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Puerto Rico’s Monllor Tops Scotiabank Caribbean International Optimist Regatta

The word is out. A record 95 and some of the best junior sailors from the Caribbean, U.S. mainland, Canada, and even Europe raced in this year’s 15th annual Scotiabank Caribbean International Optimist Regatta, sailed out of the St. Thomas Yacht Club June 22 to 24. But when the sea spray settled, it was one of the Caribbean’s own, Puerto Rico’s 13-year-old Fernando Monllor, who won overall.

Fifteen years for an event offers a wonderful chance to see how Opti sailing has grown.  For one, the Scotiabank Regatta, via its partnership with McLaughlin Boatworks as charterer, has helped seed Optimists throughout the Caribbean, thus allowing organizers to get sailing programs up and running. Yacht clubs and individuals on St. Thomas, St. John, St. Croix, Antigua, Puerto Rico, and a few other islands have purchased McLaughlin Optis after a Scotiabank Regatta over the years.

Steve Sherman, McLaughlin owner, says, “Financially we have sold well over 150 boats in the Caribbean region. We have always sold them at a discount. For the first six years we sold them at very low prices to help the programs get started. Helping young children in the Caribbean experience the joy of sailing at a young age has been a rewarding experience.”

Second, Optimist sailing can lead to great things.  Caribbean sailors made the junior sailing world sit up and take notice with a string of outstanding performances at the 2006 Optimist World Championships in Uruguay last Christmas. This fact was summed up best by Robert Wilkes, the Ireland-based secretary of the International Optimist Dinghy Association (IODA): “It should come as no surprise that so many of these sailors are from the Caribbean where fleets are booming and standards rising.”

Four ex-Opti sailors and Scotiabank Regatta graduates alone from the St. Thomas Yacht Club (Cy Thompson, Taylor Canfield, Mimi Roller and Thomas Barrows) have embarked on Olympic campaigns in the 49er, Club 470, Laser Radial and Laser Standard, respectively, for the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing.

The eight-foot long, single sail, Optimist dinghy is sailed in over 110 countries by over 150,000 young people. Over 60% of the skippers and 70% of the medal-winning skippers at the last Summer Olympic Games in Athens were former Optimist sailors.

Why do kids start Opti sailing? What do they like about it? And, where do they see themselves sailing-wise in the future? All At Sea asked some of this year’s Scotiabank Regatta sailors.

Parents often prove to be the main portal to Opti sailing.  St. Thomas’ Scott McKenzie says, “My mom and dad sail, so I started taking lessons when I was five. I’m eight now, and I like it that my mom and dad can coach me before a regatta.”

Likewise, Puerto Rico’s Monllor says, “My father sailed Sunfish and J/24s and my cousin, Jose Santiago, was the sailing coach in Ponce for the past few years.”  What’s ahead?  “My next boat is a 420. I want to sail it with my brother and go to championships,” says Monllor.

Rodrigo Delgado from the Dominican Republic says, “We spent the summer in Mallorca, Spain three years ago and my mother enrolled me in the sailing program. I liked it, so I went into the sailing program in Santa Domingo when I got home.”  He adds, “In the future, I want to stay in dinghies. Not big boats. I always want to be my own skipper.”

Living right on the beach tempted the BVI’s Dontae Hodge to learn to sail. “We live right on Cane Garden Bay.”  What he likes about Opti sailing is the chance to see how practice pays off. “I had some good races and bad races, but it was a big improvement over last year. Last year, I was in the back of the fleet. This year I was in the middle to front. I’m happy to see myself grow and get better each year.”

Elliot Vernon, Green Fleet Winner from the Cayman Islands, started sailing Optimists for the opportunities the class presents. “I started sailing Picos when I was four. But I wanted to travel, compete in World Championships, so I switched to Optimists almost a year ago because it’s sailed in more places and there are many more of them.”

Curacao’s Odille van Aanholt, who nearly won the White Fleet, became seasick the first day of the regatta. “When I felt better, I just sailed hard. I like to be on top. And, I like to be with my family. My dad coached us from a kayak, and my brothers Ard and Just sailed in Blue and Red Fleets.”

All eyes were on Puerto Rico’s Monllor the last day of racing to see if he could maintain his lead. It didn’t faze him a bit. “It’s fun to be first and it’s a fun challenge to see if you can maintain it. My coach taught me how to relax. I did. And I just said to myself, ‘I’m fast.’ And I won.”

St. Thomas’ Kai Holmberg, who sailed his first Scotiabank Regatta and couldn’t help watching TV with his friends to see how his uncle, Peter Holmberg, was doing in the America’s Cup, says he thinks sailing is fun “because I like the way people help each other out.”

Is the Cup in Kai’s future? He smiles and shrugs his shoulders when asked. Then again, how many of us at age seven knew what we wanted to do? Yet, for all the world’s Opti sailors at this age, anything and everything is possible.

