Orient Bay, French St. Martin, is famous for its golden beaches and nude sunbathing. This year Orient also played host to something less risque, the 23rd Heineken Light Open Caribbean Laser Championships.
“This is the biggest really interisland Laser regatta in the Caribbean, and that’s what makes it so important,” says organizer and competitor Frits Bus. “We have classes in the 4.7 Laser, the Radial Class, the Master Class and the Standard Class.”
The importance of the championships shows in the quality of the competitors and it brought together top sailors from around the region.
The two-day, nine-race regatta, sailed June 9th – 10th, offered challenging conditions with often light and shifty winds.
In Standard Class, it was clear from race one that Olympic sailor Raul Aguayo of the Dominican Republic, demonstrating superb skills and boat speed, was the man to beat. Kevin van Otterdijk, 17, of Curaçao, gave it his best shot, dazzling the competition to finish second (and second overall) behind class and overall winner Aguayo. Last year’s champion, Benoit Meesemaecker of St Barths, finished third.
With four different classes, Laser competitions are popular amongst sailors of all ages. In the Radial Class local teenager Rhône Findlay delighted his new sponsor, Maclaren, with a winning performance. Findlay was pushed hard by second place Jonathan Woods from Tortola. Third and fourth place tied on points, with Jolyon Ferron of St Maarten breaking the tie to take a podium place ahead of Henry Fondeur of the Dominican Republic.
Laser Master Class (45 to 54 year old) is not a competition for the unfit. Racing Lasers requires stamina as well as skill if you are to perform well at this level. Here, multiple champion Karl James of Antigua took the honors, having broken the tie with second place Markku Harmala of St Barths. Event mainstay Frits Bus finished third in this very competitive class.
Future champions can be found in the Laser Junior 4.7 Class and the youngsters raced hard, no doubt having learned a thing or two while chatting to the older competitors. On the day it was two sailors from Tortola that held sway with Matthew Oliver, 15, clenching victory ahead of Mollee Donovan, 15, the only girl in the regatta. Third place went to Jose-Luis Riviera, 15, of Puerto Rico.
The Heineken Light Open Caribbean Laser Championships was organized by the Sint Maarten Yacht Club under the auspices of the Caribbean Sailing Association.
For full results and list of sponsors, visit: http://laserchamps.com