Custom made courses, nearly ideal conditions and great participation proved a highly successful combination for the 40 boats from Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands that competed in the 26th Discover the Caribbean regatta. Hosted out of the Ponce Yacht and Fishing Club (PYFC), this October 30th to November 1st event featured five one-design classes, two Jib & Main classes, a cruising and new KISS class. At the end and in bright sun, a brisk breeze and calm seas (except for squalls the final day), there was a winner with a great story in every class.
“This year’s ‘hot’, as well as biggest, class was the IC-24s,” says regatta director Joel Santiago, who is also PYFC’s director of sailing. “There were 12 boats with some of Puerto Rico’s best skippers. These included Ponce’s Fraito Lugo and Jorge Santiago, who earned Gold and Silver medals respectively, in J-24s at the 2010 Central American and the Caribbean Games 2010. Others included Ramon Gonzalez, Keki Figueroa, Eric Tulla, Jaime Torres and Robbie Ramos Sr. and Jr. The IC-24 class winner ultimately came from St Thomas. It was Mike Finley and his crew on Ocean Potion. We welcome more competitors from the USVI and the BVI each year.”
Santiago himself won the one-design Hunter 21.6 class aboard his Pura Vida with a commanding five bullets in seven races.
“The Hunter 216 is almost like a dinghy; it’s very light with a fast response to the tiller. We were determined to win and put in the past our three consecutive years of runner-up finishes to Angel Davila and his crew aboard Guango. We did it thanks to getting the boat pointing higher and faster than ever before and having good starts. We also had excellent crew, including my Dad, Tuto Santiago. He is 72, one of the founders of Discover the Caribbean and I never stop learning from him,” says Santiago.
Racing happened to be a great learning experience for the sport’s newcomers who crewed aboard the J/92, Y-Sailing, and championed the Jib & Main A class. Y-Sailing is a learn-to-sail operation for all ages run out of San Juan by Jose ‘Yoyo’ Berrios.
“This was our first regatta and we had to quickly learn racing techniques from our instructor,” says Carlos Riego, who crewed along with wife Nivia. “We didn’t know all the crew members of the Y-Sailing team before the regatta but we all clicked fast like we’d known each other for years.”
Maria and Julio Munoz were also part of the Y-Sailing team.
“What we loved about the regatta was the free spirit of competition, along with respect towards the rest of the boats. It was so beautiful to see all the boats at the start line and the adrenaline was running! We cannot wait for the next event!” says Munoz.
The first-time KISS (Keep It Simple Sailing) class was a last minute addition for boats that weren’t easily classified. It was the Morgan 41, Relena, skippered by Luis Lorens, which topped this five-entry fleet (that included a Pearson 28, Calk 27, Hunter 26, Tartan 33 and even a 37ft catamaran) by a slim one-point.
“The course was awesome because we had to sail around islands and pass shallow reefs. I come from sailing in very competitive classes (IC-24, J/24), and for me to be sailing now in this classic Morgan 41 is just too much fun and pleasure. We just went out to have a great day of sailing and that is what we did and we won,” says Lorens.
What really made Discover the Caribbean a success was organizers adherence to five simple rules.
“Sailing is a culture and including the family in all the activities is number one,” says Santiago. “Second is making everybody feel welcome and taking care of your competitors. Third, is making sure to have a respected Race Committee that will try to please as many sailors as possible. Fourth, is always having a place for sailors that just want to have fun. Fifth and finally: Race hard and party harder!”
For full results, visit: www.yachtscoring.com/event_results_cumulative.cfm?eID=1481
Carol M. Bareuther, RD, is a St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands based marine writer and registered dietitian.