Most likely, the history books will show the 2014 San Diego to Vallarta race as not a particularly fast race, but it wasn’t a slow one either. We had two world class trimarans entered, and without a spectacular weather system to hurl them at once in a while speeds, both entries beat the flat out speed record from San Diego to Puerto Vallarta established by Steve Fossett aboard Lakota (size/type) in 1998. Tom Siebels MOD 70 established the new mark of 2 days, 8 hours, 33 mins, 0 sec. Almost 6 hours later, HL Enloe’s Orma 60 limped across the line (broken port foil), also just an hour under Fossetts benchmark time. Renamed ‘Mighty Merloe’, this tri dominated the maxi-trimaran circuit when it was built and was the design basis for the MOD 70.
In the more traditional monohull fleet, there was good depth of entries. Twenty two boats were divided into four groups. Division 4 (4 boats) had the classic Lapworth designed Westward, who is making the West Coast ocean racing circuit this year, recently placing well in the 2013 Transpac… up to the classic maxi Velos (Tanton 73). Division 3 (5 boats) was the ‘50ish’ class including the venerable SC 50s, a J/125, and Rogers 46. Division 2 was the “West Coast 70s” class (6 boats). It is always a good thing when the 70s decide to show up. They are the hallmark of West Coast downwind sailing. Division 1 was the ‘turbo’ sleds (6 boats). These are the ‘sleds’ of the 21st century. They could also be called the “Transpac” class due to the design philosophy of the “TP” boats – 52s like Vincitore and Meanie, and 65s like Bad Pak. Smaller than the classes 70’s, but seem to have an extra forward gear and lots of speed.
In general terms, 2014 favored the smaller boats and Friday starters. The Division 3 and 4 boats started Friday, March 14, and got off the coast in a moderate but steady breeze. After 24hrs of sailing most of them had committed to staying off shore (recommended at a very nice skippers meeting with weather briefing from BuoyWeather and Peter Isler) and were well down past Punta Baja, gybing for some easterly progress. Saturday March 15 the Division 2 and 1 boats roared out of Point Loma on a better developed westerly breeze, but in 15 hours, most of the fleet was parked up at San Carlos while the Friday starters managed to escape the hole and kept steady progress south. By the time the sleds got going again mid-Monday, the Friday group was well past Cedros Island. This was key for the ‘little’ boats to stay in the game for overall honors.
It is worth writing here, about the completely different, “nuclear fast” trimarans. They started on Saturday also. In a single 24 hour period, with no special weather conditions, the two trimarans, basically match racing as they romped down the coast on a 500 mile/day pace, went winging through the Friday start fleets. Someone has a cool story to tell as we heard there were a few ‘crossings’ with the Tris zooming astern by a few boat lengths at 30 knots. They both went way outside in the first 24 hours (almost to Guadalupe Island) and avoided the trap the other Saturday starters lumbered into. Mostly because they could. But speed has a price. At some point in day two, Mighty Merloe discovered they had a broken port foil. They aren’t sure if they hit something or it just failed after 10 years of really fast sailing and lunging through the ocean. The foils provide significant stability to the tri design while it is hurling along. Without it, the boat is much more prone to pitch poling (bows dig into the water and the boat capsizes stern over bow!). So the crew adapted their tactics, and slowed the boat on one gybe, but held on tight on the other (when the broken foil would be retracted and out of the water anyway). And so it went down to the finish. Orion finished in two days, eight hours, thirty-three minutes, zero seconds. Race Committee spent more time at anchor finishing boats at Punta Mita than both the tris did sailing the 1000 mile course.
So by Tuesday, March 18, the sleds were passing Mag Bay and their hopes of a shot at first to finish were coming back. No special weather/surfing the waves (that is in the brochure)… just steady ‘better’ progress for the big boats. The Friday boats were entering the ‘crossing’ zone (where the race restarts) as they prepared to round the tip of Baja and cross the Sea of Cortez. And again, most of them pulled through this part of the course without major parking. And again…the sleds didn’t. Division 3 boats Bretwalda 3 and Hamachi along with Division 4 Velos played this hole the best and stretched their lead on everyone, which turned into a 1-2-3 overall performance, respectively for these sailors. Congratulations and ‘well played’!
And, for the third time, the sleds slid into yet another dead zone south of Cabo. “Brutal” was how it was described by several of the more experienced competitors. With tracking courtesy of Yellowbrick, family, friends and the Race Committee could watch each boat with, most notably, its speed and distance to go, updated each hour. Not often do you see sleds going 0.8. As for “inside or out” with respect to rounding Cabo… from watching the tracker, it would seem that the inside paid this year. That is not always the case. But for Vincitore (1st Class 1), Peligroso (2nd Class 1) and Pyewacket (1st Class 2), ducking under Cabo this year was the move.
Besides thanking all the skippers and crew that chose to come play with us, to say thank you to the following is an understatement. This event was brought to you by Steve Maloweny, Vallarta Race Chair. This is Steve’s second “PV Chair”, and he, in cooperation with MEXORC, brought the event back to Marina Vallarta and Puerto Vallarta proper. Thanks also to Karen Bush, trophy Chair, and to Commodore Sinks, Director Biehl and all the other members that came down to lend a hand and/or share in the camaraderie of this great west coast race.
Another huge thanks goes out to Bob Shinn and his Grand Banks 42 Andante, which was the finish boat. Bob and his boat came south in the cruiser rally “FUBAR” late last year. Having a nice platform and being at anchor for five days to finish boats, store provisions, supply a dinghy for support, electronics, radios, etc. is huge. Thanks also to SDYC member Mike Satterly who lives in Sayulita MX and assisted with many logistical details, not the least of which was helping at all hours on the finish boat. Both Bob and Mike are veterans of the PV race , even sailing together years ago when Manzanillo was the destination port. A special crew thanks goes out to Phil and Nancy Rink, a couple from Seattle and cruising MX for the last year, who happened to be anchored near the finish and jumped right in to help keep marks inflated, load beer bags, run for ice, vet finish formulas, and otherwise keep the RC company. And finally, everyone participating should acknowledge the Mexican Board of Tourisim, who actively supports this event, this year helping to underwrite the kickoff party at SDYC and the awards dinner at the Vallarta Westin Resort.
First, we would like to thank the skipper and crew aboard Holua. They lost their prop just 17 miles into the race. Without much indecision, they determined the proper and safe thing to do was return to SD to consider a repair, before deciding to inquire if it would be possible to resume racing. In the end, they decided to retire and forego the trip, and other plans to participate in MEXORC. Tough call, but thank you for all the proper consideration of safety and the rules.
Then, it occurs to me that there are two kinds of ‘courage’ when it comes to light air racing. First, there are those that have put so much preparation, time, money, etc. into participating in the race but realize when the fun meter is broken, and retire from the race to preserve their sanity. SC 50 Deception should be applauded for that kind of courage. They swung by the RC finish boat in Punta Mita in high spirits and good humor. That takes courage and perspective.
Then, there are those who will keep sailing come hell, glassy water, scurvy…whatever. They deal with the seemingly prejudicial weather. They steel themselves against the slatting, and demoralizing lack of progress. While everyone no doubt has these stories…Mirage should be applauded for this courage…they gave their final five mile check in at 0356 PDT. They were going 4 kts. They gave their 2 mile check in at 0500 making 1 kt. At the 0700 tracker ping, they were .4 nm from the finish and going .3. And at 0832, they crossed the finish line! While they didn’t really have another choice, the last five miles of their 1000 mile journey took a little more than four and a half hours. That is a different kind of courage. Standing O.
We hope to see you all in 2016!
Sailing Office out.