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Puerto Rico DOMINATES the St Thomas International Rolex Regatta

Puerto Rico's Smile and Wave at the International Rolex Regatta
Smile and Wave races the final day of the International Rolex Regatta. Credit Dean Barnes

Smile and Wave Falls Short Of Victory By Half Point As Puerto Rican Teams Take Top Three Spots

It was a bittersweet trip to the St. Thomas Yacht Club podium last night for Puerto Rico businessman and sailor Jaime Torres, his Smile and Wave racing team falling short of winning the prestigious International Rolex Regatta (IRR) by the smallest margin possible – just 0.5 points.  “It’s intensely disappointing for the crew and me to come so close to winning this important event,” Torres said.  “We lost a race yesterday by literally one second – that was the difference between champions and second place.”

Two races on Sunday capped off a six-race series, the first a repeat of Saturday’s ‘round the island’ race.  “When they announced the first course, our team visibly deflated a little,” said bowman Meg Hislop.  “Such a short race with no downwind time makes it harder for the scratch boat to beat the smaller boats on corrected time, so we knew we had our work cut out for us.” Smile and Wave would again match race Lazy Dog the entire race, with the J/122 taking the win, Dark Star in second, and by exactly one second on corrected time, the J/80 Otrakosa would take the third spot.

As the final race started, Torres needed 2 points for the championship victory.  “Funnily enough, all the pressure of the morning evaporated for us for the last race,” Torres explained.  “It was a long course with lots of downwind work, and that’s what our crew does better than perhaps any I’ve ever had.”  The Beneteau worked the race to perfection, taking a 2 minute lead over Lazy Dog by working the shifts in Pillsbury Sound.  “We rounded the mark deep in the bay right on Lazy Dog’s tail, and we took a door they left open when they sailed left into a big hole,” said SnW tactician Anson Mulder.  “We had a smaller lull, and we knew if we could hold on until the breeze reached us, we’d be able to cross to the St. John coast in great position.”  His call was perfect, and Torres would run away to the line honors and handicap victory. To make matters worse for Sergio Sagramoso and Lazy Dog, Jonathon Lipuscek’s Dark Star would sail a near-perfect race, correcting out just ahead of Sagramoso. Lipuscek’s final score: 14, with Torres just half a point behind, and Sagramoso another half back on 15.

Our strategy was to make no mistakes,” says Lipuscek, who helmed his Fajardo, Puerto Rico-based J/105, Dark Star. “We concentrated fully on our boat handling, watching the winds and currents, and fending off the big boats sailing against us like Smile and Wave.” The victory for the Puerto Rican skipper hadn’t sunk in when the award presentation began.  “I’ve been trying to win this regatta for many years, and I still can’t believe we did it,” Lipuscek said.

Torres was visibly disappointed, though happy for his countrymen.  “I’ve sailed against Jonathan (Lipuscek) for 20 years. It was hard to lose the battle, but at least it was to a good friend.”

“We gave it our all, and we came up short, but I could not have asked more of anyone, and I’m incredibly proud of our entire crew for sailing Smile and Wave so very hard,” Torres said.  “At the end of the day, the International Rolex Regatta is about perfection.  Dark Star sailed a perfect regatta, we were a tiny bit imperfect at the worst possible time on the worst possible course, and it cost us.”

There is a silver lining to Torres’ cloud though. “It’s a real consolation knowing that Puerto Rico made such a strong showing.  My compatriots earned top 3 spots in CSA 2, the win in the tough IC-24 class, and great positions throughout the fleet.”

Next up for Smile and Wave is the BVI Spring Regatta, March 30 to April 1, where there is a strong potential of a rematch between these three boats.

Smile and Wave’s crew is a mix of Puerto Rican and mainland U.S. sailors. From Puerto Rico, Torres on helm; Carlos Hernandez, spinnaker/jib trim; Mariano ‘Nano’ Ruiz, offside trim; George Polish, pit; Gretchen Ortiz, mid-bow; and Raul de la Torres and Jose ‘Yoyo’ Berrios as floaters. From the U.S., there’s Anson Mulder, tactics/navigation; Bob Hillier, main trim, and Alan Block, mast.  St. Thomas resident and professional skipper Meg Hislop handles the work on the bow.

Smile and Wave has enjoyed a strong 2012 season, earning a 3rd in IRC3, 4th overall, and ‘Top Caribbean Boat’ in the RORC’s grueling Caribbean 600.  In St. Maarten, Torres and crew ran away with the top performance in the Gill Commodore’s Cup, following it up with a 6th in class in the point-to-point-racing Heineken regatta.  Following the IRR and BVI Spring Regatta, the team heads to Antigua Sailing Week from April 29th to May 4th.

Smile and Wave is sponsored by Banco Popular de Puerto Rico, Discovery Bay Resort and Marina and Sebago.

Follow Smile and Wave on the scoreboard at the regatta website: www.rolexcupregatta.com and in their race to the podium on their website www.smileandwave.ws, which features daily video, pictures and stories. Give them a ‘Like’ on Facebook at: www.facebook.com/SmileandWaveSailingTeam

Smile and Wave’s 2012 Caribbean Regatta Schedule

Caribbean 600 – February 20 to February 24 – Antigua – 3rd IRC 1

Gill Commodore’s Cup – March 1 – St. Maarten – 1st Gill 2

St. Maarten Heineken Regatta – March 2 to March 4 – St. Maarten – 6th CSA 4

International Rolex Regatta – March 23 to March 25 – St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands – 2nd CSA 2

BVI Spring Regatta – March 30 to April 1 – Tortola, British Virgin Islands

Antigua Sailing Week – April 29 to May 4 – Antigua

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