by Rich Roberts
Newport to Ensenada International Yacht Race - The countdown to the start of the 64th Newport to Ensenada International Yacht Race is closing in on Friday at noon off the Balboa Pier, as competitors scramble through the latest weather forecasts, equipment checks and sendoff celebrations.
It’s Ok - Newport to Ensenada
The latter, following Sunday's Launch Party at the Newport Nautical Museum, continue with:
Wednesday, 12 noon - The Yachtsman's Lunch at the Newport Harbor Yacht Club, featuring North Sails President Gary Weisman as speaker ($14);
Wednesday night, 7 p.m. - Tesla Motors hosts a Grand Reception for registