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Remembering Merv: Queentown Lions president Charlie Reid, left, Maree Aoake and Wakatipu Yacht Club commodore John Stalker

By PHILIP CHANDLER

Queenstown community stalwart Merv Aoake, who died a year ago, is to be honoured by the naming of a sailing scholarship.

The Merv Aoake Scholarship, run by the Wakatipu Yacht Club and funded by the Queenstown Lions Club, will give a young local sailor a year’s use of a new O’pen skiff and funding to attend major New Zealand regattas.

It’s aimed particularly at a youngster who’d otherwise not be able to afford the opportunity.

The scholarship’s apt as Aoake was the yacht club’s head coach and spent hundreds of hours over more than 20 years teaching youngsters the rudiments of sailing.

He was also very active in the Lions club including stints as president and zone chairman.

Aside from sailing, he also counselled and mentored many youngsters.

His widow, Maree Aoake, says ‘‘our family’s very humbled and grateful to both the Lions club and the sailing club for keeping Merv’s community involvement alive and keeping his memory alive in the area’’.

‘‘And giving somebody an opportunity that perhaps otherwise they wouldn’t have had, and to do it in a sport Merv was very passionate about, is great.’’

Yacht club commodore John Stalker says Merv made a major contribution to the club’s learn-to-sail programme.

‘‘He was really fantastic with the newer kids — the way he spoke to them, they all listened to him, and he made it a lot of fun.’’

There’d been huge growth in junior sailing numbers — ‘‘we’ve now got nearly 40, and we have a waiting list’’.

Though the scholarship’s for one sailor a year, he says the club will benefit, too, from new sails and gear being passed down from each recipient.

The name ‘Merv’ is likely to replace the O’pen skiff’s sail number.

Lions Club president Charlie Reid says the club’s delighted to support the scholarship.

“We’ve been talking for a while about how we recognise Merv’s involvement with the club and within other community organisations.”

Someone influential in setting the scholarship up was Wayne Christensen, who belongs to both clubs.

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