A horn blasts. The race is over. There follows a lone cry that is heard throughout the fleet and over the seas – “Fiaap Yes!” This is the battle cry of Carlos Montull, one of the longtime crewmembers aboard Michael Serralles’ Ponce, Puerto Rico-based, Don Q Racing Team.
“It’s Carlos’ war call, what he yells when he’s happy and on the way into the bar. It gets better when he’s had a beer or two,” says Serralles, who is an avid sailor and member of the family that founded Serralles Distillers, Inc., producers of Don Q rum, back in the 1800s.
Serralles’ has found Montull’s happy howl so synonymous with the Don Q Racing Team’s spirit that he’s named his latest boat, a Henderson 30, Fiaap Yes! “We’ll be sailing it in the Discover the Caribbean Series and the spring regattas next year,” says Serralles.
The Team has long sailed together on a number of different boats. “I’ve sailed with the same core group since 1979,” Serralles explains. “The first major race we did together was Around Puerto Rico. I decided that I needed experienced sailors for this long and difficult race, the right group of guys. Carlos was one of them.”
Serralles’ raced his Ranger 28 back in 1979, but interestingly, he wasn’t always a sailor. “I raced powerboats and water-skied up until 1974. Then, Robbie Ramos, who was the Hobie dealer at the time, and his brother, Eddie, got me interested in sailing catamarans. They promised me that I’d like the speed and I did, I was hooked.”
After the Ranger 28, Serralles’ progressed to a Baltic 39 that was built in Finland. “I had taken it over to race Rolex in St. Thomas and left it there after the regatta. It was stolen. I hired an investigator and we found that it had ended up in South America,” Serralles’ explains.
In 1986, Serralles moved up to a Beneteau First, then a J/41 in 1989/1990 and finally a J/39 in 1994/1995. It is aboard this last boat, and the J/120 that followed, where the team’s tradition of wearing their signature red Don Q shirts began.
“We might not win a lot of races,” says Serralles, “but we’re always the first to have fun – first to get to the bar, first to start a conga line. In fact, Jim Long of Caribbean Boating once called us the party animal crew. We like to go out, have a good time and celebrate – celebrate whoever won. After all, whenever there’s a regatta, there’s always going to be a winner and that’s something to celebrate.”