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Raul Rios and Puerto Rico Team Take Top Honors at 2008 IODA Worlds

This was the year for Caribbean sailors during the International Optimist Dinghy Association World Championship, as 254 sailors from 53 countries participated off the coast of Cesme in western Turkey from July 14 to 24. 

An International Jury of ten was headed by Americas Cup judge Henry Menin from the U.S. Virgin Islands. Menin praised both the demeanor and performance of the Caribbean’s sailors:

“”During the entire event, they were ladies and gentlemen, behaving in a way that brought honor and respect for their homelands. They are admired by all of the Optimist sailing world, not only for their superior sailing skills and talent, but for their modest, polite and respectful behavior,” said Menin.  “You can all be very, very proud of the images that they portrayed here. They are completely and totally respected, and they deserve every bit of it.”

In stunning performances, sailors from Puerto Rico (PUR) took home the Individual Gold (Raul Rios), Team Racing award, and Miami Herald Trophy.  Ian Barrows from the U.S. Virgin Islands (ISV) was next on the awards podium’s top tiers with a Silver medal.

The first days were sailed in 15-18 knot breeze gusting to around 20 knots. Bright sunshine and pristine blue seas made a magnificent panorama for all the sailors.

By the third day, winds, while in the 12-15 knot range for most of the day, were shiftier than previously and many of the leading sailors had to use their discards.  The wind picked up again on the last day; four races in lighter winds and 11 in heavier combined for an excellent test of all-round sailing skills. The race committee, headed by Orhan Tüker and aided by the two IROs—Alen Kustic and Luis Ormaechea—tackled the job of getting the 15-race series completed.

Years of intense training and dedication paid off for competitors from Puerto Rico and the U.S Virgin Islands, with four Caribbean sailors among the top 20. Raul Rios (2007 and 2008 North American Champion) had an unprecedented performance, showing his versatility by having good results in different wind conditions.  He won gold with two races to spare, something never done in an Optimist Worlds as far as attendees can recall. His consistency throughout the series brought him the tranquility to sail each race with absolutely no pressure while fellow competitors battled for the top ten positions.

Possibly breaking a class record, Rios (PUR-5395) achieved his fourth IODA title and proved without doubt that he has earned the title World Champion of the Optimist Class.

Ian Barrows (ISV) can take pride in his medal as well—the real fight in the event was happening for Silver.  It was a fight to the finish; even in the last two races, more than 10 sailors were in contention to take home the Silver, but Open South American Champion Ian Barrows (ISV) showed that he was able to handle the pressure and secure the spot. Bronze was for the Danish sailor Kristien Kirketerp.

Puerto Rico’s Ivan Aponte and Fernando Monllor finished 12 and 18 respectively.  These three top results were crucial for Puerto Rico winning the Miami Herald Trophy for the team with the lowest cumulative points of the best four sailors. In second place was Denmark and in third, the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Puerto Rico also won the team racing award.  It has been said that this final was one of the best team racing demonstrations in recent years.  Puerto Rico and Singapore (SIN) battled back to back, showing a spectacular demonstration of high level Team Racing.  The Puerto Rico team claimed gold by beating SIN 2 – 1.   Spectators were delighted with the good performances and cheers were heard in the tight finish in the third final, as the ISV team took bronze.

In recent years the PUR/ISV Sailors have showed great improvements.  Just three years ago, PUR was ranked 36th and ISV 41st at the 2005 IODA Worlds. This season’s results have been achieved by good planning, quality preparation, competitive drive and total concentration and determination.  Both the PUR and the ISV teams have been training with Argentinian coaches, Gonzalo Pollitzer and Argy Resano respectively.

Experience these sailors have attained at a young age earns them a great advantage when changing to the next Youth and Olympic classes.  With all eyes on Beijing this summer, we are reminded that the Optimist Class is where most future sailing Olympians are nurtured—and we are sure that we will see more than one of these names in future Olympic Games. The values learned at such a young age will be invaluable in their future sailing careers, but most important, as judge Henry Menin noted, will be their individual development as honorable individuals.

Reported from Cesme, Turkey for All at Sea by Mercedes Rios

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