Sailors can be found in all sections of the population, young and old, tall and small, and in all kinds of professions. In Curacao we are lucky to have several medical doctors in our world famous Sunfish group, who are not only excellent physicians, but also talented sailors who like to compete with each other in almost every race. We are blessed with family doctor Alex Roose who uses his organizing skills as the very active chairman of the local Kidney Foundation and as chairman of the Curacao Sunfish Association as well. Sunfish in Curacao is synonymous with Alex—where there are Sunfishes on the water, Alex is!
Psychiatrist Gilbert Thomas is another local sailing doctor. From the moment that Gilbert discovered that sailing was a nice sport not only for his son, he began participating in all possible races, starting at the lower end of the ladder but soon climbing to world champion heights; that is to say, he joined the Curacao Team in the world championships, and sailed not bad at all!
Reaching to the Sunfish top is a tricky business anyway in Curacao because the island’s veterans are still of world class and it’s extremely difficult to work oneself through that sturdy wall. But Gilbert was on his way until… he decided to continue his medical career in his wife’s cold and far-away native country Holland.
When he mentioned his plans about a year ago they were not taken seriously, but the time of saying goodbye to all sailing friends came fast and something had to be done to make that goodbye one never to forget.
Who else could do the job better than Alex?
So for once Alex’ thoughts were not only with his patients concerns. He racked his brains day and night and concluded that organizing a goodbye race was the least he could do for his departing colleague and friend. And that race had to be special too. In all secrecy (Gilbert wasn’t supposed to get the slightest idea), Alex cooked up a complicated plot for Gilbert’s last race. Sailed on June 10th, the event attracted 40 sunfishes at the starting line.
“Forty sunfishes, in view of the amount of inhabitants living in Curaçao, you can compare this with 80,000 in the US!” says Alex in his article for the International Sunfish Class Association. Some boats were manned with two, three or even four sailors, among them Sunfishers who hadn’t be on the water for many, many years.
The race rules were a combination of fun and serious sailing. Several Sunfish wizards showed up, filling their boats with experienced and not-so-experienced family members. The first leg was a serious upwind leg, with an in-between finish without a signal at the mark, because Gilbert was not aware of the special rules—and everybody inconspicuously wanted it to stay that way. According these rules, during the downwind leg all sailors ahead of Gilbert were requested to round the down wind mark in an opposite order.
Gilbert himself did not know this and sailors behind him were free to sail as good as possible. This almost worked as expected, so at the downwind mark the enormous fleet was very compact again. After 90 minutes racing in perfect circumstances the finish was an impressive one with the maestro, of course, crossing the line first—very shortly followed by all the other yelling, screaming, horning, and whistling Sunfishes.
On behalf of Alex and all Curacao sailors we say farewell to Gilbert: “Lots of success in Holland and let’s hope your boat will never be sold so the step to return is an easy one!”