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Aponte and Barnes Vie for Champion Title at Valentine’s Day Opti Regatta

Brisk winds and big waves gave junior sailors a workout at the 2008 St. Croix International Valentine’s Optimist Regatta February 9 and 10, an event held as part of the St. Croix International Regatta. In the end, though, it was the racing rules – the obligation to throw out everyone’s two lowest scores versus no throw-outs – that decided the overall winner.

Puerto Rico’s Ivan Aponte, the 2005 North American National Optimist Champion, who sails out of the new Las Palmas Sailing Center in Puerto Rico, had a bit of bad luck traveling to St. Croix.

“They put our spars (belonging to Ivan and his brother, Victor or ‘Tito’)  in the belly of the plane and ended up flying them back to Puerto Rico without unloading them,” Aponte explained.

The two brothers sailed the first morning of competition with borrowed club spars, but their own equipment happily arrived back on St. Croix by late morning.

“Tito was luckier than I,” says Ivan. “He had rigged faster than I did. I missed the first start of the afternoon by three minutes and got a DNS (did not start) score or 20 points.”

This score certainly punctuated Aponte nearly flawless string of first and second place finishes and dropped him to fifth place overall going into the last day’s competition.

Meanwhile, St. Thomas’ Nikki Barnes sailed to a seventh and eighth place the first morning, but then achieved no less than a third place finish the remainder of the regatta.

“Nikki was by far the most consistent sailor of the regatta,” said Ronnie Ramos, the principal race officer (PRO).

When the total of 10 races sailed over two days were tallied, Barnes won with no throw-outs, yet Aponte took the lead when the two throw-outs were calculated in.

“We’re both good friends. We have a friendly rivalry,” said Aponte.

“Ivan and I have sailed against each other for the last few years,” added Barnes. “It’s especially good to be friends when we sail in big, international competitions where we don’t know anyone else.”

Aponte and Barnes also won first and second, respectively, in the 13- to 15-year-old Red Fleet, while St. John’s Alex Coyle finished third both in the Optimist Overall and Red Fleet.  Barnes won the Top Girl prize.

This regatta marked a great showing by the Green Fleet, ensuring there’s a talented crop of beginner sailors poised to rise through the ranks over the next few years.

St. Croix’s D.J. Lorshbaugh, from the Frederiksted Community Boating program, handily won the Green Fleet, with three bullets and no score lower than fourth.

“I’ve been sailing for four years, since I was eight,” says Lorshbaugh. “I’ve never sailed in a regatta before. My Dad told me about this one and I wanted to enter.”

He continued, “It’s a lot windier here than where we sail in Frederiksted. But, I like the wind. It gives you power and it’s easier to sail.”

Director and instructor of the Frederiksted Community Boating program, Susan Allick, says, “We have about 20 students that we teach both Optimist and Sunfish. Our program runs after school and during the summer.”

Allick said the program is currently looking for a US Sailing certified instructor. Anyone interested can contact her at: sallick@viaccess.net

Right before the awards, PRO Ramos summed up the regatta by saying, “The heavy winds were rough for the Green and White Fleeters. But, we really did have beautiful sailing conditions. It was a great regatta.”

RESULTS

Overall (Top 3)
1. Ivan Aponte, Las Palmas Sailing Association, PR (15)
2. Nikki Barnes, St. Thomas Yacht Club, USVI (19)
3. Alex Coyle, St. Thomas Yacht Club & St. John KATS, USVI (26)

Red Fleet (Ages 13 to 15)
1. Ivan Aponte, Las Palmas Sailing Association, PR (15)
2. Nikki Barnes, St. Thomas Yacht Club, USVI (19)
3. Alex Coyle, St. Thomas Yacht Club & St. John KATS, USVI (26)
4. Ian Barrows, St. Thomas Yacht Club, USVI (28)
5. Alec Tayler, St. Thomas Yacht Club, USVI (30)
6. Billy Gibbons, St. Croix Yacht Club, USVI (49)
7. Dante Hodge, Royal BVI Yacht Club, BVI (64)
8. Eric Perez, St. Croix Yacht Club, USVI (111)

Blue Fleet (Ages 11 and 12)
1. Victor Aponte, Las Palmas Sailing Association, PR (35)
2. Kyle Brego, St. Thomas Yacht Club & St. John KATS, USVI (53)
3. Addison Hackstaff, St. Thomas Yacht Club, USVI (67)
4. Mack Bryan, St. Croix Yacht Club, USVI (85)

White Fleet (Age 10 & Under)
1. Jonathan Woods, Royal BVI Yacht Club, BVI (91)
2. Molly Donovan, Royal BVI Yacht Club, BVI (99)
3. Scott McKenzie, St. Thomas Yacht Club, USVI (142)
4. Owen McNeil, St. Thomas Yacht Club, USVI (149)
5. Kai Holmberg, St. Thomas Yacht Club, USVI (150)
6. Josh Morrell, Royal BVI Yacht Club, BVI (150)
7. Jason Putley, Royal BVI Yacht Club, BVI (160)

Green Fleet (Beginner)
1. D.J. Lorshbaugh, Frederiksted Community Boating Program, St. Croix, USVI (15)
2. Shawn Scott, St. Thomas Yacht Club, USVI (22)
3. Casey Bergstrom, Frederiksted Community Boating Program, St. Croix, USVI (22)
4. Curtis Walker, St. Croix Yacht Club, USVI (27)
5. Harry Hoffman, St. Croix Yacht Club, USVI (38)
6. Thomas Walden, St. Thomas Yacht Club, USVI (56)
7. David Hirst, Royal BVI Yacht Club, BVI (63)
8. Kent Buska, St. Croix Yacht Club, USVI (77)
9. Asha Holder, St. Croix Yacht Club, USVI (78)

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