San Juan Harbor is a major destination for mega cruise and cargo ships. Yet, on the weekend of February 16 to 18, small boats dominated the waters off Club Nautico de San Juan (CNSJ) for the Pan Pepin International Dinghy Regatta. Sixty sailors from Puerto Rico, all three U.S. Virgin Islands and Curaçao raced in an equal number of Optimists and Lasers. The sailors competed in a dozen or more races in light winds that built through the weekend. In the end, it was the Virgin Islands sailors who took the top spots in the Optimist, with Puerto Rico and Curaçao sailors dominating in the Lasers.
“The regatta gave me a good chance to try all the things we had been practicing,” says 13-year-old Caroline Sibilly, of St. Thomas, USVI, who earned Top Optimist Advanced sailor overall, first in the 13- to 15-year-old Red Fleet and Best Female sailor. “For me, that was mark roundings and knowing when to go deeper into the shifts.”
Although Sibilly won five races, it was the last race on the regatta’s last day that determined her champion status.
“Winn (Majette, from St. John, USVI) was the closest to me in points. I knew I had to beat her in the last race to win. I did. Unfortunately, she ended up capsizing,” says Sibilly.
Sibilly wasn’t the lone Virgin Islander on the podium at the Awards Ceremony. Majette and her sister Katherine finished second and third overall in the Advanced Optimist class and Red Fleet, respectively. Likewise, the top three places in the 11- to 12-year-old Blue Fleet were filled by Virgin Islands sailors: St. Thomas’ Tanner Krygsveld first, St. Croix’s Milo Miller second and St. Thomas’ Max van den Driessche third. Fellow St. Thomas sailor Robbie Richards bested the age ten and under White Fleet with St. Croix’s Ryan Moorhead in second.
Puerto Rico’s Gian Marco Piovanetti led the beginner Optimist Green fleet. Nearly one-third of the regatta’s participants took part in this fleet, boding well for the future of this event as well as the sport.
In the Laser Class, former Optimist champion Jose Arturo Diaz won in the 4.7 class. Fifteen-year-old Diaz, who sailed with CNSJ, finished with nine firsts, but that didn’t mean every race was easy.
“I was glad to get a good start on the first day, because on the second day my mast and sail broke and I couldn’t finish the race. I was towed in to change the sail and returned just in time to do the last race of the day. Thankfully, I had good racing on the last day, so the two races I missed were my throw-outs. What I liked about this year’s regatta was that I got to race with my friends from the Optimist years, but now in a different boat,” says Diaz.
In Laser Radials, Gustavo Alayon, representing Puerto Rico’s Ponce Yacht & Fishing Club won, with Curaçao’s Darius Berenos second.
Trophies were hand-crafted by Puerto Rico clay artist, Beatriz Marti.
“We had a great show of support from the U.S. Virgin Islands, and perfect weather conditions during the three-day regatta. We are looking forward to even greater participation from the United States and the South American region next year,” noted José Teixidor, CNSJ director.
Joe Vizcarrondo, CNSJ commodore, said the regatta and the Sailing Academy was part of the Club’s mission to promote nautical sports, navigation skills, and protection of marine species for future generations to enjoy.
Carol M. Bareuther, RD, is a St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands based marine writer and registered dietitian.