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IC-24 Column – Puerto Rico Next Island to Initiate IC24 Program

Plenty of sailing talent, a longstanding and strong J/24
program, a ratings controversy that dampened handicap racing, and a taste of
actually sailing an IC24 via regattas held over the last few years all sewed
the seed for an IC24 class to now form in Puerto Rico.

Efrain
“Fraito” Lugo,
well known for skippering his J/24, Orion,
to many Caribbean regatta victories, is
spearheading the program. “We would never want to kill the J/24 class in
Puerto Rico. After all, it’s the boat used in the
Central American and Caribbean Games and Pan American Games. But we are trying
to cash in on those sailors here on the island that are
not sailing any more. We also want to help grow the class. The IC24 is now the
hot class in the Caribbean.”

The
impetus that got the Puerto Rican IC24 fleet rolling came in the form of a
lucky break finding used J/24s for sale.

“One of my crew, Robbie Ramos, called me one morning and told me
he saw on the Internet that the U.S. Navel Academy in
Annapolis was selling 12 boats. I told him to
find out more information. Then about two hours later, Chris
Rosenberg called to tell me the same thing. After that, the
rest is history,” Lugo
says.

Lugo got his call mid-October and three weeks later 10 of
the J/24s were in Puerto Rico.

“My
father and I flew up to Annapolis.
We spent three days loading the boats and getting them to the port in
New Jersey. In the
meantime, Stanley Lopez had helped us negotiate a good rate through Crowley
Shipping. We paid a rate of $4,500 for a flat rack that held two boats. Add to
that that we paid $4,000 for each J/24 and we got a good deal. Normally, a J/24
that is $4,000 is a real junker. These boats were
still in sailing condition.”

The J/24s
were transported to Ponce once they arrived in
Puerto Rico. “They are in my shop. Last summer,
when my wife and I were cruising in the British Virgin Islands, we stopped and
picked up the mold to make the conversion from the guys at Racing in
Paradise. My father and I will start the conversions by
mid-November. Our plan is to remove the old deck, build and install the new one
and complete the conversions for each boat in about two weeks,” Lugo says.

All 10 of
the new IC24s already have private owners. “The Barretto
brothers who used to sail Catimba bought one. Michael Serrales
bought another. Robbie Ramos, Sr., who used to sail with Eric Tulla on Son of
Syndicate
, will be our first boat to convert. And Fernando Irizarry, who
had Por Fin, is another owner,” Lugo relates.

Puerto
Rico’s new IC24 fleet owners are about evenly split between
San Juan and Ponce.
“We hope we can agree on one place to keep the boats so we can all sail
together and have regular races,” Lugo
says.

He adds,
“We hope to have seven IC’s from Puerto Rico
ready to enter the CORT Series and start off with the St. Croix International
Regatta in February.”

The
addition of the Puerto Rican IC24 fleet could swell the start line at
St. Thomas’
International Rolex Regatta, where the IC24 class debuted in 2002, to 25 to 26
boats.

“This was always my dream for the J/24 Class, a lot of boats on
the start line. But the most we ever had was 15 boats in 1998,” he says.

In the
future, Puerto Rico is looking at adding even more IC24s to its fleet,
Lugo says. “We have
8 to 9 J/24s actively being sailed in Puerto Rico
and another 5 or 6 boats that are not used. We are looking both on-island and
off for hulls and would like to convert another 3 to 4 boats.”

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