The name Figueroa is synonymous with champion beach cat sailing in Puerto Rico. And it was Francisco – not Enrique – with lady cat sailor, Joliam Berrios as crew, who achieved a stunning top ten finish at the Hobie 16 World Championships, held October 8 to 19, in Laucala Bay, Suva, the Fiji Islands. The Puerto Rican team placed 10th out of 56 teams representing 15 countries.
Suva, the capital of Fiji, is located on a peninsula that is almost completely surrounded by water. The northwestern bay provides a well sheltered deep water harbor but Laucala Bay to the south-east, where the competition took place, is protected by a barrier reef yet is open to the trade winds that blow almost year round.
The Hobie 16 isn’t an Olympic class, so the World Championship is the pinnacle of competition for the class.
In addition to the top ten finish, the Heineken Sailing Team of Figueroa and Berrios placed first out of all Pan-American countries (including the USA, Mexico, Guatemala), and beat the Australian team who won the North American Championships in San Francisco and the current Silver and Bronze Medal winners from the Pan Am Games. This also marks the first time in at least five World Championships that a Puerto Rican team achieved a top-ten finish.
Francisco says of his Hobie sailing career, “I started sailing at the age of four, was racing by the age of 10 and competed on a Hobie 16 by the age of 14.”
He adds, “We went to the Hobie 16 Worlds in 2005 and have been traveling to international competitions ever since. It’s hard because I’m in college studying advertising and public relations. But my goal is to make it in the 2008 Olympics.”