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Mexico Wins Caribbean Series; San Blas, Sailing Notes

By Gabrielle Paese

February 11, 2005
Copyright © 2005 PUERTO RICO HERALD. All Rights Reserved.

Used to be that Mexico was an easy rival for Puerto Rico at the Caribbean Series. This year, the tables were turned. Mexico’s team of Mazatlan, which hosted the annual February event, edged out a powerful Dominican Republic (Aguilas de Cibao) team loaded with major leaguers with a 4-3 win in the final for the Caribbean Series title.

Puerto Rico, meanwhile, was 1-4 and in last place for the second straight year. Mako Oliveras’ Mayaguez Indios struggled from the start and never got out of the cellar, winning only one game, a 4-3 victory over the Venezuela in 12 innings.

Mexico has officially established its presence in the area, winning its second title in the last four years. Prior to 2002, the Mexicans had only won the Caribbean Series three times in a 32-year span.

Kenya’s Kwambai wins San Blas Half Marathon, Ethiopia’s Alemu sets women’s mark

After two years of being a bridesmaid, Kenya’s James Kwambai finally threw the bouquet out himself last weekend.

The 21-year-old Kenyan won the San Blas Half Marathon in Coamo in 1:03.45, after having finished second in the venerable 13.1-mile race for the past two years.

"Training hard running down hills was the key to victory for Kwambai," said his agent, Gianfranco Spuntarelli. "He had lost San Blas twice in a row for not running hard enough down hills. Not this time. He worked very hard for this and he deserved to win."

Kwambai lost his debut race in 2003 to fellow Kenyan Philip Rugut and then lost to Sammy Korir in 2004 despite having a 200-yard lead with only four miles remaining.

"The third time was the charm for me," said Kwambai. "I knew I had to make some adjustments to win. This time I stayed close the pack for most of the race, taking it easy instead of speeding ahead early. I had more energy at the end. I finally did it. I’m a very happy man today."

Tanzania’s Simon Kiprop was second in 1:04.11, although he had to be treated for dehydration after the race.

Third place went to Kenya’s Titus Munji in 1:04:14, followed by Ethiopia’s Tekeste Kedebe (1:04:23), Portugal’s Salvador Antonio (1:04:58), Mexico’s Pablo Olmedo (1:05:15), Colombia Alirio Carrasco (1:05:29), Kenya’s Paul Kirui (1:05:39), Colombia’s Diego Colorado (1:05:44) and Venezuela’s Pedro Mora (1:06:11).

Ethiopia’s Elfnesh Alemu set a new women’s record for the course, finishing the 13.1-mile route in 1:12:57, and erasing the previous mark set by Russian Svetlana Zakharova (1:13.55 in 1999) by almost one minute. It was Alemu’s debut in Coamo and she led all women from start to finish, beating out second-place finisher Galina Alexandrova, of Russia, by nearly four minutes.

Miguel Cotto gears up for second title defense

World Boxing Organization junior welterweight champion Miguel Cotto (22-0, 18 KOs),of Caguas, will defend his title for the second time, this time on Feb. 26 at Bayamon’s Ruben Rodriguez Coliseum former WBO junior welterweight champion DeMarcus "Chop Chop" Corley (29-3-1, 16 KOs). Cotto got a new sparring partner, Jonathan Tubbs, last week to prepare for his battle versus a southpaw.

Cotto won the WBO junior welterweight title on Sept. 11, 2004 with a sixth-round TKO over formerly undefeated Kelson Pinto of Brazil in San Juan. He made his first successful defense of the title Dec. 11, when he knocked out former champ Randall Bailey in the sixth round of their fight in Las Vegas.

Puerto Rico to host two major regattas in March

As if there aren’t already enough of rules to the game, Puerto Rico’s sailing community will have to play by two sets come March when the island plays host to two major regattas one week apart.

While its common for the island to host a traditional spring regatta, a rules dispute has generated a second, rival race, to be held one week after the traditional one.

The traditional edition, the Bared Puerto Rico International Regatta, organized by Club Nautico, will be held March 11-13 this year. The debutante, the Culebra International Regatta, has reserve a date one week later, March 18-20 using the new Culebra resort, Costa Bonita, as home base.

"More regattas are always better," said Efrain "Fraito" Lugo, one of the island’s top J-24 sailors. "That said, the controversy over the [scoring] formulas directly affects some of the people."

The Culebra International Regatta will use the Caribbean Sailing Association (CSA) scoring system that previously held sway on the island. Last year, Club Nautico and the Bared Regatta switched to a different way of keeping score, from the CSA system to a Performance Handicap Racing Formula (PHRF) rating system. The PHRF is used in 12 major yacht clubs and in major races, including Key West, Block Island, Miami Sailing Week and Miami SORC.

Culebra regatta commodore Angel Ayala, a former Club Nautico commodore and J-80 sailor, has been outspoken in his opposition to the use of the PHRF system. He is quick to point out that no other Caribbean boats outside of Puerto Rico participated in the Bared Regatta last year and claims it was because of the rule change. So displeased was he with the PHRF system that Ayala opted this year to organize a regatta in Puerto Rico using the CSA rule.

"This all started with the good intentions of not losing the communication between sailors from the other Caribbean islands," said Ayala of the decision to establish a regatta in Culebra. "The CSA rule has been 30 years in the making and it is specifically designed for our area. We can’t use a rule system [PRHF] that is designed for South Florida in Caribbean waters. Their conditions are completely different."

Club Nautico Commodore Enrique "Quique" Gonzalez does not agree. He claims the PRHF system snuffs out the endless post-regatta arguments and complaints that left race committees locked in discussion until 1 a.m. when they should have been celebrating after a long day of racing.

"Under the CSA rule there was a lot of arguing," said Gonzalez. "We decided on the PHRF, but we are not administrating it. They have an incredible database and they are very professional, very organized and above all, very objective. No one in Puerto Rico is involved in the administration and it puts an end to those political discussions we used to have."

Gonzalez also added that Puerto Rico’s fleet uses the CSA system when it competes in other regattas in the Caribbean, as it will during races such as the Rolex International.

"Both systems are good. But here there are competitors like [Tom Hill’s] Titan [XII] that race under the PHRF in Key West. All rating systems work if they are well managed. The differences between the two systems is not the issue. It’s true what they [CSA] says that their system is simpler. But the problem with the CSA is its organization in Puerto Rico. They never could establish a measurer here. Several people tried but no one person lasted even a year."

Gonzalez attributes the Bared 2004 edition’s smaller numbers (not quite 40 boats competed) more to the date(Holy Week) of the race rather than the rating system used. With a new date this year, Gonzalez said he hopes to see about 60 boats compete. Lugo, the J-24 sailor, said he’ll attend both the Culebra and Bared Regattas.

"I’m going to compete in both because I’m a sailor and I enjoy the competition," said Lugo, who added that only six J-24 competed in the Bared regatta last year.

"The controversy is two-sided: On one hand, we benefit because we have another big event in which to compete. But on the other hand, the [CSA/PHRF] debate creates controversy and gossip.

"In the long run the controversy is going to be beneficial because people are starting to talk about it and look for a solution to the problem," said Lugo. "But right now, it’s a problem. In the end, I think we’ll try to bring out the best in both [rating system] institutions."

Gabrielle Paese is a sports reporter in San Juan. She was the 2000 recipient of the Overseas Press Club's Rafael Pont Flores Award for excellence in sports reporting. Comments or suggestions? Contact Gabrielle at

Her Column, Puerto Rico Sports Beat, appears weekly in the Puerto Rico Herald.

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