Tommy Karls wins the 2010 Caribbean Sufski Tour

Basse-Terre in Guadeloupe saw the finish of the final leg of the 2010 Caribbean surfski Tour on Sunday 24 October. Tommy Karl powered away from Nuno Santos to win the final race and the Tour. It all began more than a week earlier when competitors from around the world started to arrive in St Martin to acclimatise and prepare for the tour. Various warm-up sessions saw paddlers from Spain. Portugal, Australia, USA and Sweden getting used to the Caribbean conditions before the first race, the Soualiga Challenge in St Maarten.

For those still standing after the race, the day was wrapped up with traditional rum punch and BBQ chicken and ribs on the beach. The next day was spent recovering before boarding the Leopard 46, BAGHEERA, kindly sponsored by The Moorings and Tui Marine. We set out at sunset for a night crossing to Antigua, with most of the paddlers for the next race and all of the surfskis for the tour on board. It was a new experience for some and there were a few green faces before we reached our destination at around 9am on Tuesday morning. The remainder of the day was spent lazing around, social paddling and loading the boats for transportation to the start for Wednesday's race and a get pre-race dinner and briefing at Trappas restaurant.

Antigua's party crowd turned out in force after the Monstar / Carib Downwind Challenge for Wednesday evening's awards bash at Johnny Coconut's in English Harbour. A quiet day on Thursday was definitely required and was spent by most exploring, swimming and a fun training session in the late afternoon, doing ins and outs in the approaches to English Harbour. An early night after a tasty dinner at Shelly's house got us ready for the next part of the trip.

Dawn on Friday saw BAGHEERA heading out once again, this time bound for the Saintes, a small group of islands off the southern tip of Guadeloupe. The day was spent motoring into a gentle headwind, crossing the channel to Guadeloupe in a few hours and then spending the rest of the morning and early afternoon watching the green coast of Guadeloupe slide by before arriving in the Saintes soon after 3pm. Unfortunately, difficulties with anchoring meant that it was dark before we got ashore so all that was left was to pick a restaurant from a few very interesting and inviting spots on the main street. The wind kicked in on Saturday and we spent the day with more relaxing, some easy paddling and race prep, with great expectations for the final race on Sunday.

Soualiga Challenge, 17 October 2010

Now in its sixth year, the Soualiga Challenge between Gustavia in St Barths and Oyster Pond in St Martin, is becoming a well established event. This year, the wind abandoned us, leaving the paddlers to grind out the 25km in hot, calm conditions that contrasted sharply with the strong winds and awkward chop of 2009. The hotspot was around 9km into the race, where the sprint was won by Tommy Karls. Henrique Silva of Portugal (Nelo factory Team) won comfortably from previous winner Franck Fifils and Tommy Karls, who had problems with the heat after the effort made for the hotspot. The ladies category was won by Shelly Chadburn (Barron), making a long awaited return to paddling, staying ahead of adventure racers Nina Chaves from Trinidad and Terry De Wit from St Martin. The event sponsor, Perrier provided welcome ice cold product at the finish. The race was rounded off with the now familiar Paella lunch and award ceremony at Captain Oliver's Restaurant.


Monster / Carib - Antigua Downwind Challenge, 20 October

Hopes for wind were dashed on Wednesday morning when we woke to calm, showery morning. The start at Halfmoon Bay was delayed for a few minutes for the rain to clear so and then we were off! The Nelo Hotspot was about 300m off the beach, so the pace was frantic but soon settled down once Henrique had the $200 in the bag. There was a small following swell that could be worked in the first half of the race but this disappeared after the paddlers went inside Cades reef and the final 5km of the race was paddled in flat, very hot conditions to the finish at Turner's Beach. Tommy Karls seemed to have found his warm weather settings and finished clear ahead of Antonio Girion of Spain and Henrique Silva. Once more, the race was rounded off with drinks and lunch on the type of perfect blue water beach that only the tropics can deliver.

Karukera Challenge 24 Octber 2010

Bad News. The wind and swell are here, 20 knots plus and a short 2m chop but its in the wrong direction. Northerly conditions that set in would make the crossing from the Saintes to Basse Terre unpleasant for all and dangerous for some of the paddlers so the course was changed. We all loaded up again and set off for the new start at Trois Riviers on the mainland. After a delayed start, the course took the paddlers upwind for about 2km to the Nelo Hotspot, before the race turned for 10km of superfun downwind blast to the lighthouse at Vieux-Fort. After an early lead and wining the hotspot, Nelo's Nuno Santos faded to allow Henrique Silva and Tommy Karls battle it out for the finish. In the end, after 7km of flatwater – the final two of which were upwind, Tommy managed to pull ahead, to win the final race an the tour overall.