Country school children from Brunswick and Kai Iwi Schools (Wanganui) had a weekend packed with fun as well as gaining invaluable knowledge from one of the best - five time America’s Cup winner and gold medallist, Sir Russell Coutts.
For these rural New Zealand kids being alongside Russell was a dream come true. In his unassuming way he shared his knowledge with the young sailors both on and off the water.
The line up of 20 O’pen bics was a sight to see outside the Sailing Wanganui Club rooms. Russell along with Hayden Witburn ( NZ O’pen Bic representative) made sure that all the young sailors were well prepared before heading out into very gusty and tricky conditions on the tidal Whanganui river. Russell was very impressed with the venue saying that the Whanganui River offered a variety of challenges while also being a very safe training ground.
Youngsters from Evans Bay, Paremata, Napier, Rotorua, Warkworth and Manawatu Clubs joined the Wanganui kids. They were well tested at times on Saturday, with winds soaring above 20 knots.
Sunday saw all the Bics remaining on dry land as weather conditions worsened. Not to be deterred, dry land drills, white board talks and videos kept the young sailors engrossed, along with the many senior members of Sailing Wanganui who were all acknowledging that they were also learning a lot.
The weekend was rounded off with prize giving. Twin brothers Caleb and Luke Squire from the small Brunswick Country School took out 4th and 5th places. However, the biggest smiles were on the faces of all the young sailors as they got their newly presented caps signed by Sir Russell and their photographs taken alongside him.
If sailing needs a hero, then Russell Coutts filled that role last weekend. He shared his knowledge but also rolled up his sleeves and helped with boat maintenance, rigging and packing away the O’pen Bics. There were some very happy country kids heading off to their respective schools on Monday, eager to share and talk about their experience with a sailing legend.