status for the outrigger singles event is expected to boost the Cook Islands as a tourist and paddling destination with Tahiti’s top water sport cameraman Vetea Ransbotyn booked to capture Te Aito Cook Islands and spread the event’s growing popularity.

Also joining him at this year’s race is founder of Te Aito Charlie Maitere and his wife – a trip Te Aito Cook Islands organisers hope they will make yearly as the event grows as a ‘must attend’ race.

Seeing the event’s huge potential for sports tourism, Tourism Cook Islands has jumped on board the vaka as the event’s partner sponsor with Air Rarotonga back again this year as a support sponsor with airline tickets.

Air Rarotonga has come to the party with two return tickets for the top male and female paddlers from Aitutaki to take part in the race on Rarotonga as well as two tickets for 2011 Te Aito Tahiti winners to compete in the Cook Islands race.

The airline has also provided the main prize of four return tickets to Tahiti for the winners of Te Aito Cook Islands race in the open men, open women, under 19 men and under 19 women. The race will be over a 14km triangle loop starting from Avarua for women and under 19 paddlers and male paddlers will tackle a 24km course.

According to Te Aito Cook Islands organiser Fletcher Melvin, this course is subject to change depending on sea conditions on race day.

Five international paddlers and over 20 local paddlers are set to take on the race with organisers still working on attracting more prominent paddlers from New Zealand and Australia.

While the race is for paddlers in V1 (rudderless) canoes, Te Aito Cook Islands includes OC1 canoes as organisers believe this inclusion is beneficial not only to grow the sport but for local paddlers to improve their skills under competition pressure.

Prize money will be up for grabs as well as the airline tickets to Tahiti, however international paddlers arriving on our shores for the event will only take the cash prize if they win with the airline tickets to go to local paddlers.

2012 Te Aito Cook Islands champions will head to Tahiti in July to compete in Te Aito Tahiti where the first 100 paddlers across the line qualifying for the elite Super Aito series.

Te Aito Cook Islands would like to thank supporting sponsors Turtles Tees, Cook Islands News and Whatever Bar and Grill and welcomes other businesses to jump on board the vaka of this growing annual event.