Twenty one years ago Mr. Jose 'Tuto' Santiago and his friends had a dream about a magnificent sailing event where sailors could come and discover Puerto Rico's southern shore and race in and around Ponce Bay, home of the Ponce Yacht and Fishing Club. Their dream became a reality in 1989.
Now fast forward to 2010. This year Mr. Santiago's son Joel was given the challenging task of planning, organizing and making a reality the 21st Discover the Caribbean Series in a period of difficult economic times. A quest which he accomplished flawlessly after months of hard work, as demonstrated by the success of this year's series, even with hurricane Tomas roaming the Caribbean Sea during the second week of the event.
Activities began on Thursday October 14 with a pre-registration cocktail party hosted by The Fresh Grill café in Hato Rey where beer and rum flowed freely thanks to the event's sponsors.
The action started early on the weekend of October 23 in Fajardo, when over 15 sailboats left on an informal 55-mile feeder race to Salinas on the south coast. Sailors were rewarded with a beautiful sunny day with light to medium winds and calm seas for their journey south past nine coastal towns.
The next morning the yachts sailed about 12 miles to Isla Caja de Muertos (Coffin Island) for a relaxing day afloat with more free beer and rum, before moving to the Ponce Yacht and Fishing Club, their home for the next three weeks.
During the skippers briefing and cocktail party held the Friday before Halloween, race organizers had the tough job of informing competitors about the possible impact of hurricane Tomas on the regatta and the club's facilities due to the hurricane haul-out program they offer their club members. After many questions, concerns about the hurricane, jokes etc., the racing started as planned the following morning.
Saturday's racing was intense and offered something for everyone. The light winds and calm seas of the morning strengthened during the day, and by the afternoon the breeze was gusting up to 28 knots with five to seven-foot swells. Sailors in the Jib and Main A class were hitting 10.3 knots surfing the waves on the second race with just a 100% jib and a reefed main.
Away from the racing, on Saturday afternoon the organizers threw a Halloween party for the children, followed by a party for the adults where the best costumes won cash prizes.
By the second weekend of racing, the weather had turned really wet and racing had to be cancelled on Sunday. That left the fleet with three days of racing over two weekends and enough races to have one throw-out.
During the series, over 50 boats raced in 11 different classes including: Chalanas (Chalanas are wooden home made flat-bottom skiffs that can plane in excess of 20 knots), Snipes, Jib and Main A (over 25ft), Jib and Main B (25ft and under), Cruising A, Hobie Cats, IC-24s and J-24s, Racing A and Racing B.
Competition was intense in all classes with the lead switching almost every race. This year the Frank Amaru Cup for the best J-24 went to Gilberto Rivera and his Urayo crew, and the Agustin Cordero Cup for the best 'Chalana' went to Capt Mero and the colorful crew of Payaso.
The 2010 Discover the Caribbean Series was dedicated to sailor Luis Matos-Bayó for all his work and lifetime dedication to the sport of sailing in Puerto Rico.
Chalanas 20 to 24ft, Don Q Cristal Cup – Adrian
Chalanas 28ft, Hospital Metropolitano/
Dr Pila Cup – Payaso
Snipe, Don Q Cristal Cup – Raul Rios
Jib and Main A (over 25ft),
National Western Cup – Adelante
Jib and Main B (25ft and under),
Dewar's 12 Cup – Guango
Cruising A, Coors Light Cup – Julepe
Hobie Cat, Infiniti Cup – Susuki
IC-24, Seguros Javier Calderon Cup – Orion
J-24, Marina Pescaderia Cup – Urayo
Racing A, Hospital Metropolitano/
Dr Pila Cup – Umakua
Racing B, Don Q Cristal Cup – Otra Kosa
For complete results and other race details visit: ponceyachtandfishingclub.com
Capt. Tony Miró is a life-long sailor, photographer and web developer who currently lives in Puerto Rico with his family, where they sail aboard their Hunter 376 Â¡Nada Mas! He runs sailboatspecs.com, caribesailingadventures.com and tonymiro.com