In early June 2013, Bonaire – a tiny, laid-back island in the Southern Caribbean – hosted its first-ever international kiteboarding event on the island's calm, turquoise waters at Atlantis Beach. Bonaire Kite Week brought thirty men and five women from as far away as Australia to compete against each other in the South & Middle American Course Racing Championships, an event sanctioned by the International Kiteboarding Association (IKA) and the International Sailing Federation (ISAF) and hosted by the Bonaire Kitesurf Foundation.
Sailors arrived for four days of intensely competitive racing, followed by a 40 kilometer endurance race around Klein Bonaire, the small, uninhabited island resting approximately 2.5 kilometers from the mainland. Some of the world's top-ranked course racers participated in the event, including Riccardo Leccese (ITA), Florian Gruber (GER), Blazej Ozog (POL), Tomek Janiak (POL), Wilson Veloso (BRA), Alejandro Climent (ESP), Nuria Goma (ESP), Nayara Licariao (BRA) and Jessica Sickinger (CAN).
On the pre-event practice day, riders arrived to test the new course layout that included a dramatic beachfront finish line. The new course layout, first introduced at the North American Championships in San Francisco the week before, allowed spectators the opportunity to witness, first-hand, the neck-and-neck finishes among the racers. The riders themselves enjoyed the cheering that erupted from the beach every time they completed a race. The course layout also provided riders with pancake flat water from the windward buoy to the finish line.
The first day of competition introduced the riders to the consistently strong trade winds for which Bonaire is famous. A steady 25 knots with stronger gusts had racers pumping up single-digit kites and attaching their strong-wind fins. All race starts were clean, with no major tangles.
In the men's fleet, Riccardo Leccese took the top spot in all four races, with Blazej Ozog applying the pressure with consistent second place finishes. Brian Kender (USA) and Florian Gruber also challenged Leccese and Ozog throughout the day. Strong performances were also noted by Jhon Mora (CAY), Alejandro Climent and Tomek Janiak.
The women's fleet saw consistent first place finishes by Nayara Licariao, with course-racing newcomer Beth Lygoe (LCA)making a strong showing with across the board second place results. Beth comes to the sport of kite course racing from a lengthy background in sailboat racing, including competing in the 2012 Laser Radial Olympic Sailing Competition. Jessica Sickinger and Nuria Goma split the third-place spots, with Catherine Dufour (CAN) rounding out the top five.
The wind dropped slightly for day two of racing, allowing riders to opt for bigger kites and enjoy less chop at the starting line. Once again, the races started smoothly and riders enjoyed relatively smooth sailing.
Blazej Ozog gave Riccardo Leccese a run for his money, putting up a strong challenge in the second race of the day and ultimately stealing the number one finish from Leccese. Leccese finished first in the remaining three races, with Brian Kender, Florian Gruber and Jhon Mora filling in the second and third spots throughout the day.
The women's fleet once again saw Nayara Licariao and Beth Lygoe battling it out, with Licariao able to hold on to her first-place position throughout the day. Lygoe settled for second, with Jessica Sickinger taking all but one of the third place positions, which was claimed by Nuria Goma in race two.
Day three marked the return of strong winds for the final day of the Opening Series. Scattered rain brought gusty conditions to the course and once again racers opted for the smallest kites in their quiver to start the morning.
Riccardo Leccese continued to dominate the field, with first place finishes in the races he completed. Blazej Ozog finished second in the first two races, but suffered a line snap at the upwind buoy halfway through race three.
In an effort to conserve energy for the medal series the following day, a number of the men, including Leccese and Ozog, sat out the final race of the day, providing others with the chance to land in the top three. Brian Kender, Jhon Mora and Alejandro Climent Hernandez finished race four in spots one, two and three, respectively.
Once again in the women's fleet, Nayara Licariao claimed the top spot in all four races, with Beth Lygoe finishing second and opting out of race four. Jessica Sickinger and Nuria Goma rounded out the final positions throughout the day.
Racers arrived on the beach early for the kick-off to the Medal Series on the final day of the South & Middle American Championships. Strong winds dictated yet another day of smaller kites and choppy conditions at the starting line. With the men's fleet divided into Platinum and Gold Flights, race starting orders changed slightly, with Platinum Flight hitting the starting line first, followed by the women's fleet ten minutes later, and the Gold Flight starting five minutes after the women.
Once again, Riccardo Leccese dominated the top spot throughout the day. Second and third place finished varied in the four races, giving Blazej Ozog, Brian Kender, Florian Gruber and Jhon Mora each a chance to enjoy a top three finish. Final results for the men's Platinum Flight saw Riccardo Leccese in first place, followed by Blazej Ozog in second and Brian Kender taking third.
In the men's Gold Flight, Alvaro Cadena (COL) claimed the top spot in the first three races, with Marvin Baumeister (GER) finishing first in the final race. Gunnar Biniasch (GER), Nico Landauer (URU) and Nils Stolzlechner (AUT) shared second and third place finishes throughout the day. Men's Gold Flight final results included Alvaro Cadena in first place, Marvin Baumeister taking second and Gunnar Biniasch finishing third.
The women continued their consistent finishes with Nayara Licariao (BRA), Beth Lygoe (LCA) and Jessica Sickinger (CAN) on the podium in first, second and third.
The final day of racing concluded at the beach with an informal prize giving ceremony, including champagne and awards presented by the Monster™ Energy Drink girls who were on hand in preparation for the Bonaire Monster Classic endurance race to be held the next morning.
Racers then headed back to town to get ready for the closing night party and formal awards ceremony. Everyone enjoyed an evening of live music, great food, rum and relaxation after a long week of competition. Perhaps spurred by the flowing rum, the men's fleet responded to an impromptu push-ups challenge by Leccese in the middle of the dance floor. No clear winner emerged, but everyone enjoyed the show.
For those riders still on the island the next day, the Bonaire Monster Classic started at 11:00 a.m. This long-distance race started at Atlantis Beach and involved a 20- kilometer downwind ride around Klein Bonaire and then an upwind journey back to Atlantis Beach.
Nine intrepid racers made it to the starting line, including Beth Lygoe - the only woman to participate - and local course racers Pieter Zweers, Martin Cicilia and Hagen Wegerer.
Sky Solbach(USA) – a former Bonairean resident - set the new course record with a finishing time of 1:06.46 and was greeted at the finishing line by his fiancé, 9-time world champion Kristin Boese (GER). Florian Gruber made it in shortly after Solbach, with Alejandro Climent Hernanzed finishing third. All remaining riders finished within two hours, including local kiter Rommel Rivas who was the only participant not on a race board.
The day concluded with a beach barbeque for everyone involved with Bonaire Kite Week, including the racers, officials, volunteers, sponsors and spectators. After the barbeque, everyone hit the water for one final freestyle kite session to end the very successful week.
TOP 3 overall for the 2013 IKA South & Middle American Course Racing Championship
1. Riccardo Leccese (ITA)
2. Blazej Ozog (POL)
3. Brian Kender (USA)
1. Nayara Licariao (BRA)
2. Beth Lygoe (LCA)
3. Jessica Sickinger (CAN)
TOP 3 for the 2013 African Course Racing Championship
1. Jhon Mora (CAY)
2. Wilson Veloso (BRA)
3. Ricardo Dutra (BRA)
TOP 3 for the 2013 Bonaire Monster Classic
1. Sky Solbach (USA)
2. Florian Gruber (GER)
3. Alejandro Climent (ESP)
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