Results

OVERALL – TOP 3

1. Fernando Monllor, Puerto Rico, 54
2. Raul Rios, Puerto Rico, 64
3. Ivan Aponte, Puerto Rico, 77

TOP GIRL

1. Nikole Barnes, St. Thomas, USVI, 88

RED FLEET

1. Fernando Monllor, Puerto Rico, 54
2. Raul Rios, Puerto Rico, 64
3. Ivan Aponte, Puerto Rico, 77
4. Nikole Barnes, St. Thomas, USVI, 88
5. Alex Coyle, St. John, USVI, 125
6. Graham Landy, USA, 125
7. Taylor Palmer, USA, 127
8. Alex Sly, USA, 131
9. Ard van Aanholt, Curacao, 137
10. Morgan Kiss, USA, 138
11. Billy Gibbons, St. Croix, USVI, 155
12. Erika Reineke, USA, 157
13. Jose Nigaglioni, Puerto Rico, 172
14. Ramon Gonzalez, Puerto Rico, 250
15. Esteban Forrer, USA, 262
16. Teddy Stokes, USA, 264
17. Nicholas Knox, Trinidad, 297
18. Maria Sinagra, USA, 300
19. Kav Stokes, USA, 310
20. Sebastian Bros Perez, Dominican Republic, 323
21. Christina Lewis, USA, 328
22. Beverly Elmer, USA, 334
23. Connor Brady, USA, 336
24. Paul Ehvert, Canada, 465
25. Anderson Granger, USA, 470
26. Svenja Stein, Germany, 475
27. Dontae Hodge, BVI, 484
28. Daniel Briggs, Trinidad, 504

BLUE FLEET

1. Ian Barrows, St. Thomas, USVI, 123
2. Christopher Williford, USA, 128
3. Eduardo Ariza, Dominican Republic, 189
4. Clay Dauly, USA, 189
5. Ian Stokes, USA, 205
6. Just van Aanholt, Curacao, 230
7. Duncan Williford, USA, 254
8. Luke Muller, USA, 257
9. Alec Tayler, St. Thomas, USVI, 259
10. Caterina Cicenici, USA, 292
11. Juanky Perdonio, Puerto Rico, 299
12. Victor Aponte, Puerto Rico, 305
13. Alejandro Monllor, Puerto Rico, 314
14. Rodrigo Delgado, Dominican Republic, 344
15. Riley Legault, USA, 375
16. Mack Bryan, St. Croix, USVI 391
17. Jarrik Busterbosch, Curacao, 422
18. Holly Tullo, USA, 437
19. Nicholas Gartner, St. Thomas, USVI, 459
20. Matthew Courtis, Cayman Islands, 465
21. Challis Diaz, St. Croix, USVI
22. Russell Franklin, Trinidad, 519
23. Paloma Esteban, Dominican Republic, 520
24. Manuel Gonzalez, Puerto Rico, 531
25. Jaime Ramon, USA, 539
26. Alexandra Siebels, Curacao, 562
27. Ricardo Ariza, Dominican Republic, 590
28. Cally Tullo, USA, 599
29. Manuel Lehoux, Dominican Republic, 606
30. Ragelio Fernandez, Puerto Rico, 632
31. Julian Vidal, USA, 634
32. Kelsey Morrison, St. Thomas, USVI, 717
33. Alexander Emerich, St. Thomas, USVI, 718
34. Gabriel Polanco, Dominican Republic, 735
35. Maricarmen Cuello, Dominican Republic, 760

WHITE FLEET

1. Addison Hackstaff, St. Thomas, USVI, 440
2. Odile Van Aanholt, Curacao, 492
3. Antonio Bailey, Bermuda, 551
4. Nic Muller, USA, 591
5. Derek Poontip, Trinidad, 619
6. Kelly-Ann Arrindell, Trinidad, 647
7. Jason Putley, BVI, 662
8. Makai Joell, Bermuda, 691
9. Jonathan Woods, BVI, 707

GREEN FLEET

1. Elliot Vernon, Cayman Islands, 37
2. Camilo Bernal, Cayman Islands, 52
3. Alexandria Rich, St. Croix, USVI, 53
4. Peter Ehvert, Canada, 62
5. Eric Perez, USVI, 71
6. Mollee Donovan, BVI, 92
7. Owen McNeil, St. Thomas, USVI, 109
8. Luke Davis, St. Thomas, USVI, 131
9. Josh Morrell, BVI, 166
10. David Hurst, BVI, 167
11. Damuel Morrell, BVI, 171
12. Adam Chan, St. Thomas, USVI, 172
13. Nicholas Rich, USVI, 174
14. Scott MacKenzie, St. Thomas, USVI, 175
15. Kai Holmberg, St. Thomas, USVI, 184
16. Leonard Gumbs, St. Thomas, USVI, 186
17. Max Barton, USA, 200
18. Nikolas Wolfe, Cayman Islands, 213
19. Daniel Judd, USA, 229
20. Naomi Laing, St. Thomas, USVI, 242
21. Amanda Engeman, St. Thomas, USVI, 251
22. Nicole Reitzel Esteban, Dominican Republic, 261
23. William Oeseburg, BVI, 326

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