Ari Barshi of the Dominican Republic overcame a spirited challenge from 17-year-old Kevin van Otterdijk from Curacao to win the 24th Heineken Light Open Laser Championships overall in Orient Bay, St. Martin, on June 8-9.
Racing in the five-boat Standard Class, Barshi, a European Masters Champion, proved that age and experience can still prevail over zeal and raw talent of youth. First and second places were decided in the last race on Sunday when Ari propelled himself off a wave to beat overnight leader Kevin in a close finish.
Also in the mix were top contenders and former winners St. Maarten’s Frits Bus, Benoit Meesemaecker from St. Barths, and newcomer Carlos Palambo from Argentina.
Barshi took first in the Standard Class followed by Kevin van Otterdijk in second. The winner from three years ago, Benoit Meesemaecker from St. Barths placed third.
Very light wind on Saturday was bad news for the heavyweight sailors but Frits Bus in the Masters category surprised the other favourites by winning the first of six races while Meesemaecker struggled. Bus went on to lead after the morning races on Saturday until he was overtaken by Barshi.
An excellent turnout of 26 boats made for an impressive spectacle on the water. Sailors were divided into Standard, Radial, Masters, and one entry, Joanna Looser, for a 4.7. The combination of light and heavy air suited all the sailors, from 6-10 knots on Saturday, increasing to 15-18 knots on Sunday and veering to the North East.
Argentinean Carlos Palambo went on to win the Masters category, one point ahead of Island Water World’s Frits Bus and third placed Jorge Abreu from the Dominican Republic. Eight boats contested the Masters.
The Radials was a hotly contested class with eleven boats in contention. It was no surprise that the hugely talented Rhône Findlay captured the win with ease. Second in this class went to Cindy Brin with Robbie Ferron in third, Ernst Looser fourth, and Andrew Rapley fifth.
Sailors were very appreciative of Race Officer Laurey-Ann Findlay who was assisted by Alfred Koolen and mark layer Rien Korteknie. At the prize giving, organisers thanked sponsors Heineken Light, Club Orient, Papagayo Restaurant, Sunsail, and Sint Maarten Yacht Club whose generous contributions make the event possible every year.
Robert Luckock is a British journalist and freelance writer residing in St. Maarten. He is currently The Daily Herald’s correspondent for French St. Martin and was one of All At Sea’s very first contributors.