The Puerto Rico Heineken International Regatta and Puerto Rico International Dinghy Regatta came back strong after a one year hiatus when a total of 55 boats set sail May 24 to 26 out of Palmas del Mar Yacht Club, in Humacao. Jaime Torres’ new Melges 32, Smile and Wave, won the highly-competitive CSA Spinnaker Racing Class with six bullets in ten races over three days of sailing. This feat earned a happy Torres his weight in Heineken beer (seven cases!).
“Lumpy seas and light winds proved challenging,” says Torres, who beat out top Puerto Rican and Caribbean teams such as Dark Star and Lazy Dog. “Our learning curve on the 32 has been steep. The key combo that raised our performance level has been training with a top level pro/coach [Martin Kullman] and racing against world class teams at this year’s OtterBox® Melges 32 Virgin Island Sailing Series.”
Felix Cruz, driving his Olson 30, Geronimo, won the CSA Spinnaker B Class, while the J/92, Anchor Heat, took first place in the Jib & Main class and the Tripp 26, Ladies First, helmed by Mariano Richiusa, led Cruising.
The popularity of one-design racing showed in the regatta with IC-24s, J/24s and Nativos (Chalanas) taking part.
In the IC-24s, Orion won, but without three of its regular crew members – Fraito Lugo, Melvin Gonzales and Robbie Ramos Jr., who had previous commitments. This made winning even sweeter, says Robbie Ramos, Sr. “Although there were only five ICs in our class, it was a constant battle against all of them with Team Urayo-Por Fin, owned by veteran sailor Fernando Irizarry and skippered by superfast Stanley Lopez, always a top contender. We finished tied for first place with them, but beat them in the last race. I believe what helped us to win was anticipating what to do on all crossings and in all possible changes in wind direction and strength and, finally, constantly adjusting the sails.”
Carlos Feliciano’s J/24 Tax Return/El Payo Asado won its class, and Juan Carlos Martes led in the Nativos aboard Comercial Collazo.
The Puerto Rico International Dinghy Regatta sailed simultaneously and featured classes for Laser Radials as well as Optimist, Sunfish and Hobie Cats.
“Rainclouds kept coming one after another and made it challenging,” says Ramón González who topped Laser Radials. “I made a few mistakes in two races and I had to work a lot to climb back up. Fortunately I managed to maintain a good lead along the whole regatta.”
González adds, “I did this regatta in Radials to train. My goals are big for the next year: to win a medal in Mexico’s CAC Games and to qualify Puerto Rico for the 2016 Olympic Games at the ISAF World Championship 2014 in Santander. I will do everything I can to take my country to the Olympic Games for the first time in the Laser class.
Meanwhile, Ricardo Valenzuela won the Optimists, Roberto Puig the Sunfish Open, and Francisco Figueroa and Jolliam Berrios the Hobie Cats.
This year both the Heineken Brand and the Federacion de Vela de Puerto Rico decided to go ahead with the regatta, explains regatta director, Raul Rios. “We changed the date to Memorial Day weekend and although we only had two months to plan, we were able to make it possible. The Puerto Rico International Heineken Regatta is very important for the Puerto Rican sailing community and we hope to attract even more sailors and spectators next year.”
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Carol M. Bareuther, RD, is a St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands based marine writer and registered dietitian.