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Succession and Savvy Sailing Mark Culebra Intl Dinghy Regatta

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Their names are much the same, but it’s their fleets that have changed. At the 3rd Annual Culebra International Dinghy Regatta, the Laser classes saw several ex-Optimist sailors compete and the Advanced Optis welcomed former Green Fleeters into their ranks.

Twenty-five junior sailors hailing from Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and British Virgin Islands raced in this March 10 to 11 event, sailed in Ensenada Honda, Culebra. Conditions proved tricky as the kids battled through gusty winds the first day and a lighter, yet shiftier, breeze the second.

Mother Nature’s curveballs proved especially tricky to those who had just made the leap from Optimist to Laser. Of course, this leads to the question: When is the right time for kids to switch classes? Is it solely based on age or are other factors involved?

Age—that is, turning 16 and ‘aging-out’ of the Optimist class—is what led Puerto Rico’s David Alfonso into Lasers.  “The tactics I learned on an Opti definitely help me in Laser sailing,” says Alfonso, who lost the lead in the Laser Radial fleet by four points to St. Thomas’ Tyler Rice.

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The BVI’s Alec Anderson, who also turned to Lasers on his 16th birthday two months ago, would have stayed in the boat longer if he could. “I miss Optis, the smallness of the boat, the whole circuit. It’s a lot easier than Lasers.”

But, Tyler Rice of St. Thomas bumped up into Lasers when he was 14, all due to weight. “I went to the Optimist Worlds in Switzerland in 2005. It was pretty windy, but I noticed that when the kids in front of me were really hiking, I was still inside my boat. I felt so slow, so I thought, ‘I’m outta here’.”

Rice adds, “I’ve been sailing Laser Radials for awhile, so I was comfortable being powered up this weekend. A lot of the kids just getting into Lasers were pretty depowered because of the heavier winds. You don’t really sail the same way, sail fast, when you’re that conservative.”

Puerto Rico’s Carmen Rivera also felt slow in an Opti. “The Laser is so much faster. I’m not bored like I was in an Opti.”  Rivera started practicing in a Laser right after the Opti North Americans in Ponce last summer. “My first regatta was in the fall. This was my second and it was a lot of fun.”

Competition as well as weight led St. Thomas’ Christopher Cilliers into Lasers. “I’m 12 and about to turn 13. That would have put me in Red Fleet and there weren’t a lot of kids sailing in Red. I wanted to compete more, be more active. So, I switched to Lasers.”

Looking to the future, St. Croix’s Billy Gibbons says it will likely be age that will determine when he moves out of Optis. “I’m small, so I can probably stay in the class until I’m 16. But after that, I eventually want a boat of my own. I mean a J/24 or J/30. A big boat. I’ve already let my parents know.”


1. Sam Woods, BVI (1)

1. Tyler Rice, St. Thomas, USVI (15)
2. David Alfonso, Puerto Rico (19)
3. Patrick Carolus, Puerto Rico (26)
4. Miguel Vega, Puerto Rico (35)
5. Christopher Cilliers, St. Thomas, USVI (49)
6. Jacy Haff, BVI (59)

1. Alec Anderson, BVI (15)
2. Carmen Rivera, Puerto Rico (22)

1. Raul Rios, Puerto Rico (17)
2. Fernando Monllor, Puerto Rico (22)
3. Billy Gibbons, St. Croix, USVI (32)
4. Ramon Gonzalez, Puerto Rico (32)
5. Juan Perdomo, Puerto Rico (37)
6. Jose Nigaglioni, Puerto Rico (43)
7. Alex Coyle, St. John, USVI (50)
8. Nikki Barnes, St. Thomas, USVI (53)
9. Ian Barrows, St. Thomas, USVI (55)
10. Manuel Gonzalez, Puerto Rico (74)
11. Addison Hackstaff, St. Thomas, USVI (82)
12. Mack Bryan, St. Croix, USVI (95)
13. Gabriel Cadenas, Puerto Rico (106)
14. Andre Reguero, Puerto Rico (107)
15. Fernando Ramirez, Puerto Rico (117)
16. Challis Diaz, St. Croix, USVI (120)

1. Raul Rios, Puerto Rico (17)
2. Fernando Monllor, Puerto Rico (22)
3. Billy Gibbons, St. Croix, USVI (32)
4. Ramon Gonzalez, Puerto Rico (32)
5. Jose Nigaglioni, Puerto Rico (43)
6. Alex Coyle, St. John, USVI (50)
7. Nikki Barnes, St. Thomas, USVI (53)
8. Gabriel Cadenas, Puerto Rico (106)

1. Juan Perdomo, Puerto Rico (37)
2. Ian Barrows, St. Thomas, USVI (55)
3. Manuel Gonzalez, Puerto Rico (74)
4. Challis Diaz, St. Croix, USVI (120)

1. Addison Hackstaff, St. Thomas, USVI (82)
2. Mack Bryan, St. Croix, USVI (95)
3. Andre Reguero, Puerto Rico (107)
4. Fernando Ramirez, Puerto Rico (117)

1. Eric Perez, Puerto Rico (8)
2. Alexandria Rich, St. Croix, USVI (12)
3. Lourdes Vega, Puerto Rico (25)
4. Leonard Gumbs, St. Thomas, USVI (25)
5. Scott McKenzie, St. Thomas, USVI (36)

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Carol M. Bareuther, RD, is a St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands based marine writer and registered dietitian.

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