The waters off Puerto Rico’s beautiful south coast city of Ponce were alive with a celebration of sailing last November for the Ponce Yacht & Fishing Club (PYFC)’s 22nd Discover the Caribbean Series (DCS), A Sailing Festival’. This four weekend-in-a-row event really spotlighted some incredible talent.
A mix of heavy and light winds created challenging sailing conditions for the traditional two-weekend big boat regatta which saw 38 yachts compete in eight classes. The competition was so close in many of the classes, which ranged from locally-built wooden chalanas to sleek fiberglass production boats and one-design J/24s and IC24s to PHRF racers and cruisers, that many winners weren’t decided until the last race.
This was especially true in the Cruising Class where Juan Bosch, driving his J/110 Candela triumphed over Emilio Bonet’s ONC 2C by one point.
“Points between the class were very close,” says Bosch. “The race we enjoyed the most was the first race on the second weekend. The wind shifted 360 degrees and speeds varied from zero to up to ten knots. This race used all of our skills to come from a last place to first place. We did this by focusing on boat speed, very aggressive mainsail trimming and anticipating wind changes and puffs.”
Competition was equally keen in Racing A. Sergio Sagramoso, on his brand new J/122 Lazy Dog handed Quique Gonzalez, helming his J/80 Otra Kosa second place by three points.
“It was interesting because we were racing quite different boats, from a J/80 to a Henderson 30 to us, and this meant that, even though we were ahead boat for boat by a long shot, we still had to keep pushing hard to beat out the smaller boats on corrected time,” says Sagramoso. “We were initially trailing Otra Kosa and only won after discarding the throw-out.”
It was a battle of the generations in the IC24 class, where Robbie Ramos – who won many regattas in the 1980s sailing as tactician with Eric Tulla on Son of Syndicate, triumphed by eight points over second place finisher, Jorge Santiago – who won a silver medal in the J/24 at the 2010 CAC Games.
“Jorge and his crew were in the lead on the first couple of races, but at the end of the first weekend, I along with my crew on Orion was first by just two points,” Ramos explains. “The second weekend I kept my lead on Saturday and won the class, since Sunday’s race was cancelled due to lack of wind. Great team work and very good tactics were the key elements to our success.”
The last weekend of the DCS featured the Discover Dinghy Regatta, which offered Olympic style racing to top contenders shooting it out on the water in Sunfish, Laser, and Optimist classes. Alejandro Monllor won first prize in the Sunfish division, out-sailing his mentor, PYFC Junior Sailing Coach Jorge Santiago, while Monllor’s brother, Miguel, won the top prize overall in the Optimist division.
“I placed third only in the first race but then all the races were exciting as I placed bullets in all of them,” says Monllor. “My strategy was always good starts. Besides the starts I need always speed because it was light wind. I’m really happy for winning this regatta; it was a qualifier for the national team.”
Finally, this year’s DSC started off with the Escape to Coffin Island Stand-Up Paddle Board Race. The event featured a mix of elite and open-class racers as well as novice paddlers and juniors as young as nine-years-old.
“Conditions turned to a ‘no winder’ making for a flat and hot 8.5-mile paddle board race,” says organizer, Heather Baus.
Elvin Maldonado won the men’s division and the overall prize, while Baus placed first in the women’s division. Nine-year-old Savannah Baus and 12-year old Bobby Flynn were the youngest competitors and both completed their first elite race. First overall open class male finisher was Pablo Cabral with Rosaly Garcia tops in the women.
Carol M. Bareuther, RD, is a St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands based marine writer and registered dietitian.