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Columbus Day Regatta Is A Beginner's Dream

Oct. 9, 2001 – Caribbean-perfect sailing conditions — 15-plus knots of breeze and bright blue skies — sandwiched between Hurricane Iris and Tropical Storm Jerry made for excellent racing over the weekend at the Columbus Day Regatta hosted by the St. Thomas Yacht Club.
In the final event of the 11-race series, St. John beginning Optimist dinghy sailor Hugo Roller III stole the show by handily beating all 19 other Optimist sailors from the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, most of them older and more experienced Red, Blue and White Fleet sailors.
"I don’t think this has ever been done in the history of the STYC," regatta director Shep Barrows said.
Hugo’s explanation was: "I like to go where it isn’t as crowded, so I sailed all the way to the right up to the windward mark." The move broke the young sailor free of the heavy current plus enabled him to catch a wind shift that propelled him out in front by a comfortable lead of 8 to 10 boat lengths. Once out in front, he pursued a smart tactical game plan.
"I knew just where I was going, but I was afraid the bigger kids were going to catch me," he said. Therefore, glancing at the closest competitor behind him, fellow St. Johnian Ryan Costanzo, 14, Hugo tacked when Ryan did, covering the Red Fleet sailor all the way to the finish line.
In the advanced Optimist Fleets, St. Thomas’s Cy Thompson won the overall award, followed by Puerto Rico’s Carlos Teixidor and St. Thomas’s Taylor Canfield. "The competition was tough out there, especially Carlos," Cy said shortly before the awards presentation. When the sea spray settled, just 4 points separated the two.
By fleet, Cy was the winner in the Red Fleet (ages 13-15), Carlos captured first place in the Blue Fleet (ages 11 and 12), St. Thomas’s Tyler Rice finished first in the White Fleet (ages 10 and under), and Hugo finished first in the Green Fleet (beginners).
In September, Hugo came in third in the Green Beginner Fleet at the International KATS Cup Regatta. "He’s been sailing about a year," his father, Hugo Roller Jr., said. The two of them attended the Optimist Nationals in Barrington, Rhode Island, this summer, but Hugo Jr. added, "We really have to give a lot of credit to the St. John KATS [Kids and the Sea] program."
The annual regatta was started five years ago to foster more small-boat racing. In keeping with that concept, two new fleets, Laser and smaller-rigged Laser Radial, were added to the event last year.
"I really spanked the Radial Fleet. I couldn’t compete with the big dogs, but I did take them down at least four times," Laser Radial Fleet winner Paul Stoeken of St. Thomas said. The "big dogs" included St. Thomas’s Brett Clark, who smoked down the course at top speed in his standard-rigged Laser. "I haven’t touched a Laser in four years," Clark said. "I’ve been doing a lot of snow boarding in the States instead. But my friends kept urging me to come out and race."
Laser Radial entries far outnumbered those in the standard-rigged fleet and saw lots of heavy competition within the class. "I haven’t sailed Lasers for a while," Stoeken said, and for the first day he was asking Barrows for tips on tuning his rigging. "I guess you can say the coach was being coached," said Stoeken, who is junior sailing instructor at STYC.
Barrows and St. John’s Ian Beam were hot on Stoeken’s tail for much of the regatta. "It was certainly competitive out there," said Beam, who won Best Junior Laser Radial Sailor. St. John’s Sarah Swan earned the Best Female Laser Radial Sailor award.
"It was really a great regatta. The conditions were great, and so was the competition," Barrows said at the awards ceremony.

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