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Team Puerto Rico Wins Caribbean Dinghy Championships

Six teams representing five countries brought 40 sailors to St. Croix in the late summer days of August 3 to 5 for a weekend of team sailing in Teague Bay out of the St. Croix Yacht Club.  “This is a regatta for the ‘home grown’ sailors and the next generation coming up,” said one of the host island organizers, Julie San Martin.  “We’re finding out what depth in talents the various islands have since the A team sailors in some cases are doing other things.”  The competitors back home enjoyed their chance to test themselves on the water.

“Our youngest Opti sailor, Scott Gittons, had two firsts today (Sunday),” said Penny McIntyre from Barbados, who hosted the Championships in 2006.  “This was his first regatta.”  Two on the Barbados team had never been in a 420 before, “let alone one with a spinnaker,” said McIntyre. 

The 420 was also new for St. Maarten’s Andrew and Lynn Rapley who normally do their sailing on rental boats in the lagoon.  “It was such fun to sail on a boat I’ve never seen before,” she said. “We’re pleased with ourselves.”  St. Croix’s Jae Tonachel won the 420 class, followed by Puerto Rico’s Marco Texidor, home for the summer from Georgetown University in Washington, DC, in second, and the Rapleys in third.

Several top international competitors were on hand for the weekend.  St. Croix’s Peter Stanton won the Sunfish class, a warmup for his 10th place finish at the Sunfish Worlds in New Jersey in late August. Puerto Rico’s Angela Abela won the women-only Radial class and left a few days later for the U.S. Laser Nationals in Vermont a few days later where she finished 13th in her class of 59 sailors.  Abela attends Syracuse University and enjoyed the rare chance to get out on the water.  “I don’t sail at all—just Christmas and summer,” she said. 

Some of the region’s “masters” sailors competed, too, including St. Maarten’s Robbie Ferron and St. Croix’s Beecher Higby who represented their teams in the Laser class.  “Robbie has beaten my pants off numerous times,” said Higby.  “He was ahead Saturday—I was keeping track—but I had a lot of luck today.”  Puerto Rico’s Francisco Medina took first place in the Laser class away from the old guys, however, with Higby in second place.

Optimist kids sailed in16 races won by St. Croix’s Mack Bryan in the age 8 – 11 class and Puerto Rico’s Victor Aponte in age 12 – 15 class. 

When all the points were tallied, Team Puerto Rico took home the Championships for 2007.  Sponsors were Hovensa, FirstBank, Team San Martin RE/MAX St. Croix, the West Indies Corporation, the Virgin Islands Department of Tourism, and Vanguard, which donated eight spinnakers for the 420s. 

Ferron, a past president of the Caribbean Sailing Association, said the St. Maarten team had a great experience attending the event.  “The results were not so good—we were cannon fodder!” he said of his team’s performance.  From the podium, though, he encouraged up-and-coming Caribbean sailors to get involved in race management for future Dinghy Championships, an event held every year since 1985.  “I saw some great sailing and I hope you’ll all become organizers, better than my generation,” Ferron said.  “It’s very easy to think it all ‘just happens’.”

Team Results
1 Puerto Rico
2 US Virgin Islands Team A
3 St. Maarten
4 Barbados
5 British Virgin Islands
6 US Virgin Islands Team B

Individual Results
Club 420s             Jae Tonachel, Ariel Frommer crew, St. Croix, USVI
Laser                    Francisco Medina, Puerto Rico
Radial                   Angela Albela, Puerto Rico
Sunfish                Peter Stanton, St. Croix, USVI
Opti 12 – 15         Victor Aponte, Puerto Rico
Opti  8 – 11          Mack Bryan, St. Croix, USVI

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