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Young sailors gather for Blake Inspire programme

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Young sailors gather for Blake Inspire programme_2

Alexandra Thom can usually be found in, on or under the water and it's an environment she loves so much she wants it to become a career.

The Year 13 student from Picton wants to be a marine biologist and jumped at the chance to enroll for the inaugural BLAKE Inspire for Sailors programme, which begins on Sunday.

Thom is one of 30 year 11-13 students who will gather in Auckland for the five-day environmental leadership programme designed for emerging New Zealand sailors and run in conjunction with Yachting New Zealand.

It will be an action-packed five days, and include conservation programmes, scientific testing, sessions with leading environmentalists and a visit to Emirates Team New Zealand's base.

"I'm looking forward to sailing on Lion New Zealand, meeting Emirates Team New Zealand will be cool, the conservation projects... basically everything," said Thom who is a member of the Queen Charlotte Yacht Club and who will compete with a Marlborough Boys combined side at this month's Interdominion Schools Team Sailing Championships in Melbourne.

Thom and Wanaka's Kahurangi Nepia were awarded Yachting New Zealand scholarships to attend BLAKE Inspire, with the pair identified as young leaders with the potential to make an impact on their local communities.

Thom has grown up around the water and enjoys sailing, water skiing, swimming and fishing - she's also finishing her qualification as a rescue diver - and intends studying aquaculture and marine conservation at MIT next year.

"I'm really looking forward to learning more about conservation and sustainability and being able to take those skills back and apply them to what I do in the future," she said of the BLAKE Inspire for Sailors programme.

Wanaka is the perfect location for Nepia to live given his interests - sailing, skiing, kayaking, tramping and kite surfing - and it's an environment he wants to help protect. The Year 11 student, who sails out of the Wanaka Yacht Club, has noticed concerning changes around him.

"No one in Wanaka really understands the impact we are having on the environment because we are in a pretty special spot and it's hard to see sometimes," he said.

"But because I'm outdoors so much, I see a lot of the changes that happen. This year the lake is super-nasty. A couple of years ago you could drink out of it but now it tastes terrible. And there's pretty much no snow this season.

"I'm really looking forward to meeting like-minded people this week and I'm looking forward to learning more about what we need to do and ways we can help stop a lot of these things happening."

It's an attitude Sir Peter Blake would be happy to hear. Blake has inspired many to think more about the environment, even since his death.

He once posed the question, why bother, when talking about the environment.

His response was powerful. "It's too important not to, for all of us."

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