The second weekend in January saw 27 Sunfish dinghies compete in the 29th Rudy Dovale Race in Curaçao. This was the sixth of seven qualifying races for the Sunfish World Championships for both adults and youths to be held in Curaçao in June.
Once again youth sailors showed their skills and made things difficult for the veterans. Hardly surprising, then, that first and second place went to talented sailors Eugene Hendrikx and Kevin van Otterdijk respectively, both names having appeared high on many scoreboards in 2010. Last year's winner Hans van der Gulik finished in third place, while Alexandra Siebels held on to her title as first lady.
In B class, brother and sister duo Kevin and Kyra Maas finished first and third, with Jan van Zon filling the second slot.
Faithful to tradition, 89-year old Rudy Dovale and his wife Jacqueline crowned the winners during a lively after race party at the Asiento Sports Club, where Sunfish lovers gathered to enjoy a humorous speech by Alex Roose, President of the Curaçao Sunfish Association. Roose is one of the proud organizers of the 41st Sunfish Worlds, which runs from June 12-19, and the 2nd Youth Sunfish Worlds that take place from June 8-11.
It is exactly 20 years since the Worlds were last held in Curaçao, when local sailor Stephen Smeulders won the title. Expectations are high that once again a local sailor will triumph over the best the world has to offer and take the prestigious title.
According to Roose, they expect around 100 sailors from all over the world to participate in the Championships. All sailing activities will be on the south coast of the island, close to the Sea Aquarium Beach and Lions Dive Hotel.
"It is always challenging to organize a sailing event of this magnitude in the waters around Curaçao," says Roose. "The depth of the ocean reaches 600 to 800 meters, making it particularly difficult to anchor the buoys needed to mark the course."
The first Youth Sunfish World Championship was held in the United States in July 2010 and Curaçao are delighted to be the first country to host the Championship outside of the US. Fifty sailboats will be participating.
"The Sunfish Class is a fun class to sail in," says Roose. "Although sailors are highly competitive, everyone sees themselves as members of the big Sunfish family. A World Championship not only means sailing at a high level, it is also a continuation of many years of international friendship".
The first Sunfish was manufactured in 1951. The original hull was built of wood. Construction methods were transformed with the introduction of fiberglass, but the actual design has changed little over the years. The Sunfish became extremely popular in the USA and National and then World Championships were organized.
In collaboration with the builders in New England, up to 100 new Sunfish dinghies are made available to world championship sailors in order to ensure all competitors have identical boats.
The first Sunfish World Championship took place in St Thomas, US Virgin Islands, and the winner was the American sailor, Gary Hoyt. Since then, World Championships have been held almost every year, mostly in the U.S., thus avoiding the inevitable transportation difficulties.
In the past, two European countries, Holland and Italy, have earned the right to organize the Sunfish World Championships. Several countries and islands in and around the Caribbean Sea have also organized this event: Venezuela, Colombia, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, British Virgin Islands, Aruba, CuraÃ§ao and St. Martin.
Since 1970, forty Sunfish World Championships have been held in 17 different countries, with World Champions from ten separate nations.
Els Kroon is a Dutch former teacher who now lives and works as an award-winning free-lance photojournalist on Curaçao.