One of the biggest challenges to the Caribbean's sailors is small fleets. That's what makes racing in big events so attractive and why the Orange Bowl International Youth Regatta in Miami, Florida, sees so many of the region's junior sailors participate and excel. The 2010 event, sailed December 27 to 30, was no exception, with a total of 665 8 to18-year-old sailors from 22 countries and 28 states competing in six classes.
William Bailey was eyeing first place in the Laser Standard Class heading into the last day. "I got too excited and finished 12th in the last race," says Bailey, from St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands. Even so, Bailey's mostly top five finishes earned him second in the 30 boat fleet and he won a three-way tie-breaker for this position. Next up, Bailey, who is captain of the Antilles School Sailing Team, will be competing as a skipper for his team in qualifiers for the prestigious high school Bakery Cup and Mallory trophies.
A near record 140 sailors competed in the Laser Radial Class. One of them was Puerto Rico's Ramon Gonzalez who finished an outstanding 5th. Like Bailey, a string of top five finishes secured his front of the pack position in this large fleet. "In these big fleets all you need for a good race is a good start and to cover the fleet and the rest is done if you have already a good boat speed." Gonzalez was back in Miami in January for the Olympic Class Regatta where he sailed a Laser Standard with an eye to qualifying for the Pan-American Games this summer in Mexico.
Optimists were the biggest class of the regatta with 217 boats. The British Virgin Islands' Sam Morrell finished 38th in the 11 and 12-year old Blue Fleet, an impressive finish given that the young sailor had conditions ranging from near 20 to barely six knots to contend with during the four days of racing. Morrell's best race was his last where he finished 10th.
"I had a good start off the line and was in seventeenth place when I rounded the windward mark," notes Morrell. "I gained on a few boats on the reach and downwind, and on a few more on the upwind leg and final reach."
Back home, Morrell, who will next travel with his team to compete in the Optimist South American Championships in Chile, had a surprise waiting. The Royal BVI Yacht Club named him 'Most Improved Club Dinghy' sailor of the year!
Sailing Success for Van Otterdijk
The island of Curaçao had its own success at the Miami Orange Bowl Regatta thanks to a splendid performance from Kevin van Otterdijk who finished 9th out of a fleet of 139 in the Laser Radial class.
After a successful Optimist career, van Otterdijk used the regatta to race a Laser Radial for the first time. Before the regatta he prepared himself by training with international top coach Nicolas Fracchia from Argentina, at the Coral Reef Yacht Club. The results show that the 15-year old clearly has no problem sailing this new boat.
During the four-day event, sailors came up against a variety of weather conditions. Heavy winds with a lot of DNF's (Did Not Finish) and very light winds. Temperatures plummeted to two degrees Celsius and some of the Caribbean sailors had a difficult time adjusting to the cold. On the third day the wind died completely and van Otterdijk was the only one to finish the race within the time limit. Unfortunately for him the race committee decided to discard that race.
Van Otterdijk is now preparing for the Curaçao Youth Sailing Championships in March and the Sunfish Worlds in June.
Carol M. Bareuther, RD, is a St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands based marine writer and registered dietitian.