Seamanship, sportsmanship and dogged perseverance were all on display at the Pan Pepín International Dinghy Regatta, hosted out of Club Nautico de San Juan, Puerto Rico in early February. Ninety-four sailors from Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, British Virgin Islands, Curaçao and the USA skillfully competed in Sunfish, Optimist, Laser and 420 classes.
It was skills such as superior boat handling, proficiency on home waters and excellent boat speed that led Puerto Rico’s Pedro Fernandez to win the Sunfish Class.
“The first day winds were light. That made it more difficult for me as I’m heavier than some of the other class competitors. The second and third days’ winds were stronger and that gave me an advantage. I took the lead on the second day and held it to the end,” says Fernandez, an accomplished sailor with wins throughout his sailing career in the Optimist, Laser and Sunfish.
Fernandez, a member of Club Nautico de San Juan, spent the month of March in Palma de Mallorca training in the Laser Standard with his coach. The 19-year-old sailor’s goals are podium finishes at the Central American and Caribbean Games this summer in Columbia, and next summer at the Pan American Games in Peru, with his sights ultimately set on racing in the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.
A larger than usual class of 14 Sunfish raced in preparation for the 2017 Sunfish South American & Caribbean Championship, which will be held November 21-25, out of Puerto Rico’s Ponce Yacht & Fishing Club. However, the Optimist was the biggest class at the Pan Pepin Regatta, with 56 entries. Saint Thomas, US Virgin Islands sailor Mia Nicolosi topped the Advanced Optimist fleet.
“My favorite parts about sailing in Puerto Rico are the tricky conditions, sailing against other Caribbean sailors and the wonderful hospitality,” says Nicolosi. “My success to winning was always checking the course and staying focused at all times.”
Interestingly, Nicolosi won even though she didn’t sail the last race. Sickness prevented the 13-year-old from launching with her team on the regatta’s final day. Yet 20 minutes later, not wanting to let her team down, she pushed off from shore, sailed one race to secure her win then headed back ashore too ill to continue. It was a great example of team sportsmanship.
Another great example of never giving up or stick–to–itiveness also happened in the Advanced Optimist fleet when Puerto Rico’s Osvaldo E De Leon Lebroń, who finished seventh overall and second in the 11- to 12-year-old Blue Fleet, capsized just as he was in the lead by 30 feet and only ten feet from the finish line.
“I acted quickly, un-flipped my boat as fast as I could and started bailing. That’s when I capsized for a second time. I saw all the other competitors passing by me as I struggled to bail. When I finally finished the race, I was frustrated that I had given up. Then, one of my coaches calmed me down and told me ‘A real sailor always finishes the race’. So, the lesson learned was that you shouldn’t give up just because you had one bad race.”
In other classes, Puerto Rico’s Roger Casellas led in the Optimist Green, Curaçao’s Darius Berenos topped the Laser 4.7 class, and Puerto Rico’s Sofia Rivera with crew Paola Mercado and Carolina Perez won the Laser Radial and 420 classes, respectively.
Full results at: www.regattanetwork.com/event/13579#_newsroom