This year’s Golden Anniversary of the International Bonaire Regatta, sailed October 11th-14th, was all about the revival of the traditional fishing boats, of which the history dates back to and beyond the very first race. On September 8th 1968 the Bonaire-built fishing boats Sislin, captained by Don Stewart, and Hubert ‘Ibo’ Domacasse’s Velia raced clockwise around the island of Klein Bonaire. At stake were 27 cases of beer, the result of an ever increasing bet.
Nearly half a century later, 114 boats sailed in the wake of these local heroes during three exciting days of serious competition in full view of thousands of spectators. They were gathered on the Malecón, the sea promenade in front of the recently renovated sailing center Kas di Regatta in the heart of Playa Pabou, a part of Bonaire’s quaint capital of Kralendijk. Many passengers and crew from the cruise ship Equinox were also in for a real treat.
Because the original regatta week has been shortened to three days, there was a lot of activity on the water at the same time: children aboard Optimist prams tacked back and forth along the promenade, yachts, spinnakers drawing, raced between the shore and Klein Bonaire, and Sunfishes, Lasers, Polyvalks, Beach Cats and kite surfers filled the gaps. In shallow water one hundred meters from Regatta House, 18 micro boats from Aruba, along with twenty-three boats from Bonaire, ran their own exciting four-class competition helped along by the wind and the shouts of their owner/captains.
The Regatta officially began following the All Nations Parade. People from more than 55 countries call Bonaire home and many marched bearing the flags of their home countries. The parade was followed by the zouk band, Kassav, from Guadeloupe, who wowed the large audience.
Over the next three days, all kinds of colorful sails were seen in fierce competition during nine races for each class. Light winds at the start followed by good sailing winds of about 18 knots and a few gusts were the hallmark for this significant edition of the regatta.
From the start the races were easy for spectators to follow, and the finish line was just off the beach, offering a great view. Evert Bongers, from Aruba, broadcast a running commentary during the racing and also emceed the prize giving ceremony on the main stage.
Organizer, Hype Events, coordinating the Regatta for the third time, put the focus on the entertainment festival and left the sailing events to the experts. The entertainment was in downtown Wilhelmina Park and spread along the Kralendijk waterfront. It featured four stages with state-of-the-art lighting and sound, countless food stands, small kiosks, kiddy rides, parades, and fabulous evening entertainment. Companion events like a walk, a swim, soccer and softball tournaments, dominos and jeux de boules games were all part of the regatta, too.
Skipper Mark Rooyakkers and his team on Curacao Marine, competing in Racing Class 1, obtained the highest honors being named the regatta overall winner. He was followed by Henry Hernandez sailing Chamba II and Klaus Schneider’s Merlin. Schneider also topped the highly competitive Racing Class 2. The team on Venus Calippyge was victorious in Cruising Class, while Burfish, from the Netherlands, topped the Open Class with a remarkable nine bullets out of nine races.
Among the fishing boats, Papagayo, in Class B, and Arantsa, in Class C returned to the podium this year, supporting a fifty-year tradition that will be maintained into the future as an enthusiastic team, headed by Lara Chirino and Budget Marine’s manager Pam Teitel, has serious plans to continue the restoration project of the historic fishing boats and extend it to Bonaire’s sister islands. (See page 70.)
For full results, visit: regattabonaire.com
Els Kroon is a Dutch former teacher who now lives and works as an award winning freelance photojournalist in Curaçao and Kissimmee, Florida