Club Nautico of San Juan
82 years of Tradition and Commitment to Puerto Rico
Brief history of the Club on the occasion of its 80th Anniversary
Since its founding in 1930, Club Nautico de San Juan has championed Puerto Rico’s nautical life through eight decades of meaningful history. Some highlights include the creation and expansion of the International Billfish Tournament, as well as hosting famous personalities, and investing in the Club's infrastructure to continue growing and reach new heights.
It all began when a group of enthusiasts of sailing, yachting, and recreational fishing formalized their first initiatives by opening a bank account with an initial deposit of $12.50. The first official activity --a regatta of all the members' sloops, barges and boats was held at the Condado Lagoon in 1930. In 1933, the foundations of the organization's headquarter was laid next to San Antonio Channel at Stop 9 1/2 in San Juan, a location where the institution remains to this day.
International Billfish Tournament
Tradition and Excellence
In 1953 the Club held its first edition of what would eventually become the longest consecutively held big game fishing tournament in the world! What started as an initiative by Chilo Bird to invite some friends from the banking industry in the United States, became a world-class event.
Chilo Bird remained as Tournament Chairman for six consecutive years and the first international guests were anglers from the New York Anglers Club and the Miami Rod and Reel Club (although in those early years it was, primarily, an interclub competition).
Interestingly, Club Nautico dovetailed with the Puerto Rico Tourism Company’s vision, interested in promoting sports fishing since 1949. The Tourism Company invited accomplished anglers such as Bob Lichfield and Roy Bosche to come to Puerto Rico and share their knowledge. This was the time of such outstanding club members as Miguelito Ferrer, Jr., Ralph Christiansen, Sr., Luis Torregrosa, Carlos Gual and Juan Casellas, among others.
As early as 1956, the Tournament began exceeding records. That year Allen Sherman set a first record by catching a 756 pound billfish on the Sea Queen II. In 1959 Joseph Widowson pushed the record higher by capturing a 780.5 pounder. In 1988 the Tournament set a world record with 190 marlin caught in a four day fishing tournament, a record which remained unbeaten for 11 years until 1999. And so, the records continued to climb until 1997 (one of the last years when marlins were allowed to be boated) when Luis Viyella caught an 895.5 pound marlin, the largest ever captured during the Tournament. That same day E. Read and A. D'Alessandro also captured another biggie, a 714 pound marlin. What a day!
During the 1980s, Luis Acosta promoted the tournament at the international level. Under his stewardship, competitive fishermen from 16 countries were invited to compete. Through the years competitors have come to Puerto Rico from Australia, Spain, Guatemala, Costa Rica and many other countries, and South Africa has sent a team of three anglers almost consecutively during the 2000 decade.
Fishing takes place, rain or shine. When Mickey Tirado was Tournament Chairman in 1995, ESPN came down to film the Tournament even as two hurricanes threatened to hit the island back to back. Still, the competition went on even though it was postponed for 17 days.
One of the more significant aspects of the International has been its focus on conservation of the species, an effort that Club Nautico has spearheaded with concrete steps, not just words. In 1987, the Tournament became the first competition in the world to establish the Tag and Release format, thus taking the lead before federal authorities decided to make it mandatory for marlins under 200 pounds through the Magnuson Act.
Progressively, additional conservation measures were added culminating in 2003, on the occasion of the 50th anniversary, when it became an "All Release" event. Marlins may not be brought onboard. Another later change involved the tackle. Today, the Tournament requires participants to fish with 50-pound fishing tackle for greater challenge and reduced impact on fish.
Ralph "Agie" Vicente, Henry Rexach, Jaime Fullana, Ralph Christiansen, Jr. and many other club members have been leaders in this initiative and have set up strategic alliances with other activists/ anglers on behalf of conservation.
