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Sint Maarten Optimist Open Challenge

The weather forecast was not good for the scheduled 2008 Sint Maarten Optimist Open Championships, sponsored by SOL N.V. and planned for Saturday 8th November at Simpson Bay Lagoon. Late on Thursday, the forecast had improved, and word went out to all participants on Anguilla, St Barths and Sint Maarten, eagerly awaiting confirmation.

This was the largest Inter-Island Optimist regatta that the St.Maarten Yacht Club had ever organised, with 24 entrants; the regatta was limited by the availability of boats. Only two categories sailed, nine in the Silver Fleet and 15 in the Gold Fleet, older and more experienced sailors.  

On Saturday morning as the boats which transported the competitors from Anguilla and St Barths tied up at the jetty of the Sint Maarten Yacht Club, the wind had picked up nicely promising an excellent day of sailing and competition. The atmosphere was charged with excitement and anticipation. Many children, as young as seven and eight years old, had never participated in an international regatta and thus were classified as the Silver Fleet.  Most excited of all was Sint Maarten’s youngest junior competitor, eight year-old, Alec Scarabelli, who along with nine year-old Johanna Looser, were the Sint Martin hopefuls in the Silver fleet.

The more experienced children were calm and collected, old friends who had competed against each other on other islands and, in some cases internationally, so the spirit of camaraderie was the order of the day and everyone was keen to get the regatta started.

The first race of the Gold fleet required the recall of Rhône Findlay for having crossed the line early in his enthusiasm to get going. This did not deter him as he was able to catch up to the leaders by the second buoy and was in the lead at the third buoy. From then on, try as they may, the more experienced sailors in the Gold fleet were hard-put to catch up with him, as Rhône managed to cross the finish line all but once ahead of them all.

"I really had to work hard,” Rhone said.  “I was worried about Jolyon, Saskia and Steven who often beat me, as well as Louis Ollo from St Barths who is very good, so I just watched the water and watched the sail and, more than ever, I watched the wind. I did not stop concentrating once."

Louis Ollo from St Baths, and Jolyon Ferron were the greatest threats to Rhône’s dominance; had he dropped concentration or failed to produce excellent starts these two boys, along with Steven Looser and his sister Saskia Looser, would have jumped in to replace him. As it was, the competition between the four of them was intense with Jolyon just losing to Louis by one point and Saskia losing to her brother also by one point.

The Silver fleet, sailing a shorter course, saw competition no less intense. The winner of the first race was Sint Maarten’s youngest female hopeful, Johanna Looser, beating St Barths’ Julian Delguidice and Kevin Greaux to the finish line.

After a very surprising second in the second race, suddenly Sint Maarten’s youngest little star sailor, Alec Scarabelli, got the hang of it and in races 3, 4, 5 and 6, Alec produced four consecutive bullets.  (To discover the secret of the genes young Alec has inherited, Google his father’s name, Andrea Scarabelli, well-known in European sailing circles.) 

Alec relaxed with the Regatta in the bag and allowed Julian Delguidice from St Barths to take the honour of 1st place in the last race. Julian had an excellent day himself with four second places, a 5th and a 4th, which put him in second place.

Brin Herve also finished with a 1st and a 2nd place and managed a Podium place, ousting Sint Maarten’s favourite, young Johanna Looser, into 4th placing by only one point.

Prize-giving at the Sint Maarten Yacht Club was well attended and the final results eagerly awaited whilst the MC, Sir Robbie Ferron, thanked SOL N.V, the principal sponsor, and all who contributed to make the event such a success.  All participants were awarded a prize, and podium winners had their victory recorded on camera.

St.Maarten Yacht Club organisers extend their sincere appreciation to the sponsors for six additional Optimist Boats recently received which enabled the total of competitors to be increased.

Article by Ruargh Findlay submitted by the St. Maarten Yacht Club

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