The quantity and quality of sailors made the 26th Schoelcher International Nautical Week (SINW), hosted by the Cercle Nautique de Schoelcher in Martinique, February 5th to 9th, extra special. Not only did 140 sailors from the European countries of France, Belgium, Norway and Switzerland, and Caribbean island nations of Antigua, Cuba, Guadeloupe, St. Lucia and St. Barths complete a dozen races in Optimist, Laser, Sunfish and BIC Windsurfer classes, but it was a thrill to the end because of the close racing among competitors.
“In each class, the last day of racing was important,” says Michel Zougs, head Martinique coach and organizer of this regatta, which ranks as one of the oldest and renowned dinghy events in the Caribbean. “For some, it was simply a matter of confirming their lead. For others, it was a last chance to win a place on the podium. All of the winners are certainly sailors we expect to have impressive results in the regattas they sail the rest of this year.”
St. Lucia’s Danny Dillon placed first in the age 13- to 15-year old Optimist class with a slim five-point lead over Martinique’s Clemet Martin in second.
“The conditions weren’t always easy, but I was consistent and that allowed me to win,” says Dillon.
Zou Zemmel, who sails out of France’s Societe des Regates d’Antibes (SR Antibes), topped the age 12-and under Optimist class. Zemmel won an impressive six races, with his worst score a third place.
“The conditions were complicated with strong winds. I had to thoroughly analyze the conditions in order to prevail,” says Zemmel.
In Laser Radials, Martinique’s Kevin Dufeal triumphed handily over St. Lucia’s Luc Chevrier after starting out slow the first day.
“I had to stay focused right up to the last race. The wind and wave conditions were difficult at times and there was always the chance of surprises,” says Dufeal.
A bright smile and fingers shaped in a ‘V’ for Victory made it clear Martinique’s Megane Reuperne-Zamor had bested the Laser 4.7 class as she sailed back to shore after the final race.
“I’ve been practicing and preparing myself for this regatta since September,” says Reuperne-Zamor, who finished 29th overall in the Girl’s Gold Fleet at last year’s Laser 4.7 Youth Worlds in Medemblik, the Netherlands.
Martinique’s Olivier Alminin scored a big win in the Sunfish class.
“The first day the sailing was a little complicated, but I adapted,” says Alminin, who had taken a hiatus from sailing for five years and came back to this event where he won all but two races.
Lastly, it was no surprise that France’s Tom Arnoux, representing the Yacht Club Pointe Rouge in Marseille, led the BIC 293 Windsurf class.
“I had problems with my hands due to strong wind and sea water,” says Arnoux, who earned the titles of French Champion, European Champion and World Silver Medalist in 2015. “I had the lead, but the last day I had to remain vigilant on this difficult stretch of water and keep my opponents behind me.”
Delightfully surprising was Martinique’s Marcos Guedez’s second place finish behind Arnoux. It’s a great feat considering Guedez isn’t able to sail all year like Arnoux due to his medical studies.
Zougs, pleased with the participation and prowess of the sailors competing in the 26th SINW, would like to see the event continue to grow. “We don’t have enough sailors coming from the Caribbean; nobody from Trinidad & Tobago, Barbados and the northern Islands. We need to harmonize our calendar to make sure the maximum amount of Caribbean sailors can take part in all of the region’s regattas.”
For full results, visit www.cnschoelcher.net
Carol M. Bareuther, RD, is a St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands based marine writer and registered dietitian.