Puerto Rico Surfski & Kayak Championships 2009 - Race Report (** Pics **)

Tuesday, 16 June 2009 05:31 | Written by  Dorian Goldberg
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Fajardo, Puerto Rico, 7 June 2009:   The Puerto Rico Ocean Racing together with the Federation of Canoe & Kayaks of Puerto Rico, organized a 12 mile triangle between the coast of Fajardo and the Islands of Icacos and Palominos in front of the five-star El Conquistador Resort Hotel.

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Perfect Weather 

The forecast predicted a beautiful Sunday morning and so it was.  10 mph winds had started to blow at around 7:30 am as the competitors offloaded and lined up their surfskis on the grass. 

The craft had a courtesy inspection done by the Coast Guard Auxiliary Flotilla 112 (making sure everybody had their lifejackets, whistle, leash, hydration, and that the boats were seaworthy).  They also recommended that we carry a small mirror which could be used to signal for assistance.  Once this was done a small decal was issued indicating that you were good to go.

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Vibrant Green

Registration began promptly at 8 am, competitors were given a Vibrant Green event t-shirt (safety) and a bag of fruits and water bottles.  This was a category 3 event for PR paddlers (High Intensity, Experience, Resistance and Speed).  There were surfskis, OC1 and Kayaks; singles and doubles.

At 9:30 am the competitors had their final instructions of the course and safety information.

By the time the paddlers lined up for the 10 o'clock start, the wind had picked up to 15 mph and the seas were picking up. 

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First Leg

The first leg of the race was towards the North with the 2-3' swells coming from your starboard side - add on the wind and current and it made it quite challenging.  The fleet rapidly divided itself into groups.  The first 5 (1st Jaime Ponce followed closely by Derick Bezuidenhout, from Florida, and Hector ‘Red' Cartagena, 4th  Federico Muskus and 5th Tim Burke, from Maryland.

Side swells and current

After 35 minutes into the race, the lead boats approached the 1st mark at Icacos, you could see the power & sailboats lined up near the buoy cheering the competitors, Derick had taken the lead from Jaime by about half a boat length.  Red, Federico and Tim had not changed their positions.  The next leg was even tougher, now you were heading ESE with even bigger swells coming from your port side and more current. 

As you approached the island of Palominos, passing the anchored boats that were watching the race with enthusiasm, the conditions changed for the next 500m, the water was flat and no wind.  Once you rounded the mark it was a downwind run with gradual swells and wind increasing (the Island had shielded these from the competitors).  Derick and Jaime were still neck and neck at 1:04:00.  Jaime went to the left side of the course looking for the wind, swells and current to help him distance himself from Derick.  Derick went for the straighter line to the finish.  Jaime's strategy helped him gain and pass Derick and keep his 5 boat lead to the finish line.  3rd was Red followed by Federico in 4th and Tim in 5th place.

Downwind

There was a second battle going on with the 6th thru 8th place, Dixon Rivera, Antonio Perez and Carlos Rivera.  Dixon had maintained his 10 boat lead over Antonio up until Palomino's buoy where Antonio caught up with him and even Carlos (Antonio had a 10 boat lead over Carlos).  Downwind all three were lined up side by side, Dixon had gone to the left side of the course and Antonio the right side, Carlos stayed in the middle.  This was a 4 mile battle about who would ride & connect the most swells.  Antonio capsized within 250m of the finish line (this was his fourth time) and got up as quickly as he fell over and beat Dixon by only half a boat length, with Carlos behind Dixon by 2 boat lengths.

After all competitors arrived on shore and all the boats were back on the roof racks, a nice downpour reminded us it was time for awards. These were handcrafted by a local artisan.

Everybody was sharing their experience and stories of the race.  After the awards, we had a surprise birthday cake for Federico.

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I just started paddling surfskis last August, and this was my first event assisting on the escort boat.  My hat goes off to the captain, Victor, he did an excellent job of keeping close yet not in the way so as to be able to take videos, pictures and even give the starting signal.

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I want to thank all the organizers, the other escort boats, assistants, family and friends, Derick and Tim for flying in from the USA, and all the competitors, without all of you this event would not have been possible.

Next year's event is already on Agenda for March and God willing the Culebra Challenge will be back in June 2010.

Hope to see you all again.


Pics from Harry Negron!

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