by Rich Roberts
Lexus Newport to Ensenada Yacht Race got off to a happy start to Baja California, Mexico.
Lexus Newport to Ensenada Yacht Race (2) - Lexus Newport to Ensenada Yacht Race day 1
The Lexus Newport to Ensenada Yacht Race found a wonderful day to start the 66th romp 125 nautical miles down the coast Friday, arousing envy in a mass of spectator boats that could only putter back to the docks and dream.
'I'd say it was pretty good,' said Jerry Moulton, the Newport Ocean Sailing Association vice commodore who oversaw 204 entries on their way to the lively Mexican resort in Mexico's Baja California.
The sun was bright, the sea smooth and the northwest breeze a fresh eight knots, and forecasts were that it would only get better through the afternoon.
There were 204 boats, the maxis starting last, alongside the ORCA multihulls, following the Cruising classes, the PHRF classes and the J/120s in their own class.
Boats finishing after 11 a.m. Sunday will not be scored, but that didn't seem likely, although the winds weren't so strong that the record of 10 hours 37 minutes 50 seconds set by Doug Baker's Magnitude 80 in 2009 seemed in jeopardy.
The large multihulls Loe Real and Afterburner are stalking the virtually untouchable multihull record of 6 hours 46 minutes 40 seconds set in 1998 by the late Steve Fossett on the 60-foot Stars & Stripes catamaran---the only boat ever to finish before sundown on the same day it started.
Baker donated Mag 80 for charter to the Orange Coast College School of Sailing and Seamanship, which recently sold it to an East Coast buyer. He missed last year's race but is back with Retro, a Santa Cruz 70 he bought six months ago and, with David Team as partner. Team won't be aboard for this race because of a conflict, but they have been tuning up in coastal events leading to this summer's Transpacific Yacht Race to Hawaii.
That's also the long-range plan of Bob Lane, a longtime big boat rival and fellow Long Beach YC member who last year sailed his often upgraded Andrews 63, Medicine Man (Lane is a pharmacist), to the N2E's major prize: the President of USA Trophy for the overall winner on corrected handicap time.
Before Friday's start, they agreed that the weather forecast looked promising, at least as far as the Coronado Islands just past the border.
'It looks to me like it's a rhumb [direct] line race,' Lane said, 'a little bit outside the Coronados, but no reason to go way too far out looking for wind.'
Baker agreed: 'We'd rather just stay on the rhumb line and sail fewer miles. It looks pretty good ... reaching at the start, maybe go to weather a little bit and then reaching, which is good, and when the wind goes right running toward the end.'
From there, it's into Todos Santos Bay, where 'I just know the last 20, 254 miles is always tricky,' Baker said.
He doubts that Mag 80's record is forever untouchable.
'The boats are faster. You just have to have the good conditions and somebody will get it.'
Lane will be happy if he finishes a few hours before dawn. Last year he trailed the first finisher, Tom Holthus' Bad Pak, by only 12 minutes 6 seconds, but it was already broad daylight.
'They caught us right at the end,' Lane said. 'It was daylight but, hopefully, we're going to finish a lot earlier than that. I like the ones where you finish between midnight and 2 in the morning.'
One of their threats, besides last year's first-to-finish Bad Pak of Tom Holthus, looked to be Tom Parker's venerable and pristine yellow Taxi Dancer, sporting a new main sail with a large display 'TAXI.'
'We'll just follow them,' Parker said before shoving off. 'We can stay with them until they put their chutes up.'
Indeed, after beating into the northwesterly wind for about 20 minutes, the leaders reached off down the coast and soon were seen popping up their spinnakers.
Last year Lane also collected a free two-year lease on a Lexus GS 350---which he doesn't drive.
'My daughter's driving it,' he said. 'She loves it.'
As he does another Toyota company product, a Prius. This year the overall winner will receive a similar prize: a Lexus 2014 IS F Sport.
Also, the Cruising class winner on corrected time will receive a four-day three-night vacation stay at the Coral Hotel.
However it goes, one happy boat should be Scott Kramer's Hunter 34, Hematoma, from Alamitos Bay YC. A key crew member will be Mark Farmer, an executive chef in charge of the meals.
Lexus Newport to Ensenada Yacht Race (3) - Lexus Newport to Ensenada Yacht Race day 1
Lexus Newport to Ensenada Yacht Race (4) - Lexus Newport to Ensenada Yacht Race day 1
Lexus Newport to Ensenada Yacht Race - Lexus Newport to Ensenada Yacht Race day 1
Lexus Newport to Ensenada Yacht Race day 1 - Lexus Newport to Ensenada Yacht Race day 1
Lexus Newport to Ensenada Yacht Race day 1 (2) - Lexus Newport to Ensenada Yacht Race day 1