Thirty-one youth sailors from St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Barths, Antigua, Curacao and St. Martin traveled to St. Maarten to sail in the 14th edition of the Sol St. Maarten Optimist Championship, held November 9th and 10th and hosted by the Sint Maarten Yacht Club (SMYC). Sponsored by Sol Petroleum, fifteen sailors ages 8 – 15 joined the Orange (intermediate) Class and sixteen were in the advanced/ Blue Class. The winner of the Blue Class and overall winner of the event was fourteen-year-old Antiguan sailor Ozani Lafond who won 7 out of 11 races and showed how much he has learned after coming in 9th place last year.
The expectation was that this year was going to be very competitive due to a large Blue Class and great sailors from all over the Caribbean. “This year we had a pretty high level of racing with a lot of competitors that where finishing close to each other. We had strong winds on Saturday and Sunday which required a lot of perseverance from the youth sailors in the Orange Class. The strong winds gave the Blue Class the opportunity to shine,” according to sailing instructor Reinier Calkhoven.
Antigua dominated this year’s Sol Optimist Championship with excellent sailing skills and ended up in the top three of both the Orange and the Blue Class. All six sailors on the podium were from Antigua. David Antrobus, General Manager of Sol, presented the trophies to the winners. “It is amazing to see such sailing talent in the region and to be part of this event.”
In the Blue Class, Ozani Lafond went home with the overall trophy and a GO PRO Hero from The Scuba Shop. Shanoy Malone took home 2nd place and Daniel Anglin 3rd.
In the Orange Class, brothers Carrack and Tyden Jones took 1st and 2nd place respectively. With Henrick Greensmith 3rd.
Two additional trophies for Sportsmanship and Best Newcomer were also awarded. Kaemen Floyd form Curacao took home the Sportsmanship trophy by showing great focus despite a major equipment failure with his mast step breaking during a race and still ended up 4th in Blue Class. Best Newcomer was Mikias Michaux from the French side of St. Martin. He showed great skill for his first regatta and first time sailing a fiberglass Optimist. “He was well-deserving of this award and we hope that this will encourage him to keep on racing and honing his skills” said SMYC board member Janet Robertson-Morton.
“This was the first time that youth sailors from the new ‘Club de Voile de Friar’s Bay’ from the French side joined us. It was an awesome collaboration,” says Scott Doyle, racing coach of the SMYC.
There was a lot of support from many volunteers and local and regional businesses. Budget Marine sponsored equipment drybags for the Orange Class winners and Bob Hilbert made special Sol Optimist Championship long sleeve UV-shirts for all the competitors and coaches to wear during the event. The Scuba Shop donated the Go Pro and Ballerina Jewelers an ICE Watch.
“This event is a regional jewel for all the young competitors. We couldn’t have done it with all the help from our sponsors and volunteers that contributed yearly to this event” says Leonde Vermeulen, event manager of the SMYC. “Also, a big thanks to our race officer this weekend, Paul Henriquez, who ensured all smooth sailing. And Carin Adelstein and Clenda Pecht for being on the race committee. This all made this year’s Sol Optimist Championship a huge success!”
“This year we want to thank our main sponsor Sol Petroleum, Divico Distributors, Intertoys, Rainforest Adventures, Van Dorp, Fiji Water, Remax Island Properties, Timeless Spirits, Budget Marine, Realfoods N.V., Domino’s, Bob Hilbert, Ballerina Jewelers and The Scuba Shop.