Aug. 4, 2002 – The crème de la crème of Caribbean small boat racers gathered in St. John's Coral Bay on Saturday and Sunday for the annual Caribbean Dinghy Championship. When the last sail was furled on Lasers, Sunfish and Optimists, five Puerto Ricans went home with the team championship.
"We were all helping each other. We were giving tips," said Puerto Rican Gabriel Bonnin, a 15-year-old who raced in the Sunfish age 16 and under class.
The youngest sailor at the event hailed from Puerto Rico. Ivan Aponte, 9, who won the Optimist age 8-11 fleet, said his secret to success was "practice."
St. Croix captured the second place team championship and Trinidad, the third place.
The event also saw teams from Antigua, Martinique, St. John, St. Thomas and Tortola participate. All sailors had to qualify to make their island team. A total of 48 sailors, including some adults, participated. "It increases enthusiasm for the sport and for our area," said Fletcher Pitts, who helped organized the event.
Sanctioned by the Caribbean Sailing Association, the championship regatta it was organized by the St. John Kids and the Sea program, better known as KATS. The program teaches sailing and other nautical skills to St. John youths.
Pitts' wife, Robin Clair Pitts, said it was an honor to have KATS chosen as the organizing authority for the event this year, the first time it was held on St. John.
She said it took a lot of work to get all the KATS boats in tip-top condition. She noted that it was crucial that the boats in each class be exactly the same, because the light air on both days left no room for error.
"Tactics were very important," added Cat Taylor, a KATS volunteer.
The team from Antigua captured the sportsmanship award. Organizers said the Antiguans arrived a day early to help set up the event and showed great enthusiasm. "They were a friend to all," said Jennifer Robinson, who with Bernie Sheehan handed out the awards at the ceremony held Sunday afternoon at Skinny Legs Bar and Restaurant in Coral Bay.
One of St. John's best young sailors, Ian Beam, 17, took home first in the Laser Radial fleet. "I stuck to the left side of the course," he said, getting ready to chow down on the Mexican dinner served after the awards ceremony.
Crucian Scott Stanton also had a first-place finish, in the Sunfish 17 and older class.
While sailing in the Coral Bay harbor was the main event, some of the racers showed lots of enthusiasm for being on St. John. "Girls," explained the mother of one racer in the midst of an interview. Indeed, quite a number of young St. John women were on hand to cheer their favorites. Even those sailors who didn't go home with a prize said they enjoyed the chance to hone their skills.
St. John resident J'Moi Powell, 10, said that he "went halfway to the second buoy that was before the windward buoy" before tacking, a tactic that helped him win one of his six races.
And St. John resident Revel Boulon, 17, said he liked the fun atmosphere of the event. "It wasn't like serious competition among the racers," he said.
1. Ian Beam, St. John
2. Peter Stanton, St. Croix
3. Amymeric Pinto, Martinique.
1. Alejandro Berris, Puerto Rico.
2. Karl James, Antigua,
3. Timothy Barr, Trinidad
Sunfish, age 16 and under
1. Adrian Affou, Trinidad.
2. Gabriel Bonnin, Puerto Rico.
3. Ray Porter, Antigua.
Sunfish, age 17 and older
1. Scott Stanton, St. Croix.
2. Shawn Malone, Antigua.
3. Chris Thompson, St. Thomas.
Optimist, ages 8-11
1. Ivan Aponte, Puerto Rico.
2. Alec Anderson, British Virgin Islands.
3. Jonathon Lapiquonne, Martinique.
Optimist, ages 12-15
1. David Alfonso, Puerto Rico.
2. Jean Baptiste Rimbaud, Martinique.
3. Ryan Costanzo, St. John.
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