What a beautiful ‘sailscape’ made by all these young teenagers! They had come to compete in the 19th annual Shoelcher Sailing Week in Martinique, held between the 1st and 5th February. A wonderful sight on the water, from Anse Madame to Shoelcher, right in the middle of Carnival.
Organized by the Club Nautique de Shoelcher (CNS), the week began with a Friday night opening ceremony, hosted by the Deputy Mayor of Shoelcher, Alfred Almont, and presented by the President of the CNS Alain de Chavigny, who said: “This year again, you have come from France and numerous Caribbean countries to compete sportingly and faithfully with our sailors. It is with great joy that we welcome you. Fair winds and fair seas. May the best man win!” But the attention of the young sailors was at its peak during the Salsa and traditional dance performance, by a group of young ‘Lyceens’!
A hundred participants took part in a great test of strong-wind sailing; with classes divided into Optimist, Laser Standard, Laser Radial, Laser 4.7, Sunfish, Catamaran, and Windsurfing in Formula Windsurfing and Bic 293D. Many sailors came from outside Martinique, including Guadeloupe, Cuba, Barbados, St Lucia, Trinidad, St Barths, and even Guyana and metropolitan France.
Favorites at the start were some well-known local names: Tristal Leclerc (World Champion in Formula Experience Windsurf, 2007), Sebastien Bourdais (World Vice Champion 2007), Wilson Cadignan and Morane Demont among the girls, and Jean-Sebastien Luchel in the BIC 293; Emmanuel Descas in Optimist, Nicolas Rendu in Laser Standard, Eliot Merceron in Laser Radial.
From Guadeloupe, Hugo Tellier and Tristan Algret in BIC, Noemie Leger for the girls, Antoine Lefort in Optimist. Guadeloupe was in fact well represented with 30 sailors coming over. One can only admire their performance, too, bearing in mind the difficulty of transporting all the craft and equipment behind a large cruising catamaran!
Among the highest national ranked sailors were Mathias Derrien (8th in the European Optimist Championships 2007), Pierre de Charry (2nd in French Optimist Championships 2007), and Thanh Bouvet (Vice Champion France 2007).
On Saturday, the last sailors signed up and had their measurements taken, but it was already raining hard and the east/northeasterly wind looked to be strengthening for the afternoon. Organizers and competitors scrutinized the horizon as if their actions might change the wind gods.
Finally, at 2 p.m., the windsurfers and catamarans left in difficult conditions, with strong gusts, launching themselves into three legs of the course, of which two were in 20 to 25 knots, the last in 15-20—irregular, buffeting wind conditions and squalls that brought gusts up to 30 knots. This first day was a physical one that shook up some of the competitors.
On Sunday, the wind strengthened to 25 knots with gusts up to 30 and a choppy sea. The first race was not started until 10 a.m., when the squalls were fearful. Only the most intrepid could deal with the conditions and many abandoned.
On Monday, the wind was more favorable with fewer showers. Three legs could be run in the dinghy classes, four in the catamaran and windsurfer classes. The leader board was well contested in all.
On Tuesday, it was a return to previous conditions, with huge squalls and wind blowing at 36 knots, enough to capsize the committee boat. It was immediately decided to return to the shelter of the coast for the safety of all and to rest, since four days of competition in wind of 15 to 30 knots with large sails had left many exhausted: 11m2 on a Formula Windsurfer in 25 knots is a rare sight.
By the end of the sailing week, the competitors were satisfied with the organization by the CNS. 12 races were organized despite conditions on the water, even though it was not always possible to sail calmly which forced many Optimist and dinghy competitors to withdraw. But the atmosphere was there, and some worthwhile friendships made with sailors of other nationalities.
Thanks to the partners without whom the week would not be possible: the town of Shoelcher, regional and general council of Martinique, DDJS, Tourism Committee, Kiwanis Club, sailing league, and numerous parents.
The next edition will be the 20th and organizers hope for the maximum possible entry, perhaps even from the US islands? For information, contact the Cercle Nautique de Shoelcher: [email protected]
Tél : 0596 61 20 83 or fax :0596 661 57 51.