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Young sailors juggle school with Pacific Games prep

Samoa’s Pacific Games sailing team includes three high schoolers, learning the hard way how to juggle school, family and representing their country on the international stage.

Pesega College student, Sumner Rasmussen, 16, is sailing in the men’s laser standard competition, alongside Eroni Leilua. It is his first time competing at this level, and he said he is definitely nervous.

“But, I am feeling prepared through the help of our coach we got in from Poland, he has definitely been a great aid,” Rasmussen said. 

The team’s coach is Polish national Vincent Peter, who has been in Samoa volunteering as the coach since April.

He has been coaching the team on the racing rules of sailing and the theoretical side of the sport, something they weren’t able to focus on before, Rasmussen said.

But this week he has exams, just 13 days before the games. Instead of studying like his classmates, his Saturday was spent on the waters at the Sheraton in Mulifanua practicing for the Pacific Games, and his evenings will be filled with training at the gym and going over strategies.

He said fitting in tutorials has been a challenge, and with his graduation around the corner, they are important. 

But Rasmussen is confident. “I should be fine, with any luck,” he said.

He said his family is backing him to compete.

“It is a struggle at time to balance school and family obligations but yeah… they are proud that I am doing it.”

Vitolio I’amafana and Trillin Hogarth are partners on the Hobie 16 catamaran. Both high schoolers, they laughed when asked how they balance training and study.

16-year-old Iamafana from Samoa College said he has passed his exams already, though there was some “struggle and frustration” getting there.

“Trying to juggle it all and making time for training and studying, it was a  lot of struggle and frustration when exams were near,” Iamafana said. 

“Sailing is my passion, it’s my favourite sport and it’s always fun and I am always up for a challenge.”

Hogarth is just 13 years old, and attends Robert Louis Stevenson College.

His exams are still ongoing, but his family is encouraging him to manage his time and compete in the games.

“They motivate me when I don’t want to come to training. I have a lot of other stuff like school, so time management is hard,” Hogarth said.

Sailing on a two man boat has been a fun experience for the pair. They said it means less pressure on one person, and it is good having someone to talk to.

“We’ve put in a lot of effort to train and we are just hoping for the best,” Iafamana said.

The young sailors have all felt the unique winds of Mulifanua challenge their skills compared to the straight and predictable conditions they are used to at the Apia Yacht Club in Mulinuu.

Hogarth said the winds changing constantly, but being in the games venue should be a bonus come competition day.

“It’s a lot better to sail in deep waters and get used to the venue, getting to know the wind conditions,” he said.

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