Sailors from nearly a dozen Caribbean nations competed in the 23rd Central American and Caribbean Games (CAC), held July 19th to August 3rd in Barranquilla, Colombia. In the end, three nations enjoyed podium finishes and brought home medals. Puerto Rico led with four medals, with one apiece for Aruba and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
“The key to winning in the Snipe Class was to be patient and do everything by the book,” says Puerto Rico’s Raul Rios, the current Snipe World Champion, whose Gold is now the third in a row for him at the CAC Games. Rios sailed for the first time with 16-year-old Jose Arturo Diaz as crew. “On the downside, Jose Arturo and I were light-weight and had to compensate for the heavy winds. Our secret was to have absolute communication and be on the same page at all times.”
Ramon and Manuel Gonzalez earned Silver. The Puerto Rican brothers were only three points behind their fellow islanders and 15 points ahead of the Bronze finisher.
“This was our first time sailing the Snipe, so we trained in San Juan in heavy air with our coach for a week before we left for the Games,” says Gonzalez. “The first day, we did two races in which we won the first one and Raul’s team won the second. It was a solid start for Puerto Rico. In all, it was an amazing championship and we learned a lot about Snipes. It also brought back good memories of sailing against Raul in our Optimist dinghy days.”
Puerto Rico’s Enrique Figueroa, a seven-time CAC Games Gold Medalist, and crew Francheska Valdéz earned bronze medals in the Hobie 16 class. The pair were only two points behind the Gold and Silver finishers. Puerto Rico’s Willie Rodriguez won bronze in the Men’s Formula Kite class having put on an outstanding speed show.
“I had the unique privilege of helping our world-class teams, who achieved so much due to their excellent experience, focused training and preparation,” says Graham Castillo, Puerto Rico team leader and delegate. “They aggressively practiced even after the devastation caused by Hurricanes Irma and Maria.”
Mack van den Eerenbeemt from Aruba earned Gold in the Men’s RSX Windsurfing class with an impressive and near flawless performance achieving a first and one second place finish.
In the Sunfish, it was Peter Stanton, from St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands, who bowed his head for the Bronze.
“This was my first big sunfish competition in quite a while, so I was able to improve each day and learn from my competitors,” says Stanton, who was five points short of making third place going into the last day’s final race. “That last race, my goal was just to sail my race. It didn’t look promising until the last upwind leg when my two closest competitors went way left, and I saw an opportunity to head back right and take the lead. I was in first when rounding the last windward mark, and I was lucky enough that my competitors who went left were not able to pass enough boats to close the gap and take the Bronze.”
The next Pan American Games will take place in Lima, Peru, July 26th to August 11th 2019.