At the Optimist South American Championships, you know there’s something big going on when the Ireland-based secretariat of the International Optimist Dinghy Association calls Puerto Rico’s first place and the U.S. Virgin Islands’ third place at the Nation’s Cup team racing competition, “confirmation of the rising quality of Caribbean sailing.”
Fourteen Caribbean sailors representing Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Trinidad & Tobago competed in this high-caliber regional competition held March 30 to April 6 in Niteroi, Brazil, a suburb of Rio de Janeiro. Shifty conditions created the biggest challenge.
“The secret was to focus on the starts and to see the pattern of the shifts and the time and distance it took to cross the fleet,” said Puerto Rico’s Raul Rios, who earned a first place finish out of a total of 185 competitors, who hailed from throughout South America, North America, Europe and Asia.
Alex Coyle, from St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands, scored an impressive 8th overall and agreed with Raul about the shifts. “There was no way to predict which way the wind would go. It was just important to get a good start and play the shifts as they came.”
St. Thomas’ Ian Barrows, who finished 16th overall, enjoyed the team racing. “We’d been practicing our team racing strategies for awhile and it paid off. I think the fleet racing practice helped too. When we all got better at fleet racing individually, we did better in team racing too.”
Fellow islander, and the lone girl on the U.S. Virgin Islands’ team, Nikki Barnes, enjoyed team racing too. “We knew just how to mess people up without messing ourselves up, and how to go fast at the same time.”
Agustin “Argy” Resano, coach of the Virgin Islands team said, “We went to this event to practice starts. It’s important, especially here in the Caribbean where fleets are small, to be able to have a 60 or 80 boat start line to practice. I think we accomplished our goal. All of the sailors did very well with their starts.”
Caribbean sailors from several islands will be competing in the Optimist North American Championships held in Nuevo Vallarta, Mexico, July 7 to 15; and then to the Optimist Worlds Championships, held July 22 to August 2, in Cagliari, on the Italian island of Sardinia. Good luck to all!
RESULTS: CARIBBEAN COMPETITORS
1. Raul Rios, Puerto Rico
7. Jose Nigaglioni, Puerto Rico
8. Alexander Coyle, St. John, USVI
16. Ian Barrows, St. Thomas, USVI
31. Ramon Gonzalez, Puerto Rico
86. Wesley Scott, Trinidad & Tobago
88. Fernando Monllor, Puerto Rico
97. Nikki Barnes, St. Thomas, USVI
111. Alejandro Monllor, Puerto Rico
142. Kyle Brego, St. John, USVI
143. Nicholas Knox, Trinidad & Tobago
167. Mark Peters, Trinidad & Tobago
180. Russell Franklin, Trinidad & Tobago
185. Jesse Vokaty, Trinidad & Tobago