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17th Hilton Race – Curacao’s 20 Comptetive Miles

The Bonaire Regatta is only just a few weeks over and done when almost all participating yachts from Curacao gather on their own island for the 16th competitive twenty-mile race along Curacao’s south coast. The Hilton Race is traditionally organized in the first weekend of November by the Curacao Yacht Association, CYA. 

It all started about sixteen years ago: the ‘Bullenbaai race’ at that time, changed its name several times, from Hilton race via Piscadera, Curasol and Bluebay race into what is now again the Hilton Race, supported by the renovated hotel on the South coast of Curaçao. 

It’s a race sailors traditionally look forward to, not only to show the required skills and tricks beating friend and foe, but also for the fine lunch, prepared and served by the staff of the name-giving hotel at Piscadera Bay.  A total of one hundred sailors, spouses and friends again turned this year.

Thirteen yachts in three classes started in Spanish Waters for two 9.5 NM courses passing by the world famous Handelskade of the capital of Willemstad and heading for the first finish in the tourist area of Piscadera Bay. Once past the Barbara Beach Canal almost all yachts flew their spinnakers on the long run downwind.

Facing the first waves at sea, captain Karel van Haren’s Team Ibis was out of luck: when raising the big red and white spinnaker the ingeniously self-constructed spinnaker boom at the bow broke down leaving the fanatic team without their best tool to win the race. That cleared the way for the 27 youngsters between the age of 14 and 18 of the Curacao Sea Scouts who manned five participating boats.

The incident also challenged Sergey Boer’s team Curacao Marine 1010 in their marvelously renovated boat, the former blazing yellow FS Banaan, which surprisingly performed very well during her first appearance at the Bonaire Regatta. And today she did it again! 1010 (pronounced in Dutch as teen-teen, which rhymes with Curacao Marine, the home base of the boat where she underwent her metamorphosis) won in the racing class, leaving “big brother” Team Ibis far behind.

As usual it was a fierce but friendly battle, in particular between the six participating boats in the racing class. Results show that it was only a matter of 13 seconds time difference between number two: Chamba II crewed by skipper Jan Ackermans and five Sea Scouts, and number three: Merlin with her all-Sea Scouts crew with 17 years old Johnny Getrouw at the rudder!

The best performance however was pulled off by the crew –again all Sea Scouts- of the Marvin in the racing-cruising class and overall. The team, led by the skippers duo Gareth Weber and Michiel van Wickeren, proudly slaughtered all. In her class Marvin was faster than Venus Callipyge (2) and Melody (3) both manned by veteran crews.

All 27 participating youngsters extraordinary performed in this race, which usually is dominated by the well known and experienced sailors of the island. That’s a nice trend, securing Curacao of a good sailing competition in the near future.

In the cruising class one of the old sweats, the bright green Dauntless took the win, keeping the spirits up for all “oldies,” in particular the crew of the second placed Cap de Long. The youngsters on Double W took third. 

According to the CYA, it looks like the Hilton Race has had her last edition in this setting. The organization has big plans to let the event develop into an international sailing event, marking the beginning of the race season in the Caribbean. At this time of the year many yachts have gathered in the waters of Curacao, a secure and hurricane free spot. Over the past few years, the island has become also attractive for the yachts because of the newly established marine wharf Curacao Marine Services with a branch of Budget Marine. The CYA has already started preparations for the new big event, which will take place in November 2007.

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