The Ponce Yacht & Fishing Club’s (PYFC) Discover the Caribbean Series was moved to this month (February 3 -4) in the wake of hurricane damage to the club and the whole of Puerto Rico. Yet the club’s sailors just couldn’t end 2017 without a regatta. Enter the Eddie Ramos Casellas Regatta, sailed December 2 to 3 2017. Despite many club members being without electricity, homes, workplaces and even boats, 35-plus dinghies took to the race course on the first day with a fleet of 12 keelboats on day two.
“The PYFC suffered multiple damages to its infrastructure, especially the marina,” tells Joel Santiago, the club’s sailing director. “This created a major delay in putting all of the 70-plus boats back in the water and the club was closed for almost a month and a half. Obviously, this disrupted plans for our sailing program and regatta schedules. Plus, we lost at least half of our local fleet. Due to all these things, and because we didn’t want to end the year without a regatta, the Eddie Ramos Casellas Regatta was more of a fun weekend of sailing, a chance to put some sails on the water, and forget some of the sorrows. Mission accomplished.”
Dinghy sailors on the first day represented Ponce, the town of Boquerón on the island’s west coast, and San Juan to the north. In fact, Pedro Luis Fernandez, director of the Sailing Academy at Club Nautico de San Juan, brought several juniors to race.
“We undertook the task of cleaning and organizing our Academy right after the hurricane, although there were many days without water and light,” says Luis Fernandez. “My main motivation in taking our 14 Optimist and seven Laser sailors to the regatta in Ponce was first sport and secondly for the kids and their families to see another club that suffered more damage than us and for the families to be able to share their experiences.”
The second day, race officer David Kerr split the dozen keelboats into two fleets and onto different courses.
“Kuliagus was blessed to get through the storms without a blemish and she may have been the first IC24 back in the water,” says owner Gregory Fink. “The Ramos Regatta was a relaxed event for Kuliagus. Little wind and lots of good feeling to be back on the water.”
Luis Santos’ Pearson 33, Nomada, was storm damaged, but he and team were invited aboard the C&C 30, Adelante, to race with good friend and owner Jose Serra.
“We tried to learn their tricks because they always run faster than us, but we didn’t have any luck with that,” says Santos. “It was a great break after all we have had. An excellent day.”
Ronnie Ramos, son of regatta namesake Eddie Ramos Casellas, raced his catamaran, Campechano, with fellow family members including brothers Robbie and Jerry Ramos.
“I remember that one of my father’s first boats, if not the first, was one he got after World War II, a wooden 8-meter beauty named Noranda,” says Ramos. “Then the Somar (Ramos spelled backwards) era started with the reconstruction of an old 45ft yawl during the 1950s, which turned out to be a beautiful light-yellow boat. In the 1960s, he bought the first Chris Craft sailboat ever made, a 35ft fiberglass sloop, which we sailed for many years, including the St. Thomas to St. Croix Memorial.”
Don Eddie was a PYFC stalwart known not only as a winning sailor, but also for teaching generations of the club’s juniors how to sail. As a result, the Eddie Ramos Casellas Regatta started in 2000, and has been raced annually since, as the closing event for the PYFC’s sailing season. It’s a tradition that survived and thrived even in 2017.
Carol M. Bareuther, RD, is a St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands based marine writer and registered dietitian.