February brought a vigorous start to the season for sailors in Curaçao. While many were under the spell of carnival, considered the largest cultural event of the island, die-hard sailors of all ages flocked to Spanish Water and put to sea to compete in a series of long established races.
First up was the famous Carnival Race. Started back in 1985, the event still attracts many Sunfish sailors some of whom have raced in most of the 33 editions. With no entry fee, the event encouraged sailors to spend even more time at sea following the rigors of carnival. Although won by15 year old Darius Berenos, the event was dominated by veterans. Running parallel to the event, young sailors enjoyed sailing clinics in the run-up to the Curaçao Youth Championships (CYC) the following weekend.
Organized by Youth Sailing Curaçao (YSCO) for the 12th consecutive year, The CYC again attracted young sailors from many corners of the world including the ABC islands, the USA, Colombia, The Netherlands and Belgium. Intensive instruction during the four days of clinics and workshops sharpened competition as the event got underway at its new venue in Caracas Bay.
Under the leadership of YSCO chairman Wybe Bruinsma and CYC committee chief Mieke van Aken, the CYC was able to engage top coaches from Argentina and The Netherlands. The clinics focused on technique, tactics and physical conditions using the latest teaching methods. Practice on the water was supported in the classroom through audio visual material.
Wet and squally conditions during the championships challenged the 50 young participants whose ages ranged from eight to and 18, but spirits were high and remained that way throughout the event.
As well as teaching the young sailors of Curaçao, professional coach Martin Manrique and his Dutch wife Carlien run a social project called ‘Make Them Sailors’, in which they provide opportunities for unprivileged children, teaching them about sailing and sustainability.
The Argentinian coach has been sailing Optimists, Cadets, Lasers and 420s since he was eight.
“There is no end for the things you can learn within this sport,” is the coach’s mantra and the message that he wants to get across to young sailors throughout the Caribbean and South America.
Manrique says his inspiration came from Juan Pablo, a fisherman’s kid from a tiny island in Colombia, whose dream was to learn how to sail.
As an aid to raising funds and support for ‘Make Them Sailors’ Manrique creates short movies to connect the two worlds. As a coach, he says his goal is to “take my sailors to their highest potential, whatever this may be.”
More than just helping Caribbean kids fulfill their dreams, Manrique strives to unite children from all walks of life. He hopes by teaching them social skills and sailing techniques, along the way it will help them find solutions to future environmental issues and give them the tools and opportunities for a better life.
Full race reports and results from the Curaçao Youth Competition and information about Make Them Sailors can be found on their Facebook pages.