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Windsurfing Curacao’s 2007 Open Slalom Championships

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On the first day of May, Windsurfing Curacao organized a slalom competition following up last year’s success. This competition for everyone who can windsurf—from beginners to seasoned veterans—was a downwind course on Spanish Waters. Participants were divided in six classes by age, including Mini-kids (ages 6/8) and a Novice class for beginners in the adult division (16+).

Participants more than doubled last year’s, outnumbering all expectations. More than one hundred windsurfing fanatics enjoyed the water sport spectacle on Curacao’s Labour Day.

The young organizers, Ingmar Schnitzler and Hilde Tuinbeek, and their team were pleased with the 20 knots winds but also had their hands full with steering things in the right direction. Slalom races always show an extreme tense competition. For these races, the buoys were laid in a big W providing the opportunity to jib around the markers at full speed—some experienced racers made spectacular crashes at speeds of 60 kilometers (37 miles per hour.)  

All heats were a feast for the eyes of spectators at the rather new and growing Windsurfing Curacao premises on Caracas Bay Island. The participants—the youngest, Chloe da Costa Gomez at age six, the oldest too old to mention—showed great variety in skills and performance. The 21 hot shots in the 16+ A class kept the audience on the edge throughout the competition while the mini-kids aroused endearment and also admiration for their perseverance.

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In class 10/11, Raoul da Costa Gomez and Gino Martina raced neck-and-neck in the qualifying rounds, followed by Didier van der Horst, who surprised the crowd by his board speed. It took an extra round for Martina and Da Costa Gomez to determine the winner! With just a minimal difference, Da Costa Gomez took the win this time, knowing the next time he’ll feel Martina and Van der Horst breathing down his neck.

In class 12/13 Felix Martina, Marco van der Woude, Alex da Costa Gomez and Rafael de Windt were the best. All four showed that Curacao will be a formidable opponent in future international windsurf events. Martina won the final round and De Windt took all by surprise by capturing second place.

The higher the age group, the more exciting the heats! Atria Peter was the only girl in her class of 14 /15 year olds, but her male opponents Maurice Rutenfrans and Marc O’Donoghue knew in advance that they had to put their back into it to beat her. Rutenfrans succeeded in the final rounds while O’Donoghue kept to the saying: “ladies first.”

The 16+ class brought it to the absolute climax of the day. Some very experienced local windsurfers like the former Antillean champion Ingmar Schnitzler, and Bruce Brandt, Sergey Boer, and Rogier Heyst put their strength against each other. Rising star Michel Huiberts and the young guns from Curacao, Sten Maria, Nick Brouwer, and Victor Wederfoort-–all just turned 16— had to hold themselves against the old champs for the first time. Maria and Brouwer demonstrated in the first rounds that experience is not the only thing that counts, beating some of the big names, but in the end they had to acknowledge them as their superiors. Wederfoort however made it to the top ten finals and conquered a remarkable fourth place.

The most spectacular final round was sailed by Sergey Boer, the number one in all preliminary rounds, and Rogier Heyst, Michel Huiberts, and Ingmar Schnitzler. Right after the start it was Boer who once more took the lead, but just before rounding the second buoy Schnitzler made the most of his opportunities and changed places with his competitor.  Boer came back but took a risk by starting a quick jibe too early, lost control and ended up in a breathtaking crash. Schnitzler steadily went on to the finish line, followed by Heyst and Huiberts.

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So Caribbean you can almost taste the rum...

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