By Anne Patin
Many World Champion wanna-bees follow the motto “Just keep showing up.” Not this year’s winner, Lucas Gonzalez Smith from Argentina. For Gonzalez, it was “Just show up.
Gonzalez never competed previously in a Sunfish event, much less the Worlds. At the 2005 Championnat du Monde de Sunfish in Martinique, hosted by Club Nautique de Schoelcher, this past week, Gonzalez was the winner, eking out Marx Chirinos of Venezuela by a mere point.
The first official regatta event that night was the introduction of all the participants from each country. They carried flags down the aisle just like in the Olympics. We heard speeches from the local Martinique sailing organizers, translated from French to English
It made for a long evening, but our hosts were proud of the event and we gave them the appreciation they deserved for all the work of arranging a major regatta. Everyone stayed at the same hotel, so the
breakfast buffet provided an excellent chance to meet and mingle with all the sailors and accompanying family.
Gonzalez was not without some very hungry competition. Several former World Champions “showed up.” Malcolm Smith of Bermuda and his pal Donnie Martinborough of the Bahamas made the trip to this far away venue. So did Paul-Jon Patin of the USA, Cor Van Aanholt of The Netherlands and Stephen Smeulders of Curacao. Each was chomping at the bit and ready to have his name engraved on the trophy once again. But Gonzalez prevailed, finishing with a top 5 in every race that counted
With its French ambiance and cosmopolitan flair, Martinique was a stunning venue for the event. The sailing conditions were initially not as expected, with relatively light winds on Sunday through Tuesday. For some like David Mendelblatt of the U.S. (the 2005 Midwinter Champion), the conditions were ideal. Mendelblatt held close to the top before the Lay Day, capturing two bullets. When the winds kicked in on Thursday and Friday, Mendelblatt said he hung in there by strapping on a 12” Jens, using tons of Cunningham, and, in his words, “sticking to the program.” Mendelblatt finished with a very respectable third and promised to come back.
Leland Brode describes his lay Day: “Wednesday was a free day, so, I rented a little Peugeot (everyone has little French cars because gas is about $7/gallon after converting euros to dollars and liters to gallons). I found a spot where Columbus landed in 1502, but marked by no plaque because nobody wants to be discovered by Columbus any more. I visited a town buried 100 years ago by the Mount Pelee volcano. I tried to climb the volcano, but did not go all the way up because even at 3,000 feet above sea level, the humidity was still extreme. I went through all my water just to keep hydrated. I drove south through the rain forest in the middle of the island, and then to a picture perfect tropical beach, “Plage des Salines“, at the south end of Martinique. I rested and swam and rested again before heading back to the hotel. On the way I stopped at the resort town of “Ste-Anne”, also at the south end of the island. I found the most picturesque outdoor restaurant and bar on the water facing the bay, with mountains at the other side and a perfect view of the sunset. Very romantic, except that I was alone.”
In Thursday and Friday’s races, Smith and Patin muscled through and secured their fourth and fifth place finishes. Smith, a three-time World Champion who has participated in more than twenty Worlds, was also top Master at the age of 46.
Martiniqueans charged with local knowledge fared well. Mathieu Moures, eight overall, was happy with the outcome. He had finished 50th in Hyannis in 2004. Mathieu will be taking a short hiatus from Sunfish, however, turning to his Tempest for a championship scheduled for November 2006. Similarly, Guy de Chavigny managed to capture a 12th overall while at the same time attending to the regatta organization. Congratulations Guy and thanks for the very hard work. Claude Olive, who graciously assisted many travelers and helped with the regatta itself, said he learned a lot and was proud to have been able to participate in the event.
Another competitor who made a big jump from last year’s event was Hugolino Colmenares of Venezuela. Hugolino was 53rd in Hyannis and as top Junior, sailed in at a fantastic seventh overall.
Chirinos showed no disappointment at being the runner up, and attributed it to the fact that Gonzalez was simply more experienced. Chirinos, who trained at Eduardo Cordero’s sailing school, is 21 while Gonzalez is 27. No doubt that Chirinos will be back.
And what about Gonzalez? He said that the Sunfish was everything that had been described to him. Simple, similar to the Laser, and best of all, a friendly class. He vowed to come again and we all look forward to it. Congratulations, Lucas!
The awards banquet was held at the Martinque government administration building, and featured the Governor of Martinique and other dignitaries.
We were entertained by a group performing authentic early Martinique dances which I understand were formerly forbidden by the church and are now danced with pride. It was a very colorful and rhythmic event, except when I was pulled in from the audience to participate.
I tried my best to say good-bye to the local sailors with the French I had learned during the week. They were all very wonderful and cordial, and worked hard to prepare for us. The Worlds had turned into a very wonderful and memorable experience.