Dennis Pennell, sailing with a crew of ten on Blue Blazes, took division and overall honors in the San Diego to Puerto Vallarta 2012 race. Starting on Thursday, March 1, Blue Blazes benefitted from stiff westerly breezes on the first night, with all starters posting impressive first day logs. While the larger class competitors looked on with envy, the Division 3 boats had sustained winds of 25 kts from their starboard quarter, making for a quick run past Ensenada. Blazes obviously capitalized on the early lead, which later proved important when all competitors had a case of ‘the slows’.
For the second time in the last four Vallarta Races (2006, 2012), Blue Blazes distinguished herself as a competitor to be reckoned with, taking overall honors over well sailed boats such as two-time defending champion Peligroso, Beau Geste and Alchemy. Although she benefitted from speeds of 23-25 kts on Day One, Blue Blazes also encountered considerable challenges, including shredding a masthead halyard, used for asymmetrical spinnakers. After shredding the halyard, wrapping it around the keel and then cutting it away, crew and navigator John “JC” Craig were forced to adapt to doing “bald-headed” changes (taking down one spinnaker without the benefit or stability of having a second sail). In addition, along with cutting her halyard, the Blue Blazes crew lost a new A3 spinnaker, substantially narrowing the sail selection available to Pennell and his crew.
Although the Division 1 and 2 boats also recorded strong first day results, the early jump afforded to the Division 3 boats created a considerable head start. As a result, the Division 3 boats swept the first three overall spots, with Viggo Torbenson’s Timeshaver taking second in Division, second overall, and Kevin Flanigan’s Ocelot, taking third in Division 3 and third overall.
Alchemy, Per Peterson’s Alan Andrews 70, took Division 2 honors by a margin of 1.77 hours, finishing ahead of Ernie Pennell on Cazador. Peligroso, owned by Lorenzo Berho, staved off Beau Geste and Bad Pak to take Division 1. Of particular note, the brain trusts on each of the Division winners included prominent SDYC members, John Craig, Artie Means and Ben Mitchell.
While the 2012 race did not mirror the carnage of the 2010 race, there were of course the expected blown sails and occasional mishaps. Of particular note, Rio, a Transpac 52, sheared her bulb keel from the keel strut within a mile of the finish. Not to be deterred, the Rio crew (as well as the necessary insurance adjusters) located the bulb and retrieved the same from the sea bottom on Friday, March 9. They were back in action sailing in MEXORC the following week without missing a beat. Undoubtedly, there were other blown sails, wild spinnaker changes and wet rides, but all of those events quickly faded as the sailors settled into the relaxed pace and temperate breezes of Puerto Vallarta.
Commodore Clark and the SDYC were on hand to finish the competitors and walk them through customs. After finishing the race, the competitors enjoyed the hospitality of the Marival, a new resort with the most current in amenities and creature comforts. On Thursday, March 8, competitors could be seen at the pool bar, taking in the warm breezes and the 50 boat J/24 regatta, conducted in conjunction with MEXORC 2012.
Of course, the biennial San Diego- Puerto Vallarta Race could not have been the success that it was without the contributions and commitments of the SDYC R/C, Junior Staff Commodore Woody Hunt and his escort vessel, Coley D, PV local and SDYC member Mike Satterlee, trophy coordinator Karen Busch, and Race Chairman Steve Malowney. Likewise, the competitors and followers of the race are grateful to SDYC’s race partners, Cuervo Tequila, Harrington Studios, Marina Riviera Nayarit at La Cruz, and the Tianguis Turistico Mexico.