Victory was especially sweet for Kaitaia College students Kira Watson and Katie Thompson, winners of the 10th Taitokerau Tallship Challenge.

They had entered the competition unsuccessfully in 2017 and again last year; this time they not only scored a place aboard the R. Tucker Thompson, but claimed the trophy.

It hadn't been easy going on the annual leadership voyage, jointly sponsored by Northpower and Top Energy. Weather played an important role, a "lumpy" passage up the east coast genuinely testing the crew, but once in the shelter of the Bay of Islands they were able to enjoy getting into the challenges and competing for the trophy.

Sailing the ship in strong winds also allowedc the all-female teams to really test themselves, executive trustee Jane Hindle saying they demonstrated real skill.

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This year's challenges ranged from tug-o-war and a variety of beach games to the ever-popular dessert challenge, hoisting and lowering the fores'l, biosecurity and fauna tests and a sea shanty competition.

One of the highlights was a blindfold challenge, guiding trainees through an obstacle course without using words.

Early morning swims, good teamwork and tidy bunks all earned extra points for the teams.