For the third time in a row Youth Sailing Netherlands Antilles (YSNA) created a successful youth sailing event at the end of January, this time with ENNIA and Banco di Caribe as main sponsors. The event has become more serious and a little more professional every year since its start. This year, the organisation changed from a small group of fanatics to a much larger group of volunteers. Furthermore, the Curacao Youth Championships were placed on the international calendar by IODA last year. But the icing on the cake was definitely that Curaçao, with the support of ENNIA and Banco di Caribe, won the bid to host the North American Optimist Championships 2008.
For the competitors from Europe, preparations for these Championships start in November when they ship their boats (mostly Splashes) into a container bound for Curaçao. In March, the boats return to Europe just in time for the start of the season. Caribbean kids can charter an Optimist in Curaçao since YSNA has 15 almost new Optimists in stock for international clinics and regattas.
Since the Splash is a class in development in this area no local charter boats are available yet. But Dutchman Roel Wester, who builds the Splash, sends 10 boats back and forth across the Atlantic to make participation for Caribbean sailors also possible. At the Splash Worlds in Croatia in July, it will be decided whether Curaçao also will win the bid to organize the Splash Worlds in 2008. Availability of Splash charter boats is currently the biggest issue to be resolved.
The week started off with a registration party followed by the three long distance races, a Thursday lay day, and 10 races over the weekend. It ended with prize giving by Prime minister Emily de Jongh Elhage and Minister of Sports and Education Omayra Leeflang.
Long distance series
The long distance series consisted of three races all sailed in heavy conditions. Local kids dominated the races to Fuikbay and back. Local Optimist sailor Ard van Aanholt, who showed promising improvement at the Worlds in Uruguay, won all three races. The battle for the second place was won by Juan Carlos (Juanky) Perdomo from Puerto Rico, with Just van Aanholt finishing third with the same amount of points. In Splash, local sailor Michiel van Wickeren (33thd place at the Worlds in Riva, Lake Garda, Italy) showed that he had trained hard and was rewarded with success. He won the longdistance event followed by Lennard Pigeaud from Holland; local girl Philipine van Aanholt finished third. The prize giving and skippers dinner was held at Land house Jan Thiel which was build in 1796.
Last year the Dutch sailors dominated the Splash field, but this year it was a different game. The Curaçao Splash kids improved a lot and showed that they had learned to sail the Splash properly in the waters of Caracas bay. Michiel van Wickeren managed to sail 10 bullets in a row. Next year Michiel will take a break in between high school and University to spend even more time sailing. Not hindered by study demands, he plans to do more international events. Irena Doets from Holland finished second and Philipine van Aanholt became third again. Philipine, being pretty young in this class (14), improved a lot and seems to take advantage of her good tactics developed in the Optimist class. In the top ten also were Conrad Jacobs, Dennis van den Berg, Vinxcent Pietersz, and Alekzander Hoogenwegen from Curaçao. Evert van der Poel, President of the Dutch Splash Class, with around 2000 sailors, congratulated the local kids with their enormous improvement.
The conditions for the Optimist kids were heavy, strong winds and high waves. Most of the sponsors at the spectators’ boats were truly impressed with the skills and efforts they saw at the water. Ian Barrows from St. Thomas, who placed 13th last year, took home the first place. He surprised Ard van Aanholt, who had won the event in 2005 and 2006, in the beginning of the event with sailing three first places in a row. Not only in Curaçao but also at the Worlds, the upcoming by the USVI sailors has been noticed. They have been training with a professional coach and it shows.
Wesley Scott from Trinidad & Tobago finished third, while Juanky Perdomo from Puerto Rico and Just van Aanholt were fourth and fifth. In seventh place was Kevin Otterdijk who received the Talent award. Alexandra Siebels won the prize for first prize and ended up in ninth place. The first Dutch kid was Gilles Hagen in 12th place. Principal Race officer Harm Donker from Holland was very pleased with the sharp starts he saw in this class.
During the last day of racing, the officer at race area two, Robert Maas, decided to postpone the last race because of the heavy winds. Fabian Seket from Curaçao excelled in the Optimist B class, the class for kids with less experience. Fabian has only been sailing for six months, quite an achievement. Young Jordan van Rooyen and Ilona van Brug finished second and third. The fourth and fifth place went to Torsten Pietersz and Jonathan Henriquez.
The club Opti class, in which most kids learned to sail, was won by Martijn Looman, followed by Thom Lubberts and Canrick Felicia.
Cor van Aanholt, chairman of YSNA, tells why this event and youth sailing in general is so motivating for him: “It is not just the excellent sailing conditions here in Curaçao. Although a lot is learned at the water, probably most valuable is the life experience you can give a child.
“Sailing is not everything, but growing up while sailing can give you intense and wonderful life experiences—for example, home stays, spontaneous dinners and soccer games, learning different languages and customs, getting up after a lost race, protest hearings, even first-time love and hopefully long-lasting friendships,” says van Aanholt. “Positive energy through sailing is my passion and drive.”
For 2008, the Championships will be scheduled during the Christmas break since some schools in Curaçao complained that they had 10% of their kids absent or skipping school. The event will start at December 28th with an intensive clinic for Optimist and Splash given by top trainers. The ENNIA & Banco di Caribe Curaçao Youth Sailing Championships will be held January 2 – 4. This event will be the general repetition for the Optinam and very probably the Splash Worlds in July 2008 to be held at Jan Thiel beach, Curaçao.
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