The number of racers and countries represented, as well as the talent of the sailors themselves, made the 28th Schoelcher International Nautical Week (SINW), hosted by the Cercle Nautique de Schoelcher in Martinique, February 9 to 13, something special. Add to this the number of races and classes represented, and the description moves to spectacular. At a time when many regattas in the Caribbean are struggling, the SINW is a bright spot that excels in enticing entries and putting the region on the map for its quality and quantity of competition in both dinghies and keelboats. Win or not, the sailors certainly echoed these sentiments.
âI was disappointed that Hugo (Chave) overtook me for first place in the Laser 4.7 Class, but I was very happy to sail successfully in the strong wind. It was not easy, but I did it,â says Lilou Pudai, who finished second and only two points behind his fellow sailor from Club Nautique Le Neptune, Martinique.
Some 166 sailors from Martinique, Guadeloupe, St. Lucia, St. Barths, Antigua, Cuba, the USA, Canada, Colombia, Belgium, Switzerland and several regions in France, competed in ten classes, including Lasers, Optimists, Bic and Sunfish dinghies; Windsurfer and Surprise keelboats.
âOur race committee did a very good job setting the courses considering the winds averaged 25 to 30 knots, with gusts up to 40 knots,â says Michel Zougs, regatta organizer and head coach for the Martinique team. âBy the second day of racing, it was clear to see who would win in some classes. For others, winners werenât decided until the last race on the last day. All the sailors did a good job at adapting to the strong wind, as there were not a lot of boat breakages. In fact, it was bright smiles on the faces of the younger Optimist sailors after racing that was the best reward for regatta organizers.â
The Optimist was largest class of boat represented in the SINW. Antiguaâs Shanoy Malone held his own very well in the Optimist Benjamin Class.
âThe conditions were complicated with strong winds. I had to thoroughly analyze the conditions to prevail,â says Malone, who finished tied on points with Guadeloupian sailor Titouan Obelliane.
Meanwhile, two St. Barths Yacht Club sailors, Lorenzo Mayer and Elio Gilbert Boutin, finished first and second in the older age group Optimist Minime Class. âThis speaks volumes about this duoâs sailing skill,â says Zougs, as they placed ahead of two Martinican sailors, Arthur Peltier and Maxime Colotroc, whose talents take them to the French Nationals this month (April).
The Windsurfer Cadet Class was one that seemed destined to be won right from the start by Martiniqueâs Kyllian Lostau who scored bullets in six of eight races.
âI liked this regatta and the rainy and windy conditions we had. I had good speed and I thought it prepared me well to go to the Med Cup in Marseille (France) at the end of February,â says Lostau.
Like Lostau, the younger TimothÃ© Bappel from Club Nautique de Vauclin in Martinique, also won six of eight races and will likely follow Lostau in attending national and international windsurfing competitions in the future.
For the second year, the Surprise Class participated in SINW with seven keelboat entries. The winner, Kreole Sandwich, skippered by Stanley Dormoy, clearly had the better boat speed over second place finisher, La Morrigane North Sail, sailed by Jean Francois Terrien and his crew.
âThis regatta has always assured competitors have a number of races in which to sail. European regattas may have more boats, sometimes up to 500, but they never manage to realize more than two to three races. In Schoelcher, competitors get to sail at least seven to eight races. Schoelcher is indeed a very good place to race,â says Zougs.
Carol M. Bareuther, RD, is a St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands based marine writer and registered dietitian.