A spectacular 70 boat entry and over double this number of sailors from Puerto Rico, the US and US Virgin Islands, competed in the first-ever Puerto Del Rey Sailing Challenge for over $10,000 in cash prizes. The regatta, hosted March 20 to 22 out of Puerto Del Rey Marina in Fajardo, Puerto Rico, with the marina and Borinquen Islands Sailing Association (BRISA) as the organizing authority, offered the fleet four to 12 races depending on class under conditions ranging from six to 12 knots of breeze. What put this event on the ‘must-do’ list of Caribbean regattas was the mix of keen competition in everything from sport boat to dinghy classes, plus an atmosphere that welcomed and encouraged newcomers to the sport.
Veteran sailors raced head-to-head in the highly competitive CSA Racing Class A. Puerto Rico’s Jonathan Lipuscek’s team aboard his J/105, Dark Star, championed the class with three bullets in four races.
“We knew we had to work the boat hard in the light air to squeeze every possible second out against the ultralight Olson 29, Geronimo, with its big genoa. If they got a first in the last race we would be tied,” explains Dark Star’s tactician, Rafael ‘Rafi’ Martinez. “In the end, we had them behind us and in bad air at the start. We focused on our speed, forced them to the least favored side of the course and were well ahead for the second beat straight downwind to the finish.”
The Puerto Del Rey Sailing Challenge was doubly important to the Laser sailors.
“There was a lot of pressure coming into the regatta to win in order to qualify for the Pan Am Games in Toronto this summer. This made the first day of racing the most challenging. Although there were only three boats, some of the other sailors like Ramon González are very talented and are also sailing full-time trying to qualify for the Olympics. So, I tried to stay levelheaded and sail well. After the first race, I was able to find a good rhythm with my strategy and sailed conservatively in terms of my tactics from then on,” says Juanky Perdomo, who won with eight firsts in nine races.
Junior sailors enjoyed getting their feet wet in the world of regatta sailing in the Optimist Green or beginner class. True talent prevailed when 14-year-old Rafael Tirado, a student at Y-Sailing, based in San Juan, won the class. This too was a double win for Tirado, who was given a watch by an older sailing mentor who saw that the teen didn’t have one for timing the starts on the first day of competition.
Another group of newcomers were the adult students from Y-Sailing, who raced aboard instructor Jose ‘Yoyo’ Berrios’ J/92, Y-Sailing, in the 14-boat Jib & Main Class. The novice racers set three goals for their first regatta: Learn, have fun and try to win. They accomplished all three.
“The week before the regatta I prepared my crew by emailing or texting them nearly every day to share information like crew positions and J/92 preparation tips and techniques. This helped get them in regatta mode,” says Berrios, whose instructional fleet also includes Optimists, Lasers, IC24s and Sunfish. “Everyone had such great enthusiasm during the regatta. Not only did they learn all about racing, but they were able to make new friends in the sport of sailing at the nightly parties.”
In addition to CSA Racing, Lasers, Optimists and Jib & Main, winners were also named in the one-design Melges 32, IC24, Hunter 216, O’Day 19, Hobie 16, Chalanas 24 and Nativo 17 classes.
“The success of the largest regatta in Puerto Rico in the last 20 years has defined Puerto Del Rey Marina as the east coast sailing destination,” said managing director Richard Christiansen. He added, “We’re looking forward to the growth of this great event in the years to come.”
For full results, visit: www.yachtscoring.com/event_results_cumulative.cfm?eID=1258