The Smile and Wave sailing team dominated the third and last day of racing at the 41st BVI Spring Regatta & Sailing Festival, easily winning the day in CSA Class 3. The Beneteau First 40, driven by Puerto Rican businessman Jaime Torres and crewed by his almost entirely Puerto Rican team, scored a pair of bullets and a second place on the final day of racing for a solid second place at the BVI Spring Regatta.
'Competitors in all sports know what it feels like to be ‘in the zone,’ and that’s how we closed out our Caribbean season today,' Torres said. 'It’s one of the best feelings a team can get, and we really did come together and give it our all. I’m immensely proud of everyone’s performance.'
Torres’ torrid last-day performance wasn’t enough to earn a win in the highly competitive class, but it did provide a high note on which to end the team’s Caribbean winter sailing season. 'Once again we came up just a little bit short, but with 4 podium finishes in five regattas, we have a lot to feel good about,' he said.
Conditions on the water were lighter and shiftier than usual in the beautiful Sir Frances Drake Channel as over 100 boats raced for the regatta’s last day. The race committee ran three short windward-leeward races for Class 3, a set-up in which Smile and Wave reveled. 'We finally had the kind of grand prix courses that our crew enjoys the most,' said mainsheet trimmer Alan Block. 'With tons of action, highly tactical legs, and just as much thinking as there was doing, we couldn’t have asked for a better day.'
The final race also showed that the asymmetric spinnaker boats like the winning J/120 El Ocaso were plenty competitive in conventional race courses, and not just the less tactical reaching-specific races. 'All week the racing was tight between Rick and us, and they caught us in the final race by reaching up to a nice wind line and riding it down to the finish,' explained Torres.
El Ocaso won Class 3 with 13 points, Smile and Wave finished second with 18 points, and Smile and Wave sistership Lancelot II ended third with 32 points.
The BVI Spring Regatta & Sailing Festival is known for giving sailors a lot of racing in a short time. This year’s combination of windward-leeward and round-the-island race courses also included funky but fun variations like reaching and running starts. Class 3 completed a total of nine races in three days.
In the end, Torres said that El Ocaso unquestionably earned their victory. 'There was no boat better sailed than El Ocaso here and it showed in the results. We don’t feel like we lost the regatta – instead, they beat us. We’re privileged to have such fierce competitors in the Caribbean.'
Torres didn’t know he was in for a special honor when he and team climbed the stairs to receive their second-place trophy on Nanny Cay Marina’s pearly-white beach on Sunday night, and the crowd of hundreds erupted in applause when he was named the second-ever recipient of the Guy Eldridge Award for True Spirit and Enthusiasm. The trophy, named for the legendary BVI sailor, coach, and ambassador for Caribbean sailing, honors one sailor each year who brings the kind of passion to the sport that made Eldridge such a pillar of the sailing community. 'I’m stunned at receiving this honor,' Torres said, visibly humbled after the reception. 'Guy was the kind of person that touched literally everyone he came near with his exuberance and love of sailing, and if I can share my passion for sailing with a fraction of the people that he did, I’ll consider it a huge personal success.'
Torres was honored in part for his dedication to assimilating non-sailors into racing. 'We’ve had crew this season with America’s Cup and major grand prix one-design experience and we’ve had crew with less than six months of sailing under their belt, and the one thing they all have in common is that they are now part of the Smile and Wave family,' said Torres. Three crew at the BVI Spring Regatta have raced for less than one year. 'I feel extremely lucky that Jaime gave me a chance to race this week – I could never have learned so much from such good racers if not for Smile and Wave,' said mast man and new sailor Carlos Fuentes.
Smile and Wave’s crew is a mix of Puerto Rican and mainland U.S. sailors. From Puerto Rico, Torres on helm; Carlos Hernandez, spinnaker/jib trim; Mariano ‘Nano’ Ruiz, offside trim; George Polish, pit; Gretchen Ortiz, mid-bow; Raul de la Torres on the mast; and Jose ‘Yoyo’ Berrios navigating. From the U.S. comes Alan Block on mainsail trim, while St. Thomas resident and professional skipper Meg Hislop handles the work on the bow. Joining the crew for this event were crew trainees Carlos Fuentes as grinder and mast assist and Rafael Olivieri working the sewer.
Smile and Wave has enjoyed a strong 2012 season, earning a third in IRC3, fourth overall, and ‘Top Caribbean Boat’ in the RORC’s grueling Caribbean 600. In St. Maarten, Torres and crew ran away with the top performance in the Gill Commodore’s Cup, following it up with a sixth in class in the point-to-point-racing Heineken regatta. At the IRR, Smile and Wave finished second in CSA 2 just 0.5 points and one second on the race course from a Rolex and top honors.
What’s next for Smile and Wave? Puerto Rico’s offshore racing team will compete in regattas both at home and abroad for the remainder of 2012. Also in the cards is the potential for a new boat for 2013 – possibly a design with the kind of high performance the Smile and Wave team is now ready for after two years of competing in the cruiser/racer Beneteau First. No matter what, the team will always Smile and Wave their way back to the podium in the world’s great regattas.
Smile and Wave is sponsored by Banco Popular de Puerto Rico, Discovery Bay Resort and Marina and Sebago.
Smile and Wave’s 2012 Caribbean Regatta Schedule
Caribbean 600 - February 20 to February 24 – Antigua – third IRC 1
Gill Commodore’s Cup – March 1 – St. Maarten – first Gill 2
St. Maarten Heineken Regatta - March 2 to March 4 - St. Maarten – sixth CSA 4
International Rolex Regatta - March 23 to March 25 - St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands – second CSA 2
BVI Spring Regatta - March 30 to April 1 – Tortola, British Virgin Islands – second Class 3
Follow Smile and Wave on the scoreboard at the regatta website: www.bvispringregatta.com and in their race to the podium on their websitewww.smileandwave.ws, which features daily video, pictures and stories.
by Carol Bareuther
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6:59 PM Wed 4 Apr 2012GMT
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