When it comes to Laser racing in Saint Barth, there is one sailor who stands out from the crowd: Frenchman Benoit Meesemaecker, who won his fourth consecutive title in the Saint Barth Laser Championships on August 4th 2012.
“I arrived by boat in Saint Barth in 2001,” Meesemaecker recalls, noting that he and his wife, Anne Picard, wanted a change in lifestyle. “I was born in the north of France where I began to sail Optimists at the age of six, and eventually participated in four Optimist championships in France. I would essentially sail every day during the summer, during two months of vacation.”
That youthful passion for sailing did not fade, and at the age of 15, Meesemaecker was selected for a three-year sailing program at school. “I competed in a lot of regattas during those three years, and I placed third in the French junior championships when I was 17,” he notes. His studies then sailed in a different direction as Meesemaecker became an accountant, and today works for the St Barth Properties real estate agency.
In spite of the fact that Saint Barth attracts mega and maxi yachts throughout the year, Meesemaecker remains faithful to the smaller Lasers, preferring this less expensive style of boat and the ongoing competition at the Saint Barth Yacht Club.
“I have sailed as crew on quite a few big boats in the Course de l’Hedec, Spi Ouest France, and other races in France as a student,” he says. “I also participated for the first time in the Saint Barth Bucket this year.”
In 2011, Meesemaecker won the 22nd Heineken Light Caribbean Laser Championships in St Martin, exhibiting his outstanding tactical skill to beat such local champs as Frits Bus. This year, Meesemaecker tried to defend his title, but came in third. All of this local competition is good preparation for Meesemaecker, who races in Laser events in the US and France. At the end of September, he will compete in the Laser Masters European Championships (sailors over 35-years-old) in Roses, Spain.
The Saint Barth Yacht Club 2012/13 season runs from late October through June and with Laser races once again on the schedule, Meesemaecker will no doubt be sailing toward his fifth annual title.
In addition to his muscle and skill, this veteran sailor points out that for him, “competitive sailing is above all a pleasure.”
Ellen Lampert-Gréaux lives in Saint Barthélemy where she is editor-in-chief of Harbour Magazine. She writes regularly about entertainment design and technology for Live Design magazine, and about Caribbean architecture for MACO, a Trinidad-based lifestyle magazine.