Jaime Torres is a fixture around the Caribbean racing scene and has been for decades. He grew up in Puerto Rico and is a funny, lovable, kind person who loves to sail more than anything. His sailing background is a humble story: his dad was in the navy in the 50s and 60s, and when he made a little money, he bought a small sailboat and taught himself how to sail. Jaime went along for the ride.
“I didn’t grow up in a yacht club environment learning to sail on Optis and 420s etc., the way most kids do it now,” Torres recalled. “I just sailed with dad and as I got older, I took on bigger roles on other sailboats.”
While he was still sailing and going to college, Torres worked as a sailmaker for North Sails in Newport, RI., and in St Thomas. He worked and lived in the Virgin Islands for some time and became involved with youth sailing. After college circa 1985, he moved to Hawaii where he worked as a sailmaker and discovered windsurfing.
For twenty-five years it was game over for sailboat racing and game on for windsurfing during that sport’s heyday; he became a race organizer, a windsurf racer, and knew all the pros because he worked for Maui Sails which was the R&D arm of Neil Pryde.
“All the pros were flowing through the loft, it was a really exciting time to be involved in windsurfing,” Torres noted.
He got drawn back into sailboat racing when he was back in Puerto Rico around 2005 when he was invited to race on Titan, a sailing program with deep pockets.
“I did a couple of deliveries, and we did Fort Lauderdale to Montego Bay, St Maarten, BVI Spring Regatta, Antigua Sailing Week and I helped on the deliveries in between; I was hooked,” Torres said. “When you are a low-level crew on an all-pro boat you don’t get too many exciting jobs, but I loved the sailing.”
Living back in Puerto Rico he started Velauno, a successful water sports shop, bringing new sports and equipment like kiteboarding to the island, and then standup paddle boarding. But he was so focused on wanting to go sailboat racing that he admits that was probably the downfall of his business.
“I wasn’t giving my business the attention it deserved, and it ultimately failed,” Torres said. “I instead became a sailboat captain, had lots of small jobs like running a small private yacht club in New York, sailboat deliveries and sail coaching.”
Torres is also race director for Antigua Sailing Week, which he really enjoys.
“I come from the racing side, I am a racer, and the people I serve are my friends and competitors so there is a good amount of pressure to get it right!” Torres smiled. “We put a massive effort into how we write our SIs and NORs, making sure our courses are labeled properly and after you do all that work some guy points out an error…it’s a human job!”
Over the past two years at Spring Regatta, Torres has been racing his Melges 32 Smile and Wave, a class he absolutely loves. He bought the boat around 2012 to race the Caribbean circuit, then in 2015 he put the boat in storage as he couldn’t afford to campaign it. The boat remained in a warehouse in Puerto Rico for seven years until he found the means to refit it and bring it back to race BVI Spring Regatta in 2022.
“The boat was designed in 2005 and was way ahead of its time in terms of performance,” Torres explained. “There is so much bang for the buck if you like high performance, the boat goes like a rocket ship – you can see it here this week,” Torres commented. “The Cape 31s racing in our class have twenty years of development on the Melges 32, yet we are fighting it out not just on rating but on boat for boat racing.”
Torres’ eight-strong crew are from around the Caribbean – Puerto Rico, St John, and St Croix; some have been sailing with him for eleven years.
“We love the people we sail with; we love sailing this boat, and we love sailing against very strong competition,” Torres said. “We have not had as much competition racing this boat as we are enjoying this week, our competitors have helped us raise our level by just being out there – they’re pushing us to places where we’ve never been which is right here and beating the professionals. We hike hard, we try hard, we have a boat that we need to patch occasionally because it’s twenty years old but we’re okay with that!”
Torres resides in St Petersburg, FL, with his wife and teen-age daughter, where he works as a sailing instructor and part-time delivery captain, and takes full-time care of his dad who is ninety-two. – Michelle Slade