USA’s Wiley Rogers, above, sailed to victory in the 2011 Soctiabank Regatta out of St. Thomas Yacht Club. Photo by Dean Barnes
Sailing fast and hitting the wind shifts “just right” is what led 11-year-old Wiley Rogers, from Houston, Texas, to win the 19th annual Scotiabank International Optimist Regatta, hosted out of the St. Thomas Yacht Club, from June 24 to 26.
“The waves and wind are what I like about sailing here,” said Rogers, who led going into the last day and held his lead in spite of 2010 defending champion, Jorge Gonzalez from Puerto Rico, winning the last race and closing the score gap to a mere seven points after 11 races.
“I also like meeting so many kids from other countries,” said Rogers. “Jorge is very good and very fast upwind. He has been like a brother to me the last three years I’ve sailed in this regatta.”
Gonzalez finished second, while St. Thomas’ Scott McKenzie placed third overall. McKenzie was also the top scoring U.S. Virgin Islands sailor.
Seventy-nine sailors ages 8 to 15 years from 10 nations — Barbados, the British Virgin Islands, Curacao, Canada, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, St. Maarten, Trinidad & Tobago, the United States and all three U.S. Virgin Islands — set sail in this Virgin Islands Sailing Association sanctioned event. Eleven races were completed for the Advanced Red, White and Blue Fleets and 19 for the Beginner Green Fleets.
Gonzalez’s finish earned him a first place in the 13- to 15-year-old Red Fleet.
“I hadn’t sailed for two weeks before this regatta, so I felt nervous at first,” said the 15-year-old Gonzalez who will compete in the Optimist North American Championships in Long Beach, California, next week. “Then, I started sailing and going fast. But, it wasn’t that easy to win this year.”
Eleven-year-old Rogers also won the 11- to 12-year-old Blue Fleet. Rogers’ 9-year-old brother, Zane, bested the 10- and under White Fleet.
“Sailing in the clinic really helped me in the regatta,” said Zane Rogers, who credited his father for teaching him how to sail. “It helped me learn to get front row starts.”
The Scotiabank International Optimist Regatta marked only the second regatta that St. Thomas’ Christopher Sharpless had ever sailed. Still, the 10-year-old handily won the Beginner Green Fleet against 28 other sailors from a host of locations.
“My goal was to really try hard because I really wanted to win,” said Sharpless. “My coach definitely pushed me hard and trained me well. It was a lot of fun.”
Fifteen-year-old Justina Pacheco, from the Dominican Republic, finished as Best Female and fifth overall.
“I’ve been training very hard, four days a week,” says Pacheco, who earned Top Girl and 7th overall at the Optimist South American Championships in Chile in April. “Here, I looked at the wind and waves and tried to make the best calls. It paid off.”
Puerto Rico’s Miguel Monllor won the Pete Ives Award, given for a combination of sailing prowess, sportsmanship, determination and good attitude both on and off the water. Meanwhile, Trinidad & Tobago’s Abigail Affoo won the Chuck Fuller Sportsmanship Award.
The regatta’s Principal Race Officer, Ken Legler, who is also the Head Sailing Coach at Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts, was impressed with the fleet.
“All the kids handled their boats well, surfing downwind and wave jumping upwind,” Legler said.
The Scotiabank International Optimist Regatta has been sponsored by Scotiabank almost since the event’s inception.
The week started off with the Sea Star Clinic, run from coaches from OptiSailors.com, and included the one-day Sea Star Team Race on Thursday.
For full results, visit www.regattanetwork.com and for more information about the regatta, visit www.styc.net. Also visit the Scotiabank International Optimist Regatta on Facebook.