Last year the Bonaire Regatta celebrated its 40th birthday with a bang. But as Race Director Elvis Martinus says with a grin, “Life begins at 40,” since this year, for the first time, the Caribbean Sailing Association (CSA) has sanctioned the event. CSA officials will be on site measuring boats and having a presence with officials—a relationship that creates an even more professional sailing event. Martinus is anticipating more attendance this year due to the new rating system, and already the CSA has been visiting Venezuela and the ABC islands measuring boats for the Regatta.
Elvis Martinus is hard to miss with his towering height, his infectious smile and his passion for life. Be it on the dance floor, at his windsurf shop Bonaire Windsurf, or running one of the many events he organizes, Martinus is a local celebrity. Many consider him one of the founding fathers of windsurfing in Bonaire—a sport that features prominently in Bonaire Regatta week’s competitions.
Martinus comes from a seafaring family—his grandfather and father were both men of the sea, fishing and sailing boats. Elvis followed in their footsteps, earning his nickname “Piskechi,” a Papiamento word for a type of small local fish. Elvis Martinus was the national windsurf champion in the late 80s. Today, he runs several local windsurf events, a Pro event, Pro Kids (www.prokidsfreestyle.com) and, of course, the Bonaire Regatta.
The other key Regatta mover & shaker is General Coordinator Byron Tromp. His father, the late Niki Tromp, was one of the founders of the Regatta when it was initiated under the auspices of the Tourism sector 41 years ago. Tromp explains that the event was always held in October during low season to bring in tourism and, thanks to Bonaire being outside the hurricane belt, it is also a safe time for a sailing event. The dates have stuck and the Bonaire Regatta, already a favorite event for the ABC Islands and South America, reaches a new level of prestige being aligned with the CSA.
Tromp, responsible for the social functions of the event, promises one of the island’s best festivals this October. Sports Week will be celebrated the same week, hosting domino tournaments and softball games to name just a few. An instrumental driving force in bringing windsurf events and successful regattas to Bonaire, Tromp’s enthusiasm is evident when he reflects on Regattas, past and present.
The team of Martinus and Tromp, leading the Bonaire Sailing Foundation into a new era, promises a fun and festive Bonaire Regatta 2008. www.bonaireregatta.org
Ann Phelan, owner of Caribbean Wind & Sun Vacations, specializes in Caribbean dive and windsurf vacations. When she is not in Bonaire on her Stand Up Paddle Board or windsurfer you may find her at Antigua Race Week or chilling on Cape Cod. firstname.lastname@example.org