A new three-day format, the opportunity for several different classes to race at once and a perpetually windy venue that accommodated bayside and open ocean racing on four separate courses has made the Discover the Caribbean regatta a ‘must-do’ for Caribbean sailors in the fall. Hosted October 31 – November 3 out of Ponce Yacht & Fishing Club in Puerto Rico, this 25th anniversary event welcomed 81 boats (41 keelboats and 40 dinghies) with crews hailing from Puerto Rico, St. Thomas and St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands, the British Virgin Islands, St. Maarten, the USA and Canada. Most notable is that Discover the Caribbean likely offers the greatest opportunity in the region for the growing trend of one-design racing. Six of the ten keelboat classes – Melges 32s, J/24s, IC24s, Hunter 216s, O’day 19s and Chalana 24s – were one-design as were all dinghy classes. This made for incredible competition and camaraderie.
“The fun of one-design racing is that no one boat is favored over another in the class due to conditions,” explains Jaime Torres, who won the Melges 32 class aboard his Smile and Wave. “We had a great time sailing against Luis Juarbe on Soca and Ian Hope-Ross’ St. Maarten crew from Kick ‘em Jenny who chartered Lazy Dog. There are five Melges 32s in the Caribbean, so the class is definitely growing.”
The IC24s were the largest one-design of the keelboat classes.
“The IC24 class was as deep and competitive as it has ever been in Puerto Rico, showcasing ten boats all with the ability to win a race,” says Marco Teixidor aboard Cachondo, who won by a slim six points in 12 races over the BVI’s Colin Rathbun on Tortola Express. “The course was puffy so we made sure to keep our heads out of the boat and constantly look for more pressure. Towards the end, Colin and his team put up a good fight but we managed to edge them out. I believe that IC 24 class has the potential to keep growing, so hopefully we will continue to have regattas with ten plus boats more frequently.”
Avid sailor Ismael Bonet Echevarria entered both his J/24 and locally-built Chalana 24 in one-design classes and they each won.
“This was the second time I sailed my J/24, Millennium III, and I felt blessed to have won this important event,” says Echevarria. “The racing was very close. Our competitors, Julepe and Tax Return, were great when it came to tactics and maneuverability, but we found our groove in trimming the sails. That’s what gave us a small speed advantage and we exploited it.”
Echevarria entrusted his Chalana, Millennium II, to Carlos Marrero and his Malas Mañas Sailing Team.
“He (Marrero) helped me to build the boat from scratch and to get it to where it is today –powerful and incredible to sail. The guys did the job and won every single race,” says Echevarria.
The O’day 19s were one of the newer one-design classes.
“The O’day 19 is a small sailboat that thinks it’s is a big vessel,” explains class winner, Jose Pastrana, on Black Diamond. “With a super comfortable cockpit, ultra-stability on the water and basic controls, it makes it a great sailboat on which to learn. It was simple and therefore great for my 14-year-old crew, Rafael Tirado, who showed incredible skills and sailing intuition in his first regatta. Yet the more experienced sailor, such as myself, has the opportunity to discover new ways to continually fine tune the boat.”
In celebration of the Discover the Caribbean’s 25th anniversary, organizers awarded an entry certificate to the Best Local IC24 in the 2014 BVI Spring Regatta.
“This worked so well in attracting international boats that we will be awarding entry certificates to our 2015 regatta at the St. Thomas International Regatta, BVI Spring Regatta and Puerto Rico Heineken Regatta,” says regatta chair, David Kerr.
For full keelboat and dinghy results, visit: www.yachtscoring.com
Carol M. Bareuther, RD, is a St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands based marine writer and registered dietitian.