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CSA Handicap Racing Returns to San Juan, Puerto Rico
CSA handicap racing made a triunphant return the waters of San Juan, Puerto Rico this past weekend, Feb 1-3 as nine boats sailed 7 seven races in perfect conditions in and out of San Juan Bay next to the historic Morro Castle.
With only few points separating the 1st from 3rd, the regatta winner was not decided until the last race. First place did not come easy for Umakua, Papote Reguero’s J105. His awesome comeback after a few years away from the race scene included a tie for 4th and OCS but his 5 bullets in the rest of the races set him up for strong win over Jaime Torres’ new Melges 32. His speed show going with the speedometer pegged at up to 18 knots earned him a second place finish in his second event of the season. Sergio Sagramosso’s J122 was sporting new sails and in spite of a few bad breaks still scored a podium finish.
Few places in the Caribbean can match the beautiful views the nearly 600 year old city offers the sailors. The imposing El Morro Castle at the harbour entrance is simply mind-blowing, specially when you are coming in on a broad reach at warp speed. And the upwind leg inside the San Antonio Channel is just too cool.
Sailors from six islands took home trophies from the 12th San Juan International Regatta (SJIR). The February 1 to 3 regatta hosted by Club Nautico de San Juan welcomed over 140 sailors in 102 boats racing in 10 classes. Conditions proved perfect with sunny skies and winds blowing under close to 20 knots all weekend. The mark of a truly great regatta is the opportunity for lots of racing. True to reputation, the SJIR Race Committee ran as many as 13 to 16 races over three days for the dinghy classes.
There were two one design keelboat classes. Puerto Rico’s Keki Figueroa won the 6-boat IC24 class by one point over second place finisher and fellow islander, Robbie Ramos. Fernando Irizzary rounded out third place. In the J/24 class, Puerto Rico’s Jose Fullana on KQLO placed first with Jaime Balzac driving Razzmatazz into second and Francisco Levy on Blow Me third. The race committee surprised most of these sailors by sending them out to race with the big boys in the big ocean and they loved it. The mix of gates in the w/l and the big wave open ocean races tested the racers on every level!
The Optimist dinghy represented the largest one-design fleet of the regatta with 60 boats and it was the BVI’s Sam Morrell winning the 13- to 15-year-old Red Fleet and the Advanced Optimist overall, followed by St. Thomas, USVI’s Scott McKenzie second and St. John, USVI’s Paige Clarke third.
“The conditions were generally good, but it was sometimes shifty,” explains Morrell. “The Lasers started before us, so my strategy was to look ahead right before our start to see how the wind was affecting them.”
In the 11- to 12-year-old Blue Fleet, Antigua’s Rocco Falcone led with fellow islander, Louis Bavay second and the BVI’s Thad Lettsome third.
“The winds here are just like where I train at home at the Antigua Yacht Club. That helped,” says Falcone, who receives expert coaching not only from the AYC sailing director, but also from his father, Carlo Falcone, of Caccia Ala Volpe fame.
St. Maarten’s Nathan Smith won the age 10- and-under White Fleet with a sizable lead over fellow competitors, St. John, USVI’s Mateo Di Blasi second and St. Thomas, USVI’s Julian van den Driessche third.
“This is the second time I’ve sailed in this regatta,” explains Smith. “That was helpful, because I knew where I was going and could focus on tactics.”
The puertorrican contingent made podium on the Green class but the visitors continued their winning ways. Antigua’s Daniel Smith championed the 23-boat beginner Optimist Green class. Puerto Rico’s Mauricio Porrata finished second and Jose Guillermo Mendez third.
In the Laser 4.7 Class, it was the BVI’s Matthew Oliver who triumphed. The race for second was a keen one with Puerto Rico’s Julio Rojo handing the BVI’s Mollee Donovan third. Though both tied in points, Rojo ended with a greater number of first place finishes.
Puerto Rico’s Pedro Fernandez led the Laser Radial Class with fellow islander, Agustin-Lazaro-Lugo, second and St. Martin’s Rhone Findlay third.
“I have a lot of passion for the sport,” says Fernandez of Laser sailing. “My father sailed Lasers and he helps me train. I train five days a week.”
In the Sunfish class, Puerto Rico’s Gregg Fyffe won with nearly flawless first place finishes.
“I finished second here last year,” says Fyffe. “I’m used to getting whipped by the kids, but not this time. It was a good regatta.”
“Club Nautico has really stepped it up this year” saided PR’s CSA rep, Jaime Torres. “The racing was first class but the biggest jump was on how together the shoreside acitivities were…great food everyday, amazing hospitality and very large group of volunteers that spread the love. This has always been a top of the line dinghy regatta but now CSA racing has a new regatta in beautiful Puerto Rico that is sure to grow into a major event soon!”