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5 December 2011, 12:18 pm
Cook Islander And Guatemalan Women Aiming To Make Their Country Proud
Andrea Aldana
Andrea Aldana

Perth 2011 ISAF Sailing World Championships
Perth, Australia

Amongst the 102-boat Laser Radial fleet at the Perth 2011 ISAF Sailing World Championships is Andrea Aldana (GUA) and Helema Williams (COK).
The Guatemalan and Cook Islander are aiming to become the first female sailor from their nation to compete at an Olympic Sailing Competition.

Six years ago, Aldana was reading the newspaper in Guatemala, when she saw a Laser Radial international competitor in the news section. After turning the page an advertisement for a sailing course appeared. It inspired her and six years on she is at her first ISAF Worlds.

"I started in a Laser on a lake in Guatemala because of the course,"
said Aldana. "There aren't too many people sailing in Guatemala but the federation is good and supports us a lot. They help us travel and compete and we have good sailors and we also have Juan Maegli competing in the Laser Standard in Perth as well."

Aldana has been a part of the Perth 2011 Emerging Nations Programme which enabled emerging nation's sailors to train and prepare in Fremantle in advance of the ISAF Worlds. Aldana said, "I've been at Perth two times before to train as part of the Perth 2011 Emerging Nations Programme. It's helped me a lot because I know the place and think I have an advantage. They helped me improve my fitness."

After the opening day the Guatemalan is 75th overall following a 40th place finish in Race 1 and coming back with a 33rd in Race 2. But a podium, or even top ten finish isn't the aim for Aldana, "I am trying to qualify for London 2012. If I qualify I am going to be the first woman from Guatemala to sail at an Olympic Games.

"It would mean a lot to me as I would be making a little part of Guatemalan sailing history so I would be happy and proud. I want to push Guatemalan sailing forward."

Guatemala was represented at the 2007 ISAF Worlds in Cascais, but ISAF welcomes the Cook Islands to the championships for the first time in Perth. Williams is part of a three person Cook Islands team at Perth 2011 with Peter Henry and Grand Junior Charlie Poiri sailing in the Laser. And for the Cook Islands team, they are aiming for an Olympic spot.

Their coach, Laura Baldwin (GBR), knows exactly what it takes to qualify and compete at an Olympic Sailing Competition. Baldwin sailed at the 2004 Athens Olympic Games placing 24th in the Europe. And now she is leading the Cook Islands teams to new territories, and Williams has noticed an improvement in her racing, "She has been great. She has improved me a lot. I've learnt heaps from her and like everyone else here my aim is to qualify for the Olympics."

After the opening day of racing Williams currently sits in 92nd position on 87 points after finishing 39th in Race 1 and 48th in Race 2. But the 20-year-old is relatively new to Olympic sailing having sailed recreationally up until recently, "I started sailing the Optimist on a little Island where I live which has a big lagoon. Most of the time we sailed for fun, but nothing big like the ISAF Worlds.

"It was only a few years ago that we started taking sailing seriously so this is pretty exciting and will be a new experience."

At such a young age Williams has a long career ahead of her and was bestowed with the honour of carrying the Cook Islands flag at the Opening Ceremony. Williams added, "It was a real honour to carry our flag. It was really exciting to be walking through Perth's city for the opening ceremony with everyone really excited and showing their support."

The duo will continue their quest to qualify their nation tomorrow in Perth with the continuation of racing. The Laser Radials commence sailing at 12:00 local time with the Women's Match Racers opening the day at 10:00. The Men's 470, Women's RS:X and Finn follow soon after.

The Perth 2011 ISAF Sailing World Championships website will bring you results, tracking, live updates and all the latest news both on and off the water.

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