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Young sailors aiming for London

Thursday 29 December 2011 | Published in Regional


Cook Islands sailors have wrapped up their World Sailing Championship campaign in Perth with eyes still firmly fixed on qualifying for the London 2012 Olympics.

The campaign has been a long and tough one for local sailors Helema Williams, Taua Elisa and Junior Charlie.

Team coach Anne Tierney reports that on the final day of racing in the mens laser sailors were met by a mix of weather from a feeble 5 to 7 knot winds for the Gold fleet races early in the day to 18 knot winds and 2 metre waves in the afternoon for the Bronze fleet race.

Race one took four starts till the fleet got off to the starters satisfaction leaving 11 starters on the line for early starts with a black flag which disqualifies them from taking part in the race! Taua Elisa made a great start fortunately and competed hard and fast sailing the race of the competition to take 18th place.

For Junior Charlie the conditions were taking their toll and his determination to finish well was a tribute to his mental toughness.

With his weight being a continuing disadvantage to him in the wind and waves, he battled his way around the course to finish in a very creditable 33rd place.

Race 2 was a disaster for Taua who approached the mark in 29th place only to have a capsize at the top mark.

Not in itself a game-breaker, he unfortunately fell on to the boom and deadened his shoulder and though he gamely tried to carry on was unable to complete the race much to his frustration.

Junior again took on the field and demonstrated that never give up attitude to finish with a very well raced 37th placing.

In the field overall Taua placed 133rd and Junior 142th.

As a long term goal this project has been one for which we have been preparing for four years, in their first attempt at Olympic qualification.

The three young sailors who started the project have worked hard on personal fitness, sailing skills and techniques to improve their competitive sailing within a formal plan.

Their personal application to a largely self-disciplined work plan has been admirable.

Their ultimate goal is to secure an Olympic slot for the Cook Islands.

Their progress along the way has seen results in 2009 at South Pacific Mini Games in Aitutaki harvest three gold medals and two bronzes and in Noumea at the Pacific Games 2011 a healthy two gold medals and two silver medals were won by the sailing team.

Their application to a hardcore representation effort in their first campaign at the open World Laser Championships has been a pleasure to watch.

The complexity of our sport with the physical effort matched by mental tactics and complicated by wildly fluctuating and demanding weather conditions made the competition a very challenging effort.

The opportunity to compete and observe the performances of the worlds best laser sailors was inspirational!

Australian Tom Slingsby, Laser World Champion, was simply awesome to watch in his familiar waters off Fremantle. The changing fortunes through the top of the fleet as the Doctor did or did not choose to call played havoc with points mild or wild weather depending on whether you raced early or not!

The centre sailing course itself is worth mentioning as a world class first!

It meant that the shore based spectators could be right there on the bottom gate to see the competitors battling away for places so close up!

The marks being only 100 metres away from the rockwall of the course.

Helema still has a chance to make the Olympic standard.

At present she is lying 13th in the line up of nations for the final 9 Olympic slots in the Laser Radial fleet to be selected after the World Laser Championships in Germany in May, 2012. For Taua the task will be more difficult at present he is 14 nations outside that standard but if anything these guys are more determined that they can make it!

Junior has now completed his campaign and will be concentrating on his dream to be a great sailing coach for the Cook Islands.