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Scuttlebutt News:

Augie Diaz: Still Climbing

Photos by Fried Elliott

(September 8, 2006) How often does any athlete hold the title of National Champion, North American Champion, World Champion, and World Master Champion? Not often, but that is exactly where Augie Diaz from Miami, FL sits today, with his Snipe class accolades surrounding him. However, there is one remaining class title that Diaz can claim to complete his collection.

On October 22-26, Diaz will be competing on his home waters of Biscayne Bay for the title of Western Hemisphere & Orient Champion, an event sailed in even years (Worlds are only sailed in odd years) for teams from North America, South America, and Asia. Diaz will be among the largest group of sailors to ever compete for that title, as fifty teams (maximum number allowed) will challenge defending champion Alexandre Paradeda and his crew.

In 2003, Augie Diaz, 52, was recognized by US Sailing as the Rolex Yachtsman of the Year Award for his achievements as a skipper in three different one-design classes: Laser, Snipe and Star. Many of the panelists noted that Diaz had been nominated many times before for his achievements in competing in what are perhaps three of the most competitive fleets in the world. A string of regional regatta successes culminated in his win of the 2003 Snipe World Championship title, with one panelist noting that "his versatility in one-designs, not just one class, continues to be impressive." Diaz is the first U.S. sailor to win the Snipe World Championship since 1981. His list of achievements also includes victories at the Snipe Midwinters and the Don Q Regatta, as well as top-five finishes at the Bacardi Cup, Snipe Nationals and Rolex Laser Masters North American Championships, where he also finished second in his age division.

From a very young age, Augie was inspired by his father's love of sailing and the sacrifices that his parents made for their children. The Diaz family sacrificed a successful family business to leave Cuba in 1963 and settle in Clearwater, Fla., with very little money. One of the few things that the family brought to their new home was the elder Diaz's beloved wooden Snipe, which would be instrumental in Augie's life.

Through a stroke of luck, nine-year-old Augie was given sailing lessons instead of swimming lessons. He quickly developed a love of Optimist sailing, but outgrew the boat a few years later and started competing with his brother, Gonzalo, Jr., at Snipe junior regattas using their father's boat. Soon the Diaz boys were competing against legendary sailors of the day and making an impression on everyone with whom they came in contact. Diaz went on to Tulane University (New Orleans, La.) where he earned ICSA All-American honors three times (1975, '74, '73). After graduation and three unsuccessful bids for an Olympic berth in the Flying Dutchman and Star classes, he joined the family business and took a 15-year hiatus from sailing to dedicate time to his family.

However, Diaz has returned with a vengeance, and the accomplishments of his “second sailing career” are beginning to cast a long shadow on what he garnered as a younger man. Come October, that shadow may just get a bit longer yet.

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