Together with Winthrop Rockefeller and other friends from the U.S., the members
of Club Nautico de San Juan joined in the creation of "The Billfish Foundation," an
organization that, to this day, leads in preservation efforts. Since then, Club
Nautico has work decisively to protect the Atlantic Blue Marlin for future generations.
Moreover, the Club collaborates with the International Game Fishing Association
In 2003, Guy Harvey, the distinguished marine biologist, shot an underwater film to record the moment when five pop-up tags, equipped with the latest micro-computer and satellite technology, were inserted by Dr. Eric Prince of the
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
Guests, Banquet Rooms and our Infrastructure
Throughout its history, Club Nautico has welcomed many distinguished personalities. In 1992, on the occasion of the Fifth Centenary of the Discovery of America, the Club hosted more than 300 captains from frigates, sailboats, and training ships participating in the historic Great Colon Regatta '92.
Being able to provide the general community with top recreational areas next to our marina is a top priority for the Club which has concentrated its efforts in offering top of the line banquet rooms.
With their comfort, elegance and versatility, these facilities have proved a great opportunity for the Club.
Beginning in 1951 the Club undertook the first of several infrastructure investments designed to keep the Club abreast of the times. In 1992, a second overhaul was undertaken under the stewardship of Commodore Esteban Bird with subsequent improvements that included the expansion of the Ralph Christiansen Pier to enable accommodating increasingly larger boats. Today, the Club has the infrastructure necessary to welcome mega yachts.
Shaping the Best Sailors for the Future
The Sailing Program is a first class educational project that sponsors an internationally known regatta and has the support and recognition of most sailors in Puerto Rico and the Caribbean.
Created during the 1970s with the enthusiasm of Andres Nevares, the program was further strengthened in the late 1990s by Commodore Richard Christiansen and Ricky Adsuar. The Club Nautico Sailing Program combines technical knowledge with practical hands-on light sailing experience. Gilberto “Yoyo” Berrios is the Director.
The International Regatta, established in 2001, has become an international platform to propel young sail enthusiasts, who have brought distinction to Puerto Rico through superior performances in the Optimist, Laser, Sunfish and Snipe categories. Most young sailors who won the World Optimist 2008 Championship held in Turkey (an event in which 254 youths from 53 countries competed) were graduates of Club Nautico Sailing Program.
The XXI Century
As it entered the 21st century, the Club has experienced a tremendous growth. In 2006 the Club expanded along the San Antonio channel by incorporating a large, neighboring plot of land, now used for open air activities. Also on these grounds is now located the new venue, Casita Cafe, the Sailing Program, and additional parking spaces.
Also in 2006, the Club remodeled its interior areas to boost its positioning as one of the main providers of banquet room facilities in San Juan. In 2009 it incorporated other venue: Salon Marina with its wooden deck.
Our presence in cyber space dates to the end of the 1990s. We have two websites: nauticodesanjuan.com and sanjuaninternational.com. In 2009 the Club’s website was complete redesigned.
Under the stewardship of Commodor Ralph "Agie" Vicente, a Christmas Boat Parade was established with the participation of 18 lighted boats during its first edition in 2009. One of the Christmas Boat Parade’s goals is to encourage megayachts and boat owners to move their boats to Club Nautico’s Marina during Christmas and New Year’s periods. The Club also offers its marina to mega yachts and boats in transit willing to stay in San Juan and enjoy its multiple offerings.
Club Nautico de San Juan has experienced a rich history and it has have a solid presence in the nautical arena. The Club is also proud to enjoy the sponsorship from the island's main commercial companies which year after year provide their support to the events carried out by the Club.
What started in 1930 as the dream of a group of fishing “aficionados” continues to be an institution of extensive reach. Throughout our 80 year history it has created jobs and stimulated the economy while its members has serves as goodwill ambassadors in attracting to Puerto Rico anglers from many parts of the globe.
We have been able to evolve and keep abreast of our times. This 80th Ruby Jubilee is a perfect moment for us to gather, united and strong, to celebrate this important occasion in the Club’s history.