The Cook Islands, Tahiti and New Caledonia all won gold medals in the sailing events of the 2009 Pacific Mini Games held in the Cook Islands.
The Cook Islands hosted the eighth Pacific Mini Games, a scaled-down version of the main Pacific Games which allows the smaller nations of the region to compete against one another. Sailing was included on the sports programme for the second time, thanks to the hard work behind the scenes of John Tierney, President of Sailing Cook Islands, assisted by ISAF International Judge Andre Raoult. Three sailing events featuring racing in the Laser, Laser Radial and Hobie 16 classes. Gold medals went to the Cook Islands Helema Williams
in the women's Laser Radial event, Jessee Besson
of Tahiti took the title in the men's Laser, whilst the Cook Islands' duo of Rudolf Chichemanian and Tracy Rolland won gold in the Hobie 16. Other nations to compete in the sailing events were Fiji (who won a silver and a bronze medal), Samoa, Wallis and Futuna, Papua New Guinea and American Samoa. The Games demonstrated the talent pool in the region; with the youngest competitors just 14 years old.
A notable feature of the competition was the success of the two Cook Island sailors who attended the inaugural training camp for the Emerging Nations Programme (ENP) of the Perth 2011 ISAF Sailing World Championships. Back in August Helema Williams and Peter Henry both travelled to the Fremantle Sailing Club for an intense 10-day training camp. The results clearly showed on the water, with Williams claiming the gold medal in the Laser Radial and Henry taking bronze in the Laser.
The 2009 Pacific Mini Games was based on Rarotonga, the biggest island and capital of the Cook Island group. As the closeness of the outer reef surrounding Rarotonga made it impossible to hold any sailing course, the three sailing events were held on the smaller island of Aitutaki, a 40 minute flight from Rarotonga.
The sailing venue was headquartered at Oomu on Aitutaki. Each day the sailors and officials were transferred to the smaller island Akaiami by boat.
David Brookes (AUS), ISAF Technical Delegate for the event, paid tribute to the efforts of the organizers and local people in hosting the Games, "I have to commend the volunteers and the people of Aitutaki who got behind the sailing and made it a massive success. From the moment we got off the plane at 6am and were greeted by the local school children, who presented us with flower leis, traditional drums and island warrior we all knew we were in for something special. Over the next 10 days they did not let us down.
The jury consisted of International Judges Andre Raoult (COK), Ralph Robert (NZL), Howard Elliott (AUS), and National Judges Guy Perrot (NCL) and Isobelle Barbeau (TAH). In addition to governing the race, the Jury also hosted talks on The Racing Rules of Sailing and specifically Rule 42. This initiative was particularly appreciated by the sailors as so few of them ever have the opportunity to receive any rule explanations.
As well as the competition on the water, the Mini Games were a great opportunity to further develop official and race management skills in the region. The Race Committee was headed by International Race Officer Ian Clouston (NZL) with the Sailing Cook Island team. Officials were rotated around the course to gain experience in all race management positions.
Click here for more on the regatta including photos from Rarotonga