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30th International Optimist Regatta, Tote Clinic & Team Race kicks off this week

by Carol Bareuther 12 Jun 11:07 PDT June 12-18, 2023
Optimists lined up on the beach in front of the St. Thomas Yacht Club © Matias Capizzano

The youth regatta that jump-started Optimist dinghy sailing in the Caribbean kicks off this week.

The TOTE Clinic happens today through Wednesday, the TOTE Team Race is on Thursday, and the International Optimist Regatta (IOR) runs from Friday through Sunday. What makes this coming week unique is the combination of instruction, team, and fleet racing, which includes beginners and advanced sailors alike, all in one event.

"We are thrilled to welcome the sailors and their families to the U.S. Virgin Islands. This event not only showcases the incredible talent and passion of these young athletes but also highlights the natural beauty and vibrant spirit of our islands. As we celebrate the 30th anniversary of this regatta, we look forward to providing an unforgettable experience filled with friendly competition, camaraderie, and the warm hospitality that our islands are known for," says Joseph Boschulte, Commissioner of the U.S. Virgin Islands Department of Tourism.

Youth sailors ready to race

A fleet of nearly 90 8- to 15-year-old sailors representing the U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, several states in the U.S.A., Argentina, Italy, and France will compete in 8-foot long single-sail Optimist in this trio of events.

"Sailing conditions in St. Thomas are very different from Miami where I usually sail," says Malo Dupuy, who sails at the Coral Reef Yacht Club. "It is my second time in St. Thomas. The last time taught me to pay more attention to currents and wind shifts, and therefore establish better race strategies. I hope to perform even better than the first time and think that I will really enjoy my week here in the strong wind."

For Puerto Rico's Diego Rivera-Hermida, who sails out of Club Nautico de San Juan and won the age 10 & Under Class at last year's event, "I look forward to seeing all my sailor friends and competing with them. The IOR is a very fun regatta on the water and land too. This regatta course is challenging because it has strong winds and big waves. The first time I sailed in this event was in 2021, and it has helped me improve my skills sailing in a big fleet."

Rivera-Hermida is one of the sailors who is sharpening his skills at the IOR in preparation for the Optimist North American Championships, which take place in Antigua & Barbuda next month.

The U.S. Virgin Islands is sending a team to this Continental competition too, all of whom are also racing in the IOR. These are Coby Fagan, Finn Hodgins, Avery Pearsall, Reagan Uszenski, Emma Walters, Howard Zimmerman, and Audrey Zimmerman.

"For me, the clinic is definitely the best part of the IOR because you get different tips from other coaches," says Audrey Zimmerman.

Three in one event

The impressive week of junior sailing kicked off today with the TOTE Clinic, June 12 to 14.

"We have a stellar lineup of coaches from all over the world. Most of these coaches have 10 to 20 years of international regatta coaching experience," says Agustin 'Argy' Resano, St. Thomas Yacht Club coach, and Clinic and Team Race organizer. "The clinic/regatta combo is the perfect training scenario, where sailors can develop their skills and then put that knowledge into practice."

The coaches, in alphabetical order with their affiliations, are Mykel Alonso (Coral Reef Yacht Club, FL, USA), Megan Cassidy (St. Thomas Yacht Club, USVI), Spencer LeGrande (St. Thomas Yacht Club, USVI), Joie Paciulli (St. Thomas Yacht Club, USVI), Gonzalo Pollitzer (Club Nautico San Isidro, Argentina), Agustin Resano (STYC, USVI), Manny Resano (JK Sailing, CA, USA), Esteban Rocha (Fort Lauderdale Yacht Club, FL, USA), and Emily Verdioa (St. Thomas Yacht Club, USVI).

On June 15, over a dozen teams are expected for the TOTE Maritime Team Race.

"The team racing event between the clinic and regatta gives a full experience, as it's different from fleet racing. In team racing, the sailors will race in teams of four," says Resano.

The IOR sets sail from June 16 to 18.

Trophies will be awarded to the top five finishers in the Red, Blue, and White classes and the top three overall as well as the top-place female. Participation awards will be awarded to all Green fleet sailors. Additional awards include the Peter Ives' Perpetual Trophy (superb sailor/individual), the Chuck Fuller Sportsmanship Perpetual Trophy, and the perpetual Founders Trophy, awarded to the Top Female Sailor.

Celebrating 30 years!

A vision to create a strong new program to train junior sailors in a boat sailed around the world led to the development of the then Caribbean International Optimist Regatta in 1993. This idea began when-then STYC junior sailing instructor, Karen Paige, took a group of sailors to the Orange Bowl Regatta in Florida and was amazed at how young sailors adeptly skippered the 8-foot single-sail Optimist dinghy. Paige enlisted the help of St. Thomas resident Henry Menin, who had several boats shipped from the U.S. mainland for the first event. The next year, the IOR caught the attention of the International Optimist Dinghy Association Class Administrator, Helen Mary Wilkes, who traveled from Ireland to attend. Afterward, she met with coaches from all three USVI, Puerto Rico, Antigua, Martinique, and Trinidad & Tobago to provide support for Optimist development programs throughout the Caribbean.

"It's exciting to look back over the past three decades since this event started in 1993, and to see alumni of this regatta excel to become high school national champions, college All-Americans, and on the world sailing stage, No. 1 ranked match racers, one-design class world champions, Olympians, and team members of America's Cup campaigns. Also, there are now over a dozen Caribbean islands with strong youth sailing programs that include the Optimist. As we turn the corner into the IOR's fourth decade, we look forward to providing an opportunity for our young competitors to contest their sailing skills but also to renew and forge new friendships," says Emily Zimmerman, regatta director and STYC commodore.

Strong sponsor support

Winners in the Red (ages 13-15), Blue (ages 11-12), and White (age 10 and under) fleets will receive signature Virgin Islands'-styled Lite Up Watches from Cardow Jewelers, each in coordinated Red, Blue, and White colors. Perfect for junior sailors, the kid-favorite timepieces are water-resistant and feature a silicon band, flashlight, light-up feature, and an outline of all three U.S. Virgin Islands on the face.

The IOR is sponsored by TOTE Maritime, the U.S. Virgin Islands Department of Tourism, Simmons Boatworks, Cardow Jewelers, K3 Waterproof Gear, MSI Building Supplies, and the St. Thomas Restaurant Group.

The IOR is sanctioned by the Caribbean Sailing Association.

This year's event will follow an eco-friendly theme. Sailors will be encouraged to recycle all plastic water bottles, keep all lunch bags and wrapping out of the water, pick up any trash on shore, and accept drinks without straws.

For more information, call (408) 314-7119, or Email: Or, for the Notice of Regatta (NOR), Results, and other information, visit the St. Thomas Yacht Club website or Regatta Network here.

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