Match racing action dialed up a notch in Puerto Rico in February. This is when international teams faced off against some of the island’s best sailors in the first-ever Magna International Bay Regatta, held in San Juan’s spectator-friendly Bahía Urbana. In the end, it was the USA’s Charlie Buckingham who triumphed over the BVI’s Colin Rathbun 2-0 in a best of three finals. Puerto Rico’s Raul Rios and Marco Teixidor finished third and fourth respectively.
“The light wind on Saturday made certain situations more variable and the better wind on Sunday made boat speed a priority,” explains Buckingham, whose sailing achievements include four-time All-American and two-time College Sailor of the Year titles while at Georgetown University and skipper of Team USA’s 2013 challenge for the Red Bull Youth America’s Cup. “However, the differences between the days didn’t change our approach. Since my team (tactician Scott Furnay, trimmer Peter Kinney and bowman Jeff Aschieris) and I have never match raced together, we simply took it one race at a time and tried to improve the whole weekend especially on the starts. By the Finals on Sunday, we were in good shape to challenge against the strongest teams.”
The BVI’s Rathbun’s team was definitely the strongest with the most match racing experience. Rathbun, who has achieved an all-time best ISAF Open Match Racing ranking of 53rd in the world, has won St. Maarten’s Budget Marine Match Racing Series and the Gill BVI National Match Racing Championships, plus trained with match racing guru Dave Perry in New England and at the Chicago Match Race Center.
“There were a lot of very good sailors at the event including past Olympians, future Olympic hopefuls and several All Americans, but most did not have much match racing experience. That was good for us because we were rusty.” says Rathbun, whose team included Nick Cunha, Jacques Roux and Claudia Delahoy. “After winning the second round robin, we picked Raul in third place because we had a better win ratio over him than Marco. However, Raul almost took us out! The third race came down to a red flag hearing about who won the finish because the finish line committee was out of place. We overturned the decision, got the point and then proceeded to win two more that put us in the Finals. In the Finals, we were close, but could not get in front of Charlie after the starts and he beat us two in a row.”
Rounding out the rest of the fleet was Puerto Rico’s Efrain ‘Fraito’ Lugo (fifth), Puerto Rico’s Ramon Gonzalez (sixth), Tunisia’s Yousseff Akrout (seventh) and the Dominican Republic’s Guillermo Flaquer (eighth).
The event was sailed in IC24s.
The Magna International Bay is the culmination of a dream that David Kerr, principal race officer, first had three years ago.
“It all started when the USVI’s Peter Holmberg came to give our competitors a few pointers on how to match race and Bill Canfield followed-up soon after to teach us how to do race committee work for this type of event,” Kerr explains. “A few local events were organized to keep the interest going. Then, Marco had the idea of giving this type of racing some formality and brought me in to help him out. Early last year, Marco got started in obtaining sponsors and selling them on the idea of a match racing event in Bahia Urbana. As we can see he did a magnificent job! We would like to keep this event going in the future as well as trying something new. Team Racing is in the works for Puerto Rico.”
Carol M. Bareuther, RD, is a St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands based marine writer and registered dietitian.