Saint Barths’s Benoit Meesmaecker captured his third Laser title at the 26th Heineken Light Caribbean Open Laser Championship in Orient Bay, St. Martin, on June 13-14 with a solid, near flawless display of tactical sailing to win eight races out of nine over the two days.
15-20 knot ESE winds over the windward/leeward course suited the heavier sailors, however, having to frequently clear Sargassum weed from centerboards and rudders proved frustrating for the fleet. There were quite a few capsizes from the lighter sailors.
Benoit, the winner in 2012 and 2014, denied a tenacious Ari Barshi from the Dominican Republic by pulling away to win each heat with several boat lengths to spare. Barshi who won race four was not quite as consistent but his second place overall was still well deserved.
It was a familiar scenario of Benoit dominance. But it didn’t seem like that on the water, Benoit said afterwards.
“Ari is a very strong competitor; he was second in the North American Masters two weeks ago and ninth in the last Masters World Championships where I finished eleventh, so I was happy to beat him this weekend. I didn’t expect to do so well against him.”
Island Water World sailor Frits Bus was third overall and first in Masters.
Curaçao’s Derek Bongaertz (15) caused a stir by infiltrating the old boy network and snatching fourth overall and first in the Radials; his compatriot Tijn van der Gulik (14) and Bart van Vliet (17) finishing second and third respectively in the Radials class.
“We have the same wind in Curaçao so that was an advantage for us,” Derek remarked. Bongaertz is preparing for the Sunfish Worlds in Peru in October and in December the Laser Youth World Championships in Malayasia.
Harry Antrobus (21) was ninth overall and third in the Standard class. Joris van den Eynde was tenth and fourth in Standard.
Dominican Republic’s Omar Bros settled for fifth overall and second in Masters. He, Ari Barshi and Jorge Abreu are household names that personify this championship year after year.
“Jorge has been coming to this championship for 24 years but only missed it this time because he’s applying for a visa for Canada,” disclosed Bros. “I myself have been coming here 22 years and Ari the last 14 years. We love it here. There’s always a good level of competition.”
Race Officer Andrew Rapley on the Sun Sail catamaran said the weather could not have been better.
“The downwind legs were exciting, and only slight fluctuations on the upwind legs,” he said. “The only thorn in our side was the Sargassum weed, and there’s nothing we can do about it. But the wind was constant and it was easy to lay the course.”
The prize giving was held in Papagayo Restaurant, Club Orient Resort, as usual.
Robert Luckock is a British journalist and freelance writer residing in St. Maarten. He is The Daily Herald’s correspondent for French St. Martin and was one of All at Sea’s very first contributors.