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The First International Sailing Race in Aruba

On the occasion of the Hi Winds windsurf and kitesurf competition, the well known Aruban yachtsman Eric Mijts, skipper/owner of the steel yacht Eva Luna, took the initiative for the first international race for sailing yachts in Aruba on Sunday, July 6.  It was the first opportunity in a long while for local racing yachts, most berthed at Bucuti Yacht Club, to gather for a competition.

The race started at eleven at the southeastern port of Aruba’s capital Oranjestad and finished 18 miles later off the beach at Manchebo.

The Saturday before, a crowded captains’ meeting took place on the terrace of the Bucuti Yacht Club. Ten yachts registered for the race, including the Melody, a 34 foot Jeanneau, and the 29 foot Defender Venus Callipyge from Curaçao. Both yachts ventured the crossing a few days earlier, and provided an international touch to the race.

Organizers Mijts and Robert-Jan Moons welcomed the unexpectedly large number of participants, which formed a colourful whole at the smoothly conducted start.

The first exciting track went upwind to Barcadera and then in the opposite direction to Arashi where usage could be made of the available buoys for the Aruba Hi Winds, at that very moment in full swing. The yachts, some flying their colorful spinnakers, provided a decorative backdrop of the windsurf competition, watched by a big crowd on the beach at Fishermen’s Huts.

Even before the rounding of the buoy at Barcadera it seemed clear: the experienced team on Tranquilo had the best chance for the win. Anthony Hagendoorn, the skilled skipper of the yacht that regularly sails the Aruban waters with guests, took the lead and remained well in advance of all others, even after rounding the Arashi buoy.

At the prize giving ceremony however it turned out that Tranquilo rounded the last buoy in the wrong direction and got disqualified.
Aruban Eva Luna took the chance and jumped in at first place, followed by Sagittarius from Aruba and Venus Callypige from Curaçao.
Spirits were high during the race and even more at the prize giving.

Organizer Eric Mijts, whose Eva Luna unexpectedly won the race, stated that it was not really his intention to take the win, but the occasional crew did so well, and the weather conditions were so in favour of Eva Luna, that he didn’t feel any guilt.

In the contrary! Now all yacht owners have acquired the taste for racing again, Mijts wants to continue the Bucuti-Hi Winds event and is planning ahead for the 2009 edition, realizing the possibility for defending the title. But first the fifth annual round Aruba race is coming up on September 6th, as usual on the first Saturday of this month.

Els Kroon is a Dutch former teacher who now lives and works as an award-winning free-lance photojournalist on Curaçao.

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