Two weekends of racing, one for big boats and the other for dinghies, made the Discover the Caribbean Series a perfect opportunity to explore the great combination of sociability and sailing conditions offered at the host Ponce Yacht & Fishing Club in Puerto Rico. Thirty-nine keelboats, including four one-design and three cruising classes, took part in the 27th annual series November 4 to 6, followed by over 80 junior sailors taking part in the dinghy portion of the event November 19 and 20.
The nine-boat IC24s proved the largest and most competitive keelboat class. Efrain ‘Fraito’ Lugo and his crew aboard Orion tied on points with Jaime Torre’s Smile and Wave, with Lugo’s three first place finishes over the eight races to Torres one bullet ultimately breaking the tie.
“Weather conditions were challenging with light to heavy winds and rain, plus, as we are accustomed to in the Discover, there was super tough competition. Our local IC24 fleet becomes more competitive and crowded each year,” says Lugo, who adds that Puerto Rico’s total IC24 fleet count is now 16.
New this year, organizers positioned three international umpires, two from the USA and one from Canada, on the water to make immediate calls in the event of potential protests in the IC24 class.
“It was a great success,” says the USA’s Don Makowiecki. “With roughly three competitors per judge we were able to cover all the boats all the time. There were several instances before the start and at mark roundings which resulted in protest flags from competitors. The judges, having observed the incidents were quickly able to decide as to the rules and penalize or exonerate boat(s) involved. The time usually reserved to hear protests was used to discuss incidents on the water and how the rules applied in a debrief. As a result, competitors gained in their knowledge of the rules and how judges think.”
In the four-boat one-design Hunter 216 class, it was Steven Rossy’s Tranquilein with Jose Nigaglioni at the helm and calling tactics that won. Nigaglioni, now a biomedical sciences graduate student at the University of Ponce, is a multi-time past winner of the Discover dinghy regatta in the Optimist class, and this year sailed both Discover weekends in the Hunter and then Sunfish.
“What I liked most was the opportunity to skipper a boat of more than fourteen feet in length. Also, to share my knowledge with my crew, Mr. Rossy, his wife and son, so that we could be a winning team. I felt so happy every time I saw the faces of pride and joy of Mr. Rossy and his family when we crossed the finish line in first place, knowing for sure that like me they were enjoying the racing,” says Nigaglioni.
Luis Santos and his friends and family crew, aboard his Pearson 33, Nomada, sailed to the top of the PHRF Jib & Main B class with four first place finishes.
“We always go out for fun, but good starts and good boat handling took us to the podium and that made it even more fun,” says Santos.
The social scene at Discover the Caribbean is always special.
“We promote a fun ambience with a festival that includes live music, a bazaar, kiosks, food trucks, bounce house for the kids and a lot more activities for visitors of all ages,” says regatta director Joel Santiago. “This year, we dedicated the regatta to Destileria Serralles and their prime Rum Don Q Cristal, which for over 70 years have supported our regattas.”
A possible record 83 junior sailors took part in the Discover the Caribbean Dinghy Regatta two weeks after the keelboat event. This is an important event for the island’s junior sailors as it’s the first of a series of five qualifiers to determine the sailors who will represent Puerto Rico at the 2017 Optimist World Championship in Thailand. Reese Zebrowski finished first in the Optimist Advanced, Riccardo Lopez-Cepero in the Optimist Intermediate and Roger Casellas in Optimist Green. In Sunfish, Ramon Gonzalez Bennazar won, while in Laser 4.7 Rafael Tirado was champion.
For full results, visit: www.yachtscoring.com/emenu.cfm?eID= 2798 and www.yachtscoring.com/event_results_cumulative.cfm?eID=2851