No one in the world expected Belizean sailors all to finish among the top 15% and place 4th in the top 50 in the biggest regatta of all time, but guess what? Belize did set itself apart and proved to be a powerhouse when it comes to sailing; and it all happened in San Pedro, Ambergris Caye, La Isla Bonita!
On September 21, 2014, 28 Belizeans were among 16,780 skippers of all ages, all over the world, and in all sorts of sailboats, participating in Bart's Bash, a regatta that the Guinness Book of World Records accepts as the largest regatta in history. It was held in memory of a beloved champion sailor and philanthropist, Andrew "Bart" Simpson and in support of The Andrew Simpson Sailing Foundation. Bart lost his life at age 37, practicing aboard Sweden's 72-foot America's Cup catamaran that cartwheeled in preliminaries on San Francisco Bay on May 8, 2013. The names of all the skippers in this memorial to his life will be recorded in the Guinness book's on line edition.
It took the regatta's volunteer committee in the UK five weeks to compile the results, but they are finally in, and they are something of which all Belize can be immensely proud. The performance of the Belizean skippers establishes their homeland in the eyes of the international sailing community as a venue for sailors everywhere to admire, to yearn for, and to come and experience.
In the Bart’s Bash Regatta, 1179 of the boats contending were Optimist class dinghies, sailed individually by children aged 8 - 15. Young Belizean Optimist skippers in this massive regatta finished with ranks among the top 5% in their class and among the top 8% over all. Here are their scores:
*Sarah White, age 14, finished #309 over all, 39th out of all 2,369 lady skippers, 11th among all Optimists, and 6th among the 284 girls sailing Optimists.
*Chris Lopez, age 13, finished #341 over all, 12th in the Optimist fleet.
*Kevin Velasquez, age 13, finished #450 over all, 19th in the Optimist fleet of 1179.
*Alexandra Lausen, age 10, sailed to a 556th place finish over all, an 81st place among all 2,369 lady skippers, a 24th place finish in the Optimist fleet, and a 12th place finish among the 284 girls sailing Optimists.
*Mitchell Sersland, age 12, finished #668 over all and 27th in the 1179-boat Optimist fleet.
*Grace Brown, age 13, finished #737 over all, 96th out of 2.369 lady skippers, 30th in the Optimist fleet, and 14th among girls sailing Optimists.
*Caroline Sersland, age 10, finished #784 over all, 104th out of 2,369 lady skippers, 32nd in the Optimist fleet, and 15th among girls sailing Optimists.
*Nicolas Lausen, age 9, sailed to a #1258 finish over all which still placed him in the top 8% and 52nd among the Optimist fleet of 1179.
These young skippers truly surprised themselves, their trainers at the San Pedro Sailing Club (SPSC) at Caribbean Villas and the whole international sailing community. They can be extremely proud of achieving such high international rankings.
All of the regatta's results can be found on line at http://www.bartsbash.co.uk, where the reported success of the adult Belizean entrants has similarly impressed sailing communities around the world. Nineteen year old Luis Blanco, an SPSC product aboard a Hobie Getaway catamaran, placed 30th, over all, highest among all Belizeans. The other adults from Belize finished as follows:
# 36 - Self-taught Willie Leslie aboard his Nacra 17 catamaran.
# 46 - Luis Blanco's younger brother, Jorge Olivarez, an SPSC product, on a Hobe Wave.
# 51 - Andy Milner, SPSC's Commodore, aboard his Hobie 18 catamaran, placing him 5th out of the 14 others in that class.
# 64 - Forrest Jones, SPSC's Vice-Commodore, sailing his Hobie Getaway, came in 2nd, behind Luis Blanco, but the Getaway class had only 2 other entrants.
# 201 - Chris Beaumont of the Belize Chocolate Company on his Laser Radial - 8th out of 953 in his class.
# 225 - Sarah White's mom, Joy White, SPSC, on a Hobie Wave, placing her 20th among 2,369 lady skippers.
# 262 - Ari Janze, a Rookie from Cayo Espanto.
#1405 - Serwin Baldar, SPSC, on his Com PAC 19 - placed 5th among all 577 sailors for whom this race was their very first.
#2498 - Gerry Neuman, on one of Cayo Espanto's waves, is still in the top 15% of all finishers, and placed 12th among those racing for the very first time.
Belizeans took the top 5 places among the admittedly small fleet of 19 Hobie Wave catamarans entered:
1 - Jorge Olivarez, SPSC
2 - Joy White, SPSC
3 - Ari Janze of NO Rush Tours, San Pedro
4 - Cindy Vigna, SPSC Reso
5 - Gerry Neuman, Cayo Espanto.
Out of 1498 rookie sailors, Belize's 3 rookies all placed in the top 20. San Pedro's Joy White placed 5th, Venezia Del Caribe Resort & Spa's Richard Knorr placed 10th and San Pedro's Cindy Vigna's #1133 finish placed her 18th among the rookies.
Belize has attracted foreign visitors for many reasons. Now, an appeal to the world to come to Belize and sail has been launched by the jaunty Belizean skippers who fared so surprisingly well in the record-setting Bart's Bash regatta.
Congratulations to all the sailors!