ISAF has collaborated with Olympic Solidarity to provide technical training programs in several different countries, one of which was the Cook Islands. The aim is to help sailors improve their sailing skills through coaching, practice and racing.
The Cook Islands are situated approximately in the center of the South Pacific Ocean. They comprise 15 islands scattered over 850,000 square miles of this vast ocean. The total population is under 20,000 people. Rarotonga is the capital and main center of the self-government, granted by New Zealand in 1965. This is a unique system of association with the once colonial master. It seems to have worked for these happy Polynesian people, who have just celebrated, this week, 32 years of this association with New Zealand.
Sailing is administered through the Cook Islands Yachting Federation, formed six years ago to better serve sailing in international and regional activities.
The Olympic Solidarity Course
This OSC was held in Rarotonga and on the island of Aitutaki, between 30th July and 2nd August, in conjunction with the school holidays. It will be held at the Rarotonga Sailing Club culminating in the Rarotonga Optimist Championships. Then followed by a week in Aitutaki, 120 miles north, by sea, of Rarotonga, ending with the National Optimist Championships, in their fantastic lagoon setting.
The emphasis of this OSC is on the basics of sailing skills, rules and rigging tips for junior sailors and coaches. It is also focused on race management to level 2 and 3 where all the tuition is put into practice with the Rarotonga Optimist Championships, then in Aitutaki with the Aitutaki Championships and then the Nationals.
The Technical Expert
The technical expert was Mrs. Janet Watkins from Yachting New Zealand as race officer and club instructor/coach with 20 years involvement with race management at all levels. She first came to Rarotonga to oversee the initial Regional Oceania Optimist regatta as race director in 1997. She has a real ability in sailing small craft and passing on this attribute to both young and old. The children affectionately call her Aunty Janet.
The Course Director
The Course Director, is Mr. Peter Heays. He is the Chairman of the Cook Islands Yachting Federation's Optimist Committee. Peter is a very active member of the CIYF as well as the Rarotonga and Aitutaki Sailing Clubs. Currently he is the past Commodore of the RSC after serving two consecutive years as the Club's chief executive.
He is a sailor and coach and manages a local Hotel called Moana Sands.
Peter's next major target is to work towards sending more boats to other of our 15 islands as well as continuing the very successful "learn to sail" programme for children and adults alike.
Two Manihiki Island sailors, 800 miles north, by sea, of Rarotonga, with a coach were flown down to attend this most recent course and competed in the Rarotonga, Aitutaki and National Champs. These were run over two weeks with a total of 39 entries. (It is financially impossible for most island children to own their own craft. This is why boats are provided by the Clubs and constant fundraising and sponsorship is necessary)
12 optimists are based at the Rarotonga Sailing Club and another 10 are held by the Aitutaki Island Sailing Association with two more Optimist and 4 "P" Class boats held by the Manihiki Island Sailing Club. Two Optimists are also held on the island of Mitiaro. Rarotonga based sailors and coaches of Palmerston Island origins also attended the OSC.
The four first places in the Rarotonga Champs were funded to the National Optimist Champs in Aitutaki. They were: Jan Sijp, (m) Evaraima Koteka (m), Hannah Morris (f) and Sarah Edwards (f).
The Nationals, held this year in Aitutaki, were open to all Cook Islanders. The two Manihiki sailors also had funded participation in the Nationals. These two Manihiki sailors were allowed to compete in the Rarotongan and Aitutaki champs so that they could gain some competitive racing they lack in Manihiki. This is because of the small number of boats held there, at this time. It was indeed pleasing to see Elizabeth Maraeara from Manihiki, sail into the Gold fleet on Rarotonga , showing quite remarkable natural ability honed into racing skills through these Olympic Solidarity/ISAF courses.
The following is an extract from the Cook Islands only daily newspaper:
"MANIHIKI YOUNGSTERS JOIN YACHTING EVENTS
Two Manihiki youngsters are amongst 15 sailors taking part in a four-day Olympic Solidarity Course at the Rarotonga Sailing Club under the direction of the CI Yachting Federation.
Elizabeth Maerara and Tao Ellis were accompanied to Rarotonga by Manihiki Sailing Club Captain Arthur Neale, son of the famous Tom Neale of Suwarrow fame). Along with a group of local sailing enthusiasts, is learning the finer points of coaching and sailing skills from New Zealand trainer, Mrs. Janet Watkins.
According to Arthur Neale, sailing is enormously popular with Manihiki youngsters aged from six upwards. The club has a huge problem in that it only has two Optimists and five 'P' class boats to share amongst an incredible 47 children. "We're trying to find sponsors to help pay for some more Optimists because we must keep these kids interested," Neale said. The club sails each Saturday and during the school holidays and endeavors to get as much sailing time after work during the week days to cater for all the children.
Just participating in this Solidarity course and the Optimist National Championships has been a huge catalyst for the children of Manihiki and their parents. Sailing has really snowballed on the atoll, where there are no sport fields. Neale said he thought that the parents have realized now just how far the kids can go with the sport of sailing, even right to the top with the assistance of our very active Cook Islands Yachting Federation."
Olympic Solidarity Course Preparation
When the Cook Islands were advised by ONOC that ISAF had approved this 2001 OSC, NZ$1,260 was raised to re-furbish all the ten Aitutaki Optimists. A list of spare parts needed was compiled and these were ordered from New Zealand. Three Rarotonga Sailing Club members flew to Aitutaki twice before the National Champs, spending four days in Aitutaki repairing and fitting the new fitting to the Optimists. They also held coaching lessons in sailing races and rules. The Aitutaki fleet uses training sails for all of its Optimists. In order to give the children the best possible racing chances, all the competition sails from Rarotonga were taken over to Aitutaki as well and fitted. You will note from the photos the same COK numbers in both the Rarotonga champs and the Aitutaki Nationals.
After the Cook Islands National Championships a squad of four sailors were selected to compete in the regional Tahiti Oceania Championships in October next.
If ever Manihiki is able to provide 10-12 Optimists there, they may have an Olympic Solidarity Course held on their atoll followed by the National Championships. We all look forward to that day.
Aitutaki Olympic Solidarity Course and Aitutaki and Cook Island Championships
The whole event was a huge success story following a similar course in Aitutaki as was conducted in Rarotonga then followed by the National Optimist championships in which 33 races were run over 3 days. Showing a great improvement in sailing skills and seamanship as a result of the earlier work put in by expert Mrs. Janet Watkins as well as our own Course Director, Peter Heays and Race Officer Jeff Hill.
Aitutaki Optimist Island Championships, 7 August
Sailed on the beautiful Aitutaki Lagoon close to the main holiday resort in strong winds gusting from about 11 to 18 knots from the SE. 14 Aitutaki competitors sailed in an elimination series over several races to determine those who would sale in the gold fleet and those who would sail in the silver fleet.
1. Tiavare Henry. 4 pts
2. Sam Greig. 5 pts
3. Joeli Nooroa. 11 pts
4. Elizabeth Maraera. 12 pts
5. Rue July. 16 pts
6. Metua Tau. 18 pts
7. Taua Elisa. 22 pts
8. Ngatokoa Teata. 22 pts
9. Tekoruru Tangua. 24 pts
Cook Island Optimist Championships, 8-9 August
The fleet comprised 25 sailors in three fleets, i.e. Gold Silver and Bronze which were decided in a series of sail off. The winds were the same as for the Aitutaki champs. The results for the Sir Thomas Davis KBE Trophy for the winner of the National Optimist champs went to 1st to Jan Sijp (m) Rarotonga. 2nd Hannah Morris (f) Rarotonga and 3rd placing went to Vat Vauru (m) of Aitutaki.
To decide the Aitutaki Champs and the National champs a total of 33 races were conducted over the 3 days to keep the sailors and race officials very busy. But it was a most successful regatta with all being tired out and probably glad to get back to school.
1. Jan Sijp. 8 pts
2. Hannah Morris. 8 pts
3. Vat Vaura. 15 pts
4. Sam Greig. 15 pts
5. Tiavare Henry. 17 pts
6. Evaraima Koteka. 19 pts
7. Joeli Nooroa. 21 pts
8. Joshua Manga Kahia. 26 pts
9. Julie Anne Mitchell. 30 pts