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Anna Tunnicliffe: Winter Training in the Dominican Republic
Story and photos by Anna Tunnicliffe
(February 19, 2007) When given the opportunity to train in a place where the wind blows 15-18kts almost every day, the waves are 3-5ft, and the water temperature is so warm you don't cool down when you jump in, you can't really pass up the opportunity to go. As it turns out, I was given this opportunity about a year ago when the Canadian Sailing Team invited me to their Laser/ Radial camp in a small town called Cabarete in the Dominican Republic, and I was hooked permanently.
Now, maybe some people have heard of this place because of the Caribbean Laser Midwinter Championships that are held there, or maybe others because many great Laser sailors have trained there, but if you haven't heard of this place...its absolutely amazing. Cabarete is a small, one street town on the north side of the Dominican Republic. The street runs parallel to the ocean side; one side with shops facing the street, and the other mainly restaurants and windsurfing/ kite-boarding rental centers backed up to the street off the beach.
I recently returned from Cabarete after a training week with Evi Van Acker from Belgium (ISAF #1), Tania Elias Calles from Mexico (ISAF #2), and Lisa Ross from Canada (ISAF #12), and am going back in a couple of weeks for more. So what's amazing about this place? Primarily itís the weather, but there is so much more to this small town that makes it so wonderful to go back to every time.
I don't really want to bore you with the details of our training, so I will tell you more about our experiences there instead. When I landed in Puerta Plata (the local airport), I was greeted by a four-person band, a saxophone, and three percussion instruments. These guys have been there for a very long time and get very excited when a plane full of tourists arrives, where they promptly burst into a lively song. After easily getting through customs, I took a 20-minute cab ride to the apartment where I would stay in Cabarete. The apartment was in an apartment complex located on the beach side of the road, so we were literally 30 meters from the beach. After finding the place and dropping my bags off, I walked not even 10 minutes down to the other end of the beach to the sailing center.
The day was beautiful and immediately the stress of everyday life in America went away. This is I think my biggest attraction to Cabarete besides the weather. Itís very hard to get stressed there. I found the sailing center called Carib Wind and sorted out my boat for the next week of sailing. Carib Wind is where we mostly all charter our Lasers from. They have two coach boats, marks, and anything else you could want for training. They have an onsite coach, Rulo, who worked with us for the week, and a very friendly staff that will go out of their way to help you with whatever you needed.
After sorting out the boat it was dinnertime. Brad Funk (USA Laser) and I met up with some of the other guys that were there training for a relaxing, but great dinner. Every restaurant had some sort of chill music playing all the time to keep the stress free atmosphere, and the food in every place that I ate was very good, especially the pizzas.
Every morning I woke up and went for my morning run along the beach. The Friends restaurant was the place for breakfast, where the hot item for the sailors was the muesli, yogurt, and fruit for just over $3, but everything else was great too in both taste and price. When we would return to the Carib Wind center after a great day of sailing, there is a bar called the Eze Bar, and the food there is truly awesome. After pulling our boats up on the beach, we would rinse off, order food, derig, and the food would be waiting for us on the tables.
Along the beach, there were some amazing people too. One that we always marveled at was an older lady who walked up and down the beach starting around 9am until sometime in the later afternoon with a basket of fruit on her head for sale. She was selling anything from pineapples, to bananas, to coconuts. The fruit was whole when you bought it, but she would take her knife and chop the fruit up in the most amazing manner. The arthritis in her hands prevented her from holding the knife properly, which made her skilled technique that much more impressive.
Back to the energy of the place. As I said before, you step on the beach and the place takes your stress away. For me, I think this is mainly because I share the same love for the water as most of the people there. The place is known for its kiteboarding and windsurfing, so you can understand the connection.
Speaking of kiteboarding, when the breeze is up in the later afternoon, the number of kites that are out on the water is truly a sight to see. It amazes me that they don't tangle with each other, but they all stick to the rules of the road and its awesome. The scenery never get boring when watching all the tricks that these guys and girls are pulling off.
Cabarete beach is enclosed for the most part by a reef that juts out from both points. There is a gap in the middle of the reef that allows us to sail out, but the waves on the reef are very huge and that is where the windsurfers go to play. Sometimes when we are out sailing by the entrance to the reef, we can see some of the windsurfers doing loops off the waves. Again, never boring scenery.
On top of all of this, the place is not full of tourists. While the town does rely on tourism, you would never say itís crowded, at least not in the winter. Nice!
These are only a few of the wonderful aspects of Cabarete that make it so worthwhile to go and train alongside the great wind. If you ever get a chance to visit, I would highly recommend going, and if you are a Laser sailor and fancy battling the terrain, email Andrea or Ari at the Carib Wind Center and they will help you out.
My words don't do the place the justice it deserves, but I know that the training that I'm getting there is definitely helping me along the path towards an Olympic Gold Medal in 2008.
To contact Anna Tunnicliffe, go to her website at www.annatunnicliffe.com.