Junior sailors represented the Caribbean well at the Optimist South American Championships, held April 14th to 24th, out of the Club de Yates Algarrobo in Chile. The Dominican Republic’s Justina Pacheco finished first out of the 14 Caribbean sailors that competed in the 162 boat fleet and Pacheco ended an impressive 7th overall and won the trophy for Top South American Girl.
“In Chile, during the first training days, I didn’t feel very fast, but that is normal because I’m used to feeling like this during my first time sailing anywhere,” Pacheco explains. “Then, the more I trained; I realized that my boat speed was very good, so I started the championship with a positive mind. My tactic was very simple: start in the front and always try to go to the favored side, and that was usually the left. Once I was in the top ten, I didn’t try to win the races, I didn’t assume big risks; I just tried to stay there!”
The regatta was a combination with fleet racing and one day of team racing. Calm conditions delayed the start of the team race until the afternoon when the breeze built to ten knots. In the Nation’s Cup team race, held for teams from non-South American countries, the U.S. Virgin Islands’ team finished an incredible second with two teams from the USA in first and third. Sailors on the Virgin Islands team were Colin Brego, Paige Clarke, Christopher Murphy and Scott McKenzie.
At the conclusion of the nine-race regatta, Curaçao’s Odile Van Aanholt earned a trophy for placing as the second best girl. Van Aanholt was also 18th overall.
“The organization was great and there were lots of nice kids, so I had a lot of fun,” says Van Aanholt. “I had ups and downs in the regatta. My boat speed is still too low in the stronger breeze, but I am happy with my overall result.”
Overall the Optimist South American Championships proved a great learning experience and fun event for the Caribbean sailors.
The BVI’s Sam Morrell, who finished mid-fleet, sums it up this way: “The weather wasn’t that nice. It was fall there and you could see your breath. I wore a dry suit every day. The wind was crazy. One day light, about three to five knots, and the next day gusts of 45 knots and waves bigger than two Optimists. But it was cool meeting kids from Chile and other South American countries like Argentina or Ecuador – they were some of the nicest guys.”