Sailing fast and hitting the wind shifts “just right” is what led 11-year-old, Wiley Rogers, from Houston, Texas, to win the 19th annual Scotiabank International Optimist Regatta, held out of the St. Thomas Yacht Club, U.S. Virgin Islands, June 24 to 26. “The waves and wind are what I like about sailing here,” says Rogers, who led going into the last day and held his lead in spite of 2010 defending champion, Jorge Gonzalez from Puerto Rico, winning the last race and closing the score gap to a mere seven points after 11 races. “I also like meeting so many kids from other countries. Jorge is very good and very fast upwind. He has been like a brother to me the last three years I’ve sailed in this regatta.”
Gonzalez finished second, while St. Thomas’ Scott McKenzie placed third overall. McKenzie was also the top scoring U.S. Virgin Islands’ sailor.
Seventy-nine sailors ages 8 to 15 years from 10 nations – Barbados, the British Virgin Islands, Curacao, Canada, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, St. Maarten, Trinidad and Tobago, the United States and all three U.S. Virgin Islands – set sail in this Virgin Islands’ Sailing Association sanctioned event. Eleven races were completed for the Advanced Red, White and Blue Fleets and 19 for the Beginner Green Fleets.
Gonzalez’s finish earned him a first place in the 13- to 15-year-old Red Fleet.
“I hadn’t sailed for two weeks before this regatta, so I felt nervous at first,” says the 15-year-old Gonzalez who will compete in the Optimist North American Championships in Long Beach, California, next week. “Then, I started sailing and going fast. But, it wasn’t that easy to win this year.”
Eleven-year-old Rogers also won the 11- to 12-year-old Blue Fleet.
Interestingly, Rogers’ 9-year-old brother, Zane, bested the 10- and under White Fleet.
“Sailing in the clinic really helped me in the regatta,” says Zane Rogers, who credits his father for teaching him how to sail. “It helped me learn to get front row starts.”
The Scotiabank International Optimist Regatta marked only the second regatta that St. Thomas’ Christopher Sharpless had ever sailed. Still, the 10-year-old handily won the Beginner Green Fleet against 28 other sailors from a host of locations.
“My goal was to really try hard because I really wanted to win,” says Sharpless. “My coach definitely pushed me hard and trained me well. It was a lot of fun.”
Fifteen-year-old Justina Pacheco, from the Dominican Republic, finished as Best Female and fifth overall.
“I’ve been training very hard, four days a week,” says Pacheco, “who earned Top Girl and 7th overall at the Optimist South American Championships in Chile in April. “Here, I looked at the wind and waves and tried to make the best calls. It paid off.”
Puerto Rico’s Miguel Monllor won the Pete Ives Award, given for a combination of sailing prowess, sportsmanship, determination and good attitude both on and off the water.
Meanwhile, Trinidad and Tobago’s Abigail Affoo won the Chuck Fuller Sportsmanship Award.
The regatta’s Principal Race Officer, Ken Legler, who is also the Head Sailing Coach at Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts, was impressed with the fleet. “All the kids handled their boats well, surfing downwind and wave jumping upwind,” Legler says.
The Scotiabank International Optimist Regatta has been sponsored by Scotiabank almost since the event’s inception. The week started off with the Sea Star Clinic and included the one-day Sea Star Team Race on Thursday.
RESULTS (Top 3)
1. Jorge Gonzalez, Puerto Rico (40)
2. Justina Pacheco, Dominican Republic (70)
3. Mack Fox, USA (80)
1. Wiley Rogers, USA (33)
2. Scott McKenzie, St. Thomas, USVI (53)
3. Sam Morrell, BVI (69)
1. Zane Rogers, USA (283)
2. Juan Martin Pacheco, Dominican Republic (331)
3. AnaClare Sole, USA (351)
1. Christopher Sharpless, St. Thomas, USVI (45)
2. Jack Finley, St. Thomas, USVI (97)
3. Santiago Pacheco, Dominican Republic (105)
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