1997 Sunfish Worlds report

by Cindy & Charlie Clifton

Eduardo Cordero, owner of a Venezuelan sailing school, won his third Sunfish World Championship on Cartagena Bay, Colombia, Dec. 1-6. The 500 year old city was the site of another invasion of sailors as 84 competitors from 13 countries battled it out with much less bloodshed than Admirals Drake, Vernon and assorted pirates. Separated from the Caribbean Sea by a long sand peninsula with tall buildings, the course had a 6 to 15 knot afternoon sea breeze that oscillated throughout the day.

The week began with most everyone arriving Saturday and checking in either at the Hilton or with friends in Cartagena. A welcoming buffet and cocktail party at the Hilton brought old and new friends together and calmed anxieties any visitors had about being in Colombia. Cartagena is a beautiful Caribbean city, with an exciting and flamboyant Spanish culture. US sailors had received numerous warnings from the State Department advising caution while traveling in Colombia, but all visitors were pleasantly surprised by the upscale, clean and friendly atmosphere. Without naming any names, a few Americans made sure they did everything they had been warned not to do, including standing in the middle of the street and looking confused. The Colombian Sailing Federation did an outstanding job of organizing the week’s sailing and activities, beginning with the Opening Ceremonies held Sunday night at the host club, Club Naval. A beautiful Caribbean evening was the backdrop as sailors representing 13 countries marched down the stage carrying their respective flags. The Colombians, by far the largest delegation, got a huge reception as they marched down the steps in team warmups, and accompanied by the Colombian Navy Band, sang their national anthem. Following speeches and introductions, everyone was treated to a performance by a colorfully dressed Colombian dance troupe and offered rum drinks and snacks!


Other scheduled activities the rest of the week included dinner at the Hilton, and Club Pesca, a marina restaurant in a small fort near downtown. Most sailors and families were able to visit the old walled city with its historic buildings dating back to the 1500’s. Many buildings have been restored, most are used as residences or businesses and there are a universities, schools and churches inside the wall. Of course there was plenty of shopping! The San Philipe Fort near the outside of the wall was immense, with secret tunnels, cannons, air vents, great views and many other interesting things to see. It took 200 years to build and was not needed by the time it was finished, because there were no more pirates! On Friday night a “Chiva Bus” tour was scheduled, complete with a rum bar and band. Three hours of touring the city and a visit to a discoteque made for a great finale to sailing. The banquet on Saturday was a feast for both the eyes and appetite! An historical play complete with a Spanish Duke and his family, Indians, Pirates and dancers was presented amidst the dinner tables and was enjoyed immensely by everyone. Presentation and thank you’s followed dinner with much appreciation expressed by the sailors for a terrific week of sailing and fun.

Gold fleet

One unusual feature of this particular Words was that there were only 50 boats for 100 competitors. So boats were shared by two sailors, who took it in turns to race. Qualification races Monday and Tuesday split the boats into Gold and Silver Fleets. Wednesday the Gold Fleet left the palm tree lined beach at the Club Naval and headed out to the course where it was greeted with a breeze gusting to 15. Cordero led the first race from start to finish followed by Malcolm Smith (Bermuda), Sebastian Higuera (Colombia), and Cor van Aanholt (Curacao).


The Gold Fleet returned to the course Friday for the last three races. Fickle wind caused the start to be postponed an hour. When it filled, the breeze came in lanes. Getting to the puffs was key. Positions changed often.
In the fourth race, Van Aanholt and Juan Santos (Ecuador) rounded the first mark together with a pack close behind. At the second windward mark it was a Venezuelan hat trick with Hector Vidal, Cordero, and Alejandro Godoy 1st, 2nd, and 3rd respectively. Cordero legged out after that, winning by almost a minute. Jeff Linton (US) moved up to 2nd, just ahead of Santos.


Alejandro Godoy reached the windward mark first in the fifth race, followed by Charlie Clifton (USA) and Van Aanholt. By the second windward mark Van Aanholt had taken a good lead followed by Linton and Clifton. That lead quickly disappeared when he capsized on the run. Linton rounded the leeward mark first, closely followed by the other two. While Jeff covered Cor up the last beat, Charlie passed him and took the gun. Going into the 6th and final race, Cordero, by virtue of climbing from the 20s to 4th in the previous race, had clinched the regatta. Second place would go to “who beat whom’ between Smith and Van Aanholt, as long as they did not let Linton beat them by more than three boats.


Van Aanholt led at the first windward mark in the 6th race, with Smith and Linton a few boats back. Smith flew down the run, putting boats between him and the other two. Drew Buttner (USA) was first at the 2nd windward mark with Smith 3rd, Van Aanholt 10th and Linton back. Malcolm won the race, clinching second place, since Cor was 4th and Jeff 16th. Cordero finished second, beating out his pupil Vidal, by a pincho.

Silver Fleet

In July 2015 Derek Stow will use this picture for a “Throwback Thursday Photo Quiz“. There is a story behind that shirt: “The regatta site was actually the Colombian Naval Officers Club – with the gate guarded by a guy with a very impressive gun. The other interesting thing that happened was that the airline for some reason didn’t load my checked bag on the plane from New York – and they only flew that route twice a week. Luckily I had the essential sailing gear in my carry-on bag but I probably wore that shirt for 3 or 4 days until the rest of my luggage arrived.”

Charlie Clifton and Derek Stow setting up their boat together

Spurred on by a very enthusiastic cheering section, the Colombian team totally dominated the Silver Fleet, taking five of the top six places and winning every race. Curacao was the only other country that finished a race in the top 3. German Castro led the Armada with a very consistent 2-1-3.
The fine sea breeze that was present in the first race dropped considerably for the second two, leaving many sailors with Jens rigs for the light air races. Pedro Latiff won the first race edging out German Casto. Alex Roose (Curacao), twice the height of some of his opponents, was third. Castro found his legs in the second race which he won over Loreanna Jacob, followed by Latiff.
In the third race, the winner was in a large pack of boats finishing neck and neck. An observer noted that Paula Douat sailed an “amazingly technical” race to beat the group at the finish. She was followed by Hans de Waard (Curacao) and Castro. Beating Latiff earned Castro the championship. Douat’s bullet gained her third overall in a tie breaker with Roose.

Perfect race headquarters were set up at Club Naval, with lockers for everyone, a great beach, swimming pool nearby and great local food and cerveza being served all day. Spectators were invited to go out on the navy press boat.
Results were posted immediately after each race and Francisco Castillo put them on the Internet as quickly as possible after protest hearings were concluded. All in all, the regatta was terrific. The beautiful tropical beach setting, the outstanding regatta organization headed by Luis Eduardo Baron and the exciting racing conditions made for a great world championship!

In addition to the race winners, special trophies were awarded to:

Youngest sailorSebastian Miles (COL)
Top YouthJuan Camilo Bustos (COL)
Top WomanJean Bergman (USA)
Top MasterCharlie Clifton (USA)
Marco Polo AwardTeam Italia
Sportsmanship awardJanice Mason (USA)
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