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Shifty winds tricky for new sailors in Pacific Games

Spending four months training at the Pacific Games sailing venue could be the trick to winning a medal for Samoa’s sailing team, as they learnt how ‘shifty’ the winds are compared to Apia.

In just two weeks, athletes from the region will descend on Samoa’s shores for 12 days of non-stop sporting competition. The nation is putting forward its eight best sailors this year.

Benjamin Hansell and Isaiah Seumanatafa are representing in the Hobie 16 catamaran category. It is their first international competition and their first time sailing together.

For Hansell, who at 34 is finally fulfilling his dream of playing for his country, being on a two-man boat is all about learning teamwork.

“The hard thing with a two man boat in particular is getting a long on the boat,” he said.

“Everyone has ideas, we should go that way, or that way, but getting along and agreeing and making it work without throwing anyone off or snapping is important.”

“It’s ups and downs but it’s a part of competition,” Seumanatafa added.

Being on Mulifanua waters has helped Hansell and Seumanatafa gauge the way the winds change frequently, and even though its unpredictable, it is helping.

“We get to read where the wind comes from, the time of day during high and low tides, where the current flows.

“There is nothing too advantageous to being here… it’s knowing the lay of the land before everyone gets here, but I am sure a few races in people will pick up on what is happening.”

Seumanatafa is just 17 years old and is studying his Foundation year at the National University of Samoa. He said having less consistent winds than he is used to in Apia has been hard to adapt to.

But his father Orlando Seumanatafa won a bronze medal for single barrel shooting in the 2007 Pacific Games, so he has a legacy to live up to, he said.

The pair call their Hobie 16 catamaran “the black sheep” because they are constantly fixing it up and learning to troubleshoot on board. 

23-year-old Nicky Touli is competing in the Standard Full Rig Men’s Singles race. He came fifth in the 2013 Mini Games in Wallis and Futuna, and hopes to improve his score this year.

He has also noticed the difficult conditions of the sailing venue.

“The wind is really shifty out here, so it’s been complicated, and difficult sometimes,” he said.

“But so far it’s been good, it’s about gaining experience when the wind is shifting. Sometimes it’s difficult but it’s good to learn from it at the same time.”

The team have left their sailing gear at the venue and won’t return to the waters until the games. In the meantime, Touli and his peers will be in the gym, going over strategy and revising the racing rules of sailing with their coach. 

After the games, Touli will return to New Zealand where he works as a chef in Fox Glacier.

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