First time parasailer leading the race

Cook Islander Jan-Michael Sijp is sailing in his first ever parasailing competition, jumping in the Hansa 303 with zero experience and coming first in the five-man race.

A brain injury resulting from a car crash put a 15 year pause to his sailing career. But when the regional championships were going to be held in Samoa, he was approached to consider racing again.

“It is cool to be able to do what I loved from a little age, I’m rapt,” he said.

Sijp is working on the Rarotongan water storage build, and labours from 6:30am till 5pm, when he goes home to his partner and three children. Before the races began on Wednesday, he had two days of training on the Hansa 303, which required relearning how to steer.

“It was my first time ever sailing that type of boat, we don’t have that back at home,” Sijp said.

“I think of it like riding a bicycle, you never lose the touch of sailing a boat.

“[The Hansa is] a lot different because on a normal sailing boat you have a tiller that when you push away you turn the opposite way. But in the Hansa when you push that way, you turn that way,” he said.

Sijp’s brain injury has left him with a poor memory, and legs which get sore sailing regular laser radials, which he used to race with.

He said experiencing a new class of sailing is a great experience. But he feels self-conscious about having less visible disabilities than his competitors.

The parasailing division of the Oceania Championships includes Kiteboarding and sailing divisions in Hobie Catamaran and Laser Radial.

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