Gatemalans Prove Gracious in Victory in the Two International Regattas Held in San Pedro

Wednesday, June 27th, 2012

On the last weekend of San Pedro’s 2012 Lobster Fest, treachery and abandonment by Aeolus the wind god and Poseidon, god of the sea, failed to stop the historic first international regattas in Belize from sailing to completion.  Despite puny and variable and zephyrs that waned to non-existence at times, junior sailing squads from around Belize sailed against Guatemala’s superb and amiable ASOVELA contingent, comprised of 13 young skippers, 3 expert professional trainers, and some chaperones.

What a day on the Central Park waterfront was had on Saturday! Throughout the day, 21 Optimist sailing dinghies and 6 Laser sloops competed off Central Park in what is called the First Belize/ Guatemala Friendly Regatta.  The action of such a large flotilla of sails, gave the crowds something very colorful to watch while awaiting the frantic passage of kayakers in the long-distance endurance contest that was also underway.

In truth, so good were the Guatemalan sailors that not a single Belizean skipper was able finish ahead of any one of them.  Yet the Guatemalans were also so gracious and friendly with their opponents that the Belizean skippers felt pride and excitement about the experience of competing against them.

On Sunday, the large crowd of off-island visitors gathered at Caribbean Villas for the formal First Annual San Pedro International Sailing Regatta demonstrated that sailboat racing is a viewers’ sport capable of drawing many visitors to enjoy the island and the amenities it has to offer.  For example, the 65’ motorized catamaran, Miss Glory, brought 100 spectators from Belize City, just for this regatta.

As for sailing that Sunday, Poseidon had his own ideas;  he pulled some mean tricks: While Aeolus withdrew all wind and created a total calm, Poseidon let loose a tidal current that was as unusually strong as it was invisible and unexpected.

In the first heat the current pushed many boats into buoys they were desperately trying to float around, causing disqualifications. Of those remaining in contention, all but 4 skippers indulged in various disqualifying tactics.  This was not bad sportsmanship; there are risks sailors may sometimes take when it is clear that they will lose anyway if they don’t.  Anyway, “by hook or by crook” became the rule on the water. in a jocular fashion, Belizean and Guatemalan skippers alike all indulged in one No-No or another, resulting in mass disqualifications.  The only 4 who stayed within the rules were the 4 who were furthest behind.  All 4 came in last but qualified for the final. They were all Belizeans.

In the 2nd heat, the current pushed a helpless 12 of the 20 starters over the starting line, before the horn sounded the start.  All were disqualified.  The caprice of the gods had insured that, because the Guatemalans were the better sailors and therefore closest to the line, all of them were among those pushed across by the current and disqualified.

The result created an all-Belizean final – a wee bit farcical since our skippers had yet to best any of the visitors. In friendly and sportsmanlike recognition of that fact, the race committee placed Juan Carlos, the Guatemalan skipper who had won Saturday’s Friendly Regatta, in Sunday’s San Pedro Regatta Final.  Naturally, he won that too and in very convincing fashion. Rupert from Liberty Childrens’ Home took second, and Faith Noel from San Pedro placed third.

These weren’t the greatest of regattas, but win or lose, all the 50-odd young sailors from both nations who participated in Belize’s historic first two international regattas can say one thing for themselves: the ocean god Poseidon and the wind god Aeolis tried to take them down, but by never quitting, they took the gods down instead!  The sailors from both nations and their supervisors all agree that international sailing competition between Belize and Guatemala will become an annual event.

Some political observers have commented with hope that the spirit of these regattas and of the children who competed in them with good will and grace will carry over to the 2013 joint national referenda on the subject of the Belize/Guatemala border.  These children symbolize, represent, and will participate in the future of their respective countries.  Let what they did together this past weekend, serve as a gentle guide to the voters in those referenda and to the officials from both nations in charge of resolving the dispute.

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