The Bahamas Laser Junior National Championships was held at the Grand Bahamas Sailing Club in Freeport on September 22-23rd. Young sailors from across the Bahamas competed for the title of National Champion. Paul de Souza, hot off his recent Sunfish Junior National Championship victory, clinched the title of Laser Junior National Champion. Hot on his heals was Paul’s friend and rival Spencer Cartwright, who finished in 2nd place, just one point behind Paul. Allande “AJ” Forbes, who represented the Bahamas in the Optimist World Championship along with Paul and Spencer, finished an impressive 3rd overall.
A series of 7 races were held on Sunday, as the sailors were unable to compete on Saturday due to severe weather conditions. The competitors made the best of the rain day by playing sports and feasting on the delicious food prepared by the Grand Bahamas Yacht Club and others.
The 6th race proved to be one of the most exciting of the day, when Spencer sailed to the finish ahead of Paul, leaving the two sailors tied for first going in to the last race. According to Coach Robert Dunkley, the most exciting part of the regatta was watching Spencer and Paul battle it out for first. “In the last race, Spencer was over the start line early and had to double back. This left Paul out in front and Spencer sailed down the entire fleet other than Paul in the first leg. Both quickly left the rest of the fleet behind and battled it out over the next four legs. Paul covered him like a champ and there was no way he was going to let Spencer pass him. It was a fun race to watch”, commented Coach Dunkley. Spencer wished he had sailed the last race more conservatively, but he proved he was a tough competitor by not letting a problem at the start keep him from trying to win. Paul said “Spencer always pushes me to sail my best. Today I sailed my best, and I was happy with how I did”.
Coach Dunkley described the wind conditions as” light and shifty” which often favors the lighter sailors. A Pre-race favorite and 5th place finisher Pedro Rahming felt the wind conditions were disappointing , as he had been training in heavier winds during the three weeks leading up to the regatta. He commented that he plans to focus more on “”the conditions instead of the sailors” at the next regatta. Spencer Cartwright commented that the “conditions were strange because the waves were coming at a different direction than usual.”
AJ worked hard to fend off the other sailors to maintain his place in 3rd overall. Fellow competitor Mishael Taffin said his favorite race in the regatta was the 4th race, where “I somehow managed to overtake AJ near the finish but sadly he was just too fast on the upwind.” Mishael went on to say, “The challenge was worth it as I managed a fourth place finish in that race.” Spencer was impressed with fellow sailor Tyler Cartwright, who was the only sailor from Long Island. Spencer commented that he “admired Tyler’s determination.” Paul felt the team from Freeport displayed excellent sportsmanship during the regatta.
Coach Dunkley is certainly proud of his sailors, and is impressed with the improvements they have shown over the last year. However, they “still have a long way to go to compete at the top international level” according to Coach Dunkley. He went on to say “with the enthusiasm and dedication of the sailors to their sport along with the support of our local sponsors and good coaching, it will not be long before we will be seeing them in the winner’s circle at major international events.”