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Curacao’s 24th End of the Year Race – Somewhat Different

Curaçao sailors in all kinds of sailing craft gathered in the last weekend of 2007, as they have for 23 preceding years for the most enjoyable race of the year. This year, however, the yachts, sunfishes, centaurs, catamarans and windsurfers were not able to sail the most challenging part of the race into the Anna Bay, the channel between Punda and Otrobanda in the capital. Photographers, supporters and the passengers of three mega cruise ships missed the fabulous view of all kinds of sailing yachts in front of the famous Handelskade. Why?

The Anna Bay also happens to be the main waterway to Curaçao’s biggest and natural harbor, the Schottegat, allowing commercial vessels to enter the harbor for loading and unloading, bunkering or proceeding to the drydock for repair. Race organizer Ivo van Dooren always has to take in account that the Anna Bay might be temporarily blocked by commercial vessels, as happened this year on Sunday afternoon.

Instead of rounding the boat buoy in the channel the return point was shifted to the port entrance just outside the Bay to give a clear field to Spliethoff’s “Sampogracht” and the “CFS Palamedes”. The new course cut the length of the race, which usually is 17.7 miles, short by 1.1 mile, so the final results had to be adjusted.  Sailors and spectators, however, were not daunted.

Spectators, who en masse had been waiting on the Rif Fort dock for the boats to appear around the fortress wall of the Plaza Hotel, crossed the swinging pontoon bridge once it closed and moved to the hotel’s seaside bar and the restaurants at the “Boogjes”.

Sailors missed the unpredictable winds in the Anna Bay, their usual challenge, but had to deal with remarkable and unusual two-knot currents along the coast. Among them were the “All Women’s Team” sailing on the beautiful yacht D’Trip, gaining some training for the St Maarten Heineken Regatta 2008, where the ladies will man Lea de Haas’ yacht Synergy. They were not the only mainly women team: Sea Scouts’ Marvin took 8th place with the young “all girls team” enthusiastically guided by Henry Hernandez and his son.

For the 16 participating windsurfers—among them several well known professional freestylers from Bonaire—the 12 to 15 knot winds were too light for the 16.6 miles track. Only Formula racer Taty Frans, last year’s winner, reached the finish line. Like last year, Frans came in first but only ended up in 29th place because of the handicap, ironically acquired by last year’s win and the amazing speed, due to extraordinary winds.

The annual race is sailed by a unique concept. Each participant gets his own starting time, based on the SPY, (Spanish Water Yard Stick). This SPY tries to predict the time for each participant to sail from the Sea Scout’s buoy in Spanish Water via Fuik Bay to Anna Bay and back. This sailing time determines the moment of the starting gun, which sounded 31 times this year. If everybody sails a perfect race, all 60 participating boats and windsurfers should finish at the same moment.

From 10 a.m., the struggle against the waves and winds was on, while on the way back, competition grew to a high level because of the treacherous currents. At that moment, a huge number of small black dolphins showed some mercy bringing delight to the participants.

At the prize giving ceremony it turned out that logo designer Marc van Nes had foresight. The 2007 cartoon on the T-shirts and trophies shows participating boats being run down by a huge tanker in the Anna Bay. Fortunately that didn’t happen. The coast stayed clear and for the second time in all 24 years, Jan Ackermans in his Chamba 2, assisted by his young Sea Scouts crew finished first and took top honors as overall winner. The victory had an extra dimension because of the 25th Anniversary that Jan and his wife Annelies celebrated that very same day!

Zeno Lotman’s Windhush scored again after some absence and took second place followed by the excellent performing All Women’s Team on D’Trip. Michel de Ruiter was the best performing catamaran sailor at fifth place in his Hobie 16 behind Karel van Haren’s Team IBIS on the 30-ft Henderson.

The prize giving party traditionally was organized by the Sea Scouts in their  renewed venue at Spanish Waters, where home made soup and the traditional New Year’s Eve Dutch treat, “oliebollen” were served by the Scouts.

2008 will mark the 25th edition of this year-end tradition. Preparations already started!

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