The 2016 edition of the Vallarta Race was a tale of two races. As sailors reached the dock in Marina Vallarta, their stories emphasized the contrast between the two. The first race is the run from San Diego to Cabo which this year was like none other. The second race involves attempting to avoid the holes and minimize the light air that most boats encountered crossing the Sea of Cortez and approach to PV. While this diversity is expected on any Vallarta Race, the extremes seen in 2016 were unique. Boats like Gordon Leon's Farr 40 Flyer reached 22 knots and were rocking and rolling on the first half, while even the trimaran Mighty Merloe fell victim to the shutdown of breeze on the second half approach to the finish, floating along at 2-3 knots at times.
For those following the Vallarta Race, it was hard to focus on anything else when Mighty Merloe was on the course. Watching the race tracker, you'd see the trimaran skip ahead nearly twice as fast as the rest of the fleet. HL Enloe's Mighty Merloe completed the race in 67.82 hours and as the only Tuesday finisher.
Rio100, a 100' super maxi, with its crew of 19 set the monohull course record, sailing the course in 77.7 hours, which eclipsed the 2010 record of 80.87 hours set by Bill Turpin's R/P 75 Akela. Owner Manouch Moshayedi and captain Keith Kilpatrick have been sailing the boat since November 2014 where they started with a crew of 26 and have been optimizing it over the years to a typical crew of 18. Yet even with a record-breaking performance, Rio100 owed too much time to fellow Division 1 boats and finished 4th in class.
The overall regatta winner came down to two sleds: The Santa Cruz 50 Horizon who finished just after 2:00 AM on Wednesday, and Roy Disney's Pyewacket who powered across the line at 2:50 PM. With the last miles of the race stretched out in front of the Andrews 70, the crew of Pyewacket thought they had enough wind during the approach to the finish, but ended up just under 2 corrected hours behind Horizon, finishing second overall.
Congratulations to John Schulze and the crew of Horizon (Santa Cruz 50), overall and Div 3 winners. Horizon sailed the course in 4 days, 13 hours, 52 minutes, 19 seconds. Sailing with owner John Schulze were Len Bose, John Busch, Craig Chamberlain, Stan Gibbs, Jeff Thorpe, Gunnar Torre, and Grant Wooden.
Schulze has sailed Horizon in the recent Transpac, Newport to Ensenada Race and Cabo races, and described his first experience sailing the Puerto Vallarta Race.
“Well it was an excellent race. We had really great crew work and had good navigation, and good conditions all the way down. It was my first Puerto Vallarta Race and I really liked it. We're definitely thanking the Mexican authorities for allowing us to race to Puerto Vallarta.
We had a number of points where we had wind transitions where we had to decide which way to go, especially in the Sea of Cortez. That was the most challenging part, figuring out how to get passed the light spots in the course once we turned the corner in Cabo.
Lucky Duck is a great competitor for us, another Santa Cruz boat, so we were protecting our position with Lucky Duck because she was just ahead of us getting into Cabo last year, and we enjoy racing against her.
Next for us is the California Offshore Race Week, which starts in San Francisco and ends in San Diego.”
In Division 1, new SDYC member and new owner of the R/P 63 previously know as Invisible Hand, Steve Meheen's Aszhou was the top in class with an excellent performance, completing the course in the 3rd fastest time of 3 days, 14 hours, 53 minutes, 58 seconds. In addition to some experienced offshore ocean racers and navigators, Aszhou had a few Navy SEALS on board who got a taste of the offshore racing experience. Aszhou will remain in Southern California and will compete in several upcoming offshore events in what will be a packed year of racing for Meheen.
This year's Vallarta Race provided Roy Disney with his latest opportunity to continue his lifelong passion for offshore racing, as he sailed the event for the 7th time. Disney was basically born sailing, taking on the passion of his father that has led him to sail Transpac 22 times in addition to other worldwide offshore races. Disney described Pyewacket's PV Race with glowing remarks about the city of Puerto Vallarta and the competitive west coast Sled class.
“[The Vallarta Race] is always a winter race, and SDYC timed it with the full moon. We wore sunglasses at night, it was really unbelievable out there. We had tons of sea life, breaching whales, and dolphins and tuna boils and the fisherman on the boat went crazy. We had a great run down to just short of Cabo, rolled the dice, and got lucky at the cape. We had a beautiful sail across which is kind of what this is all about. And then ran into a ripple but there are things that are in your control and things that are not in your control. We sailed a great race, we have a great group of guys, and had some amazing competition. Holua (Peter Isler) was within site all the way down to the cape. Literally 100 yards apart all night the night before we got here. That's just great racing, that's what this is all about. And then God rolled the dice.”
Pyewacket finished first in Division 2 against four other sleds: Runaway (Hector Velarde), Grand Illusion (James McDowell), Holua (Peter Isler) and Condor (Lindy Thomas).
“The Sled class is such a remarkable, vibrant class because the one's that keep their boats up to date are very, very competitive still to this day. Holua is as fast or faster than we are down wind, which cuts our work out for us.
I've done this race 7 times now and I've been on the other end of this thing too, you just rack up the experience over time. It's a gorgeous race. This is the best, if you're not working for the Mexican tourism bureau, the most beautiful city on the coast here by far. So it's a wonderful place to end up. Everybody looks forward to it. I think the race is less about the other guys than it is about getting here. And San Diego Yacht Club ran a great program. They absolutely did. They thought of everything, they were very organized.”
Division 3 consisted of four Santa Cruz 50s (including overall winner Horizon) and two Santa Cruz 52s. Half of the fleet finished within minutes of each other in a rare site after 1,000 mile race. J World's Hula Girl was the 2nd of the four Santa Cruz 50s to finish the race. SDYC's Wayne Zittel who has spent years racing all over the Pacific shared his thoughts prior to crossing the finish line.
“Wow, what a fantastic run we had down the coast of Baja. Seriously, some pure ‘chamber of commerce’ conditions. Rounding Cabo only saw some brief calms, and the sail across the Sea has been great… really shifty and puffy, but then if we didn’t have sail changes to break up the cockpit chatter, what else would we be doing? We used almost every sail we brought; 5 different spinnakers, a couple of jibs, a jib top, a code 0, and a couple of staysails.”
Zittel was met at the dock by his wife Lisa and baby boy Jake, who looked thrilled to have his daddy ashore, climbed around Hula Girl on a sunny Wednesday in paradise.
Division 4 was won by SDYC's Dennis Pennell and the crew of Blue Blazes. Pennell is a 2x overall winner of the Vallarta Race, with many of his regular crew aboard the R/P 50 and was the 3rd boat to finish. Also in Division 4 were the two Farr 40s, Flyer (Roberto Vulling) and Foil (Gordon Leon). Vulling bought the boat just a month ago and had it ready to race in San Diego with a quick delivery and prep. The Flyer crew spent nearly 6 days on board in racing to Puerto Vallarta including a tough stretch with the finish line in sight for more than just a couple hours, and not a puff of wind to be found to push them across...until mid day Thursday.
San Diego Yacht Club is proud to continue the tradition of racing offshore to the Mexican mainland, a tradition started in 1953 thanks to a friendly relationship with Acapluco Yacht Club that remains today. SDYC looks forward to a year full of west coast offshore racing including the upcoming Islands Race, the newly founded California Offshore Race Week, and the fall's Rum Runner regatta. And of course, SDYC looks forward to 2018, presenting what will be the 33rd edition of the Vallarta Race.
Thank you to SDYC's Commodore Doug Werner and Pam Werner, 3x Vallarta Race chairman Steve Malowney, supporting members from San Diego Yacht Club, finish boat provider and captain John Rogers and all those who make this event happen.