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Heineken Culebra Intl Regatta – Laid Back Charm Combined with Great Racing

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There was one phrase that kept repeating like the refrain of a favorite song at this year’s 3rd annual Heineken Culebra International Regatta. It was, “This is just like Caribbean regattas used to be,” said sailor after sailor. This sentiment applied to the setting and socializing, for the racing, race management, and scoring were as hi-tech as the atmosphere was laid back.

“Culebra is a beautiful island, like another world,” says Puerto Rico’s Pedrin Colon, who skippered his Hobie 16, Spookie Monkey. “Then, you add all the friends, the parties and the sailing. It’s great.”

St. Thomas’ Chris Thompson, who helmed his J/27, J-Walker, adds, “This location reminds me of the old days when we’d windsurf from island to island. The hospitality is great. The Puerto Ricans really take care of you.”

It’s the perfect venue for beach cat racing, says Francisco Figueroa, who with crew Jolliam Berrios, sailed their Hobie 16, Heineken. “There’s so many beaches to go into, and they’re all so beautiful.”

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The atmosphere is what the BVI’s Bob Phillips, who crewed on Three Harkoms, liked about Culebra. “How can you beat this location? The harbor is a nice laidback place to raft up and the racing is great. There’s calm bays, big waves offshore, and we had great winds this weekend.”

Traveling to Culebra is easy too, says Gilberto Rivera, who skippered his J/24, Urayo. “It’s a central place. You can easily meet up here from Fajardo, from St. Croix, St. Thomas, and Tortola. Yet no one really sails here that much. So no one has a lot of local knowledge.”

One of the big quandaries the regatta organizers wrested with was whether or not to send the 67-boat fleet around the buoys only, on a round-the-island course, or off on a bit of both. In the end, race officials indeed gave competitors a smorgasbord. The first day, everyone sailed round the buoys. The second day, all but the beach cats, one-design IC24s and J24s, and Chalanas—who continued buoy racing—took off on a round the island course.

“I’m an island guy, so I like to sail around the islands. That kind of racing has always been good to us,” says J-Walker’s Thompson.  St. Thomas’ Dave Flaherty, who drove his Etchell 24, Ghost, adds. “I like sailing around the islands because you have to multitask. I don’t like going up and down.”

Tony Sanpere, sailing his Soverel 27, Cayennita, out of St. Croix agrees. “Going up and down is no fun. I want to cruise. That’s why I chose Performance Cruising. It’s a lot more tactical than windward-leewards where you just tack, tack, tack. I had my GPS in one hand and was watching the knot meter the whole way around the island. The eddies, position of the hills and wind, the currents and crosscurrents, it all adds to the fun because you have to answer all these questions and consider all these conditions. Our main competition was never more than 150 yards from us the whole way around. It was that close.”

Boats coming to the Caribbean want to see the geography, says Three Harkoms’ Phillips. “But it was nice to have the mix, both buoy and island racing.”

The J/24 sailors were happy to stick with their buoy courses. “For one design, we like the windward-leeward best,” says Urayo’s Rivera. “Multiple races, three or four a day, gave us a chance to do better. If you go around the island, its just one race, and one race decides it. If you do good, great, if you do bad on that one race, then that’s bad.”

St. Croix’s Jae Tonachel, skippering his J/24, El Shaddai II, wished not only for more buoy racing, but another day of racing too. “The more races there are, the better our average. We were trying to edge up over Urayo into first place today, and might have done so with more racing, but in the end we had to settle for second.”


1. Devil 3, Melges 24, Chris Stanton, St. Croix, USVI (4)
2. Storm, Reichel-Pugh 44, Peter Peake, Trinidad (10)
3. Don Q Limon, Melges 24, Enrique Torruellas, Puerto Rico (12)

1. J-Walker, J-27, Chris Stanton, St. Thomas, USVI (4)
2. The Good, The Bad & The Ugly, Kirby 25, John Foster, St. Thomas, USVI (11)
3. Ex Mero Motu, J-24, Toni Mari, Puerto Rico (13)

1. Umakua, J-105, Julio Reguero, Puerto Rico (4)
2. Balaju II, C&C 36, Jose Sanchez, Puerto Rico (5)
3. Boomerang, K-33, Pat Nolan, Tortola, BVI (10)

1. Three Harkoms, Modified Beneteau 445, Christopher Lloyd, Tortola, BVI (5)
2. Shamrock IV, J-120, Thomas Mullen, New Hampshire, USA (7)
3. Dejavu, J-30, Fernando DeJesus, Puerto Rico (8)

1. Dottie II, Pearson 26, Chuck McLaughlin, Puerto Rico (4)
2. Blue Max, C&C 44, Juan Requena, Puerto Rico (18)
3. Mary-Ellen, Jeanneau 54, Howard Silverman, St. Croix, USVI (18)

1. DRD/Suzuki/Red Bull, Tornado, Enrique Figueroa, Puerto Rico (9)
2. Spookie Monkey, Hobie 16, Pedrin Colon, Puerto Rico (16)
3. Heineken, Hobie 16, Francisco Figueroa, Puerto Rico (19)

1. Son of Wind, Jose Perez, Puerto Rico (5)
2. Malas Manas, Carlos Marrero, Puerto Rico (14)
3. Tasmania, Henry Bastidas, Puerto Rico (20)

1. Green Boat, Carlos Aguilar, St. Thomas, USVI (16)
2. Orion, Fraito Lugo, Puerto Rico (17)
3. bMobile, Colin Rathburn, Tortola, BVI (18)

1. Urayo, Gilberto Rivera, Puerto Rico (7)
2. El Shaddai, Jae Tonachel, St. Croix, USVI (13)
3. Fuakata, Carlos Sierra, Puerto Rico (20)

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Carol M. Bareuther, RD, is a St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands based marine writer and registered dietitian.

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