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Sixteen-year-old Chris Steele yesterday won the New Zealand Herald Junior Pacific Series sailing championships on the waters of the Viaduct Harbour.

His prize is a ticket to ride as 18th man on board Alinghi's yacht today in the final of the Louis Vuitton Pacific Series.

The other half of the winner's prize for Steele, a former world Optimist dinghy champion, was an O'pen BIC boat - a new superfast dinghy like those used in the regatta over the past fortnight.

Twenty O'pen BIC boats were brought into the country by Frenchman Bruno Trouble, co-ordinator of the Louis Vuitton Pacific Series, to be raced inside the Viaduct by 40 of Auckland's top young sailors.

Last evening's final was fought out by 20 boys and girls, who battled gusty winds to stay upright in the zippy boats, and it wasn't until the last race that Steele clinched the inaugural title.

"The winds made it a bit of a lottery, but these boats are interesting," said Steele, a sixth-former at Westlake Boys High School who sails for the Wakatere Boating Club at Narrow Neck. "I can't wait to take one out to sea to see how it goes in the waves."

Although he will sail with the Alinghi crew, he has Emirates Team New Zealand skipper Dean Barker as a mentor.

Steele keeps in regular contact with Barker through emails and texts and has crewed for Team New Zealand afterguard members Ray Davies and Kevin Hall, but today will be his first experience on an America's Cup boat.

He sees himself graduating from the little dinghies to the big cup yachts in the future, but has plans for an Olympic campaign in the middle.

This weekend,Auckland really earns its reputation as the City of Sails. The final of the Louis Vuitton Pacific Series continues today, the classic yacht regatta is on today and tomorrow, super-yachts are racing in the Viaduct Harbour and offshore powerboats will be put through their paces in the Gulf Harbour.

Alinghi won the Louis Vuitton Pacific challenger series against BMW Oracle.

Yesterday, the Swiss boat beat Emirates Team New Zealand to go 1-0 up in the best-of-five final.

- additional reporting: Phoebe Falconer