Sea challenge starts today

Sea Cadet Warrant Officers Tayla Wong-Lithgow and Sophyia Hilario.

Click the image above to watch the video

A sea challenge will take place at the annual Northern Area Sea Cadets regatta being held at Sulphur Point, Tauranga, this weekend.

Teams from Hamilton, Auckland and Whangarei will compete with the local unit, the TS Chatham Sea Cadets.

“Our Northern area skills regatta will have over 80 participants in seven units,” says Lieutenant Commander Sandra Berry.

“One from Tauranga, one from Hamilton, four from Auckland, and one from Whangarei.

“They compete with nine cadets and one officer in each team, so that's 70 people plus staff that help run the various skills stands, whether it be mast building, using mast equipment to make a flag pole, putting the mast up, sailing, rope work, and marching.”

The Cadet Forces in New Zealand is made up of three branches or corps. These are the Air training Corps, the New Zealand Cadet Corps and the Sea Cadets.

Each corps is modelled on a corresponding branch of the New Zealand Defence Force – the Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF), the New Zealand Army and the Royal New Zealand Navy (RNZN).

The support boat bringing the sailors ashore for lunch.

The Sea Cadet Corps is the smallest of the three branches and has 16 units across New Zealand.

Each area of the Sea Cadets (Southern, Central and Northern) holds an annual regatta, and the Northern area regatta, based at Sulphur Point, will operate from the TS Chatham's headquarters at the Tauranga Yacht Club.

The downstairs facilities house a kitchen, classroom, storage and hall where the cadets parade and do their drills. Usually they camp there during the regattas, sleeping on pads on the concrete floor.

During February, a practice weekend was held at Sulphur Point with the TS Achilles, TS Gambia and TS Bellona units invited from Auckland. Each of the Auckland units brought a Feva yacht, a Crown yacht, and a power boat. The Crowns are over 30 years old.

Amanda Ward, one of the parents was on staff helping with food preparation and support for the training weekend.

“The TS Chatham Crowns are called Mutley and The Don,” says Amanda.

“The cadets restored the boats themselves under the guidance of Hutcheson Boat Builders over two winters. One of the project managers supervised the cadets through stripping back the boats. They take so much pride in those boats now.”

Each of the crowns has a cadet on board who has passed the coxswain's course where they are qualified in boat handling, including capsizing and man overboard. The February weekend conditions made it ideal for practising the more complicated manoeuvres like gibing, putting up a spinnaker and practising capsizing.

“Cadets originated from a time of need,” says Sandra, “to train young people who were 16 and 17 years old so when they turned 18 they could join the military properly to be trained to go to war and meet the need”.

TS Chatham Sea Cadet headquarters at Sulphur Point.

Sailing, shooting, rowing, ropes, kayaks, camps and sea challenges are all part of normal life for 18-year-old Sea Cadet warrant officers Tayla Wong-Lithgow and Sophyia Hilario who took part in the practice weekend.

“I was looking for an extra-curricular activity to do,” says Tayla, who got involved six years ago. “Sea cadets sounded really cool. There's heaps of activities and you get to meet lots of people. That really appealed to me.”

“We do a coxswain course, which teaches cadets how to sail,” says Sophyia, who entered sea cadets five years ago and has a father serving in the New Zealand Defence Force. “We assess them on their skills, which can be transferred into NCEA credits.”

Youth can join sea cadets from age 13, usually staying on until age 19, when they choose to continue, join the forces, or leave, often for university.

“I'm planning on carrying on as an under officer,” says Tayla, “and after that I can commission as an officer.”

Sophyia has a few months left to decide about her future.

“I'm trying to balance cadets, student life and work,” says Sophyia, “but cadets is so worth it.”

They both enjoy sailing and making new friends.

Fundraising and looking for sponsors is a constant exercise, in order to replace essential equipment and maintain their corps. The cadets need 30-60 new Personal Flotation Devices. These retail at $100 each, or a total of $3000- $6000. They also fundraise to cover their operating costs of rent, photocopier servicing, insurance for the boats, RTs, life jackets, and other equipment.

In Term 2 and 3, the sea cadets go shooting at the Te Puke Range every Friday night. Over the summer their time is spent sailing, and weekends are for fundraising, parades and commemorations, such as Anzac Day.

New members can join from age 13, and meet at the TS Chatham Sea Cadet headquarters at Sulphur Point on Wednesday nights at 6.30pm.

The public is welcome to come watch the regatta over the weekend.

Tyler Fasching and Chris Simmons on the support boat.


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