Photo by Carlos g. LeePhoto by Carlos g. Lee

San Sebastian Vela CUP Starts the Party at the 2015 Melges 32 Caribbean Championship Series

6 February 2015

By Jaime Torres, Owner on Smile and Wave — The only thing better than the sailing in Puerto Rico is the post race partying. After two days of hotly contested racing in unusual, light and shifty breeze at the San Sebastian Vela Cup, Smile and Wave came away with a solid win to start the 2015 Caribbean Championship Series hosted by the Melges 32 Caribbean Fleet.

This event was the first event of the 2015 Melges 32 Caribbean Championship Series comprising 8 events in the Northern Caribbean. With 5 boats actively racing in the area, we expect lots of great on-the-water action to match the sensational onshore party scene Caribbean events are known for.

With the reliable trades being replaced by a light, shifty Northerly, the racecourse shifted to  San Juan Bay which was a fun, new experience even for us locals. While its difficult to find joy in light air sailing when so often we are surfing down waves at 20 knots it was, the different conditions provided a new view we don’t often get to see. The windward mark was within a stone’s throw of the packed streets of gorgeous Old San Juan providing a stadium sailing feel with spectators watching and cheering the racers! Sailing in extremely light and shifty breeze put a huge premium on situational awareness and boat handling skills that we rarely need. Having 15 Melges 32s racing in this environment would be a huge thrill and is something we hope to achieve in the near future.

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Tough day one of racing at SSVC. A very fluky and light breeze from the North filled the San Juan Bay in patches. A few days of prepping the boat and a day of practice were not quite enough as the three boat fleet struggled to find the correct mode and keep their boats moving fast.

After horrible first start, we were sent on a downward spiral as the other two boats simply sailed away from us. SOCA was looking sexy, sporting a wild new paint job and lots of speed as was Lazy Dog. We were so far back that I couldn’t even do a recap of the race!

Race #1 Lazy Dog, SOCA, Smile n Wave (DFL by a mile!)

The second start was not as bad but our lack of speed was truly appalling and we found ourselves way back even after the short first windward leg. The breeze was still very shifty but now up to around 10 knots. Lazy Dog again led to the first mark with SOCA in close second. But SOCA missed the first reaching mark (don't ask) and had to sail back upwind to make it. Lazy Dog continued to sail farther away from us and SOCA threatened to catch up even after navigational cluster. That is how fast they were going (or how slow we were). Obviously something was way off on our tuning.

Race #2 Lazy Dog, Smile n Wave and SOCA

After a quick lunch, Alex Shafer, our star trimmer from Orlando, Florida, re-tuned the rig and we switched to our medium jib. We went for our third start all pumped up and scored a winning pin end start. We were pleasantly surprised to have our speed back! We led to the first mark with SOCA and Lazy Dog trading tacks behind us.

SOCA struggled downwind and they struggled with the Rum Squall the night prior, or just had trouble finding marks, they nearly missed the reaching mark and then caught it will their retrieval line as they closed reached up to it at the last minute.

We managed to keep Lazy Dog just off us as they aggressively attacked on the downwind. Upwind we rocked up in phase with every little shift to extend a good amount and closed the day with a bullet.

Race #3 Smile n Wave, Lazy Dog, SOCA

We started slow but built on our mistakes from the first day and put together a nice string of 3 first places. The best part of the racing was being able to bounce back by retuning and gaining lots of new insight into light air sailing that is so rare here in the tradewinds-infested Caribbean. SOCA also came back into form to beat LD in the first 2 of the 3 races on Sunday.

The awards took place at the newly refurbished Sailing Center at Club Nautico de San Juan, the event organizers.

1. Smile and Wave, Jaime Torres,  (3), 2, 1, 1, 1, 1 = 6
2. Lazy Dog, Sergio Sagramoso, 1, 1, 2, (3), 3, 2 = 9
3. SOCA, Luis Juarbe, 2, 3, (4), 2, 2, 3 = 12

The series is scored using each boat’s best 5 events. Teams get one point for competing, one point for every boat they beat and one bonus point for first place. The eight events happen over the course of the whole year in 5 different islands.

There is still plenty of opportunity to get your boat down to the Caribbean and join the fun this spring. If you need info please contact Jaime Torres.

Here is the schedule:
Vela Cup; San Juan, Puerto Rico - January 17-18
SXM Heineken Regatta; St. Maarten, FWI - March 5-8
Puerto del Rey Sailing Challenge; Fajardo, Puerto Rico - March 21-22
St. Thomas International Regatta; St. Thomas, USVI - March 27-29
Puerto Rico International; Palmas del Mar, Puerto Rico - May 23-25
Discover The Caribbean; Ponce, Puerto Rico - October 30 - November 1
St. Croiz International Regatta; St. Croix, USVI - November 13-15

Many thanks to the crew that put this fun event together, Marcos Teixidor and David Kerr and the many volunteers that made it great. Special thanks to the other Melges 32 teams that pushed us to improve without stopping.

Team Smile and Wave for this weekend:
Alex Shafer on trim and almost flawless tactics
Carlos Marrero on main
Miguel Beltran on offside trim and sea-wig removal
Brian from Seattle floating
George Polish on pit and feeding
Meg Hislop on being a human sheet stopper and mast goddess
Gretchen Ortiz on bow and boat re-assembly for SOCA
Jaime Torres packing and dehumidifying

Next up it’s the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta March 5-8. Stay tuned.