Bonaire was proud to host the premier IFCA Bonaire Slalom World Windsurfing Event July 12-18 in Sorobon. Well known as the windsurf Mecca in the Caribbean, Bonaire has hosted previously three professional windsurfing events and four Pro Kids Freestyle events. Elvis Martinus, event director for those, has long dreamed of a professional slalom event. His dreams came to fruition when The International Funboard Class Association (IFCA) agreed to sanction and run a slalom event.
Eighty- four participants from 13 countries registered for the week long event from as far as Argentina and Denmark. Most came early to train in Lac Bay. This body of water is a protected area affording all racers safe and challenging courses, a popular winter training ground for the windsurf brethren due to near perfect windsurf conditions November to July.
Event Director Bruno de Wannemaeker from IFCA led daily skippers meetings while a full volunteer contingent from Bonaire ran the infrastructure. It was quite a challenge for many to get to Bonaire with huge quivers of gear but they came and they raced in a wide range of weather and wind conditions. Race conditions averaged 15 mph but on day two, there were gusts over 26 mph on the course. The average sail size most days was 7.5 meter.
At night the event organizers hosted parties on site including Bolla competition, the local sport similar to Bocce, local music and food. The biggest night was the party in Rincon where local residents hosted a dinner and dance festival with traditional music and culture.
The last day of races was particularly heated with the Master’s Division. Markus Poeltenstein from Austria and Thomas Fauster from Italy duked it out with Markus winning after very close heats. Former Olympian Constantine Saragoza from Bonaire raced in the Masters Division placing fourth.
At week’s end the grande finale was the Taste of Bonaire Culinary Exposition held in Kralendijk at Wilhelmina Park. The awards ceremony was poignant, paying recognition to the first windsurfer on island, Erwin Muller, who suffered a debilitating stroke in January. The Youth Division winners, Enes Yilmazer from Turkey, Sebastian Kordel from Germany and Malte Reuscher from Italy, wowed the crowd as they tore off their shirts after receiving awards and started dancing around the stage. The darlings of the event were the Super kids, emerging talent on stage delighting the audience. Bonaire recognizes the importance of youth in the sport and caters to the youngest sailors, providing encouragement and support. The conclusion was a magnificent fireworks display that lit the night sky, a perfect ending to a wonderful week of windsurfing and beach culture.
For full event details and race results go to the official event website www.bonaireslalomworld.com
Ann Phelan is the volunteer coordinator for press and hospitality. She owns Caribbean Wind & Sun Vacations, a Bonaire based agency specializing in Eco Tours, Dive and Windsurf Vacations in the Caribbean. Her website is www.bonairecaribbean.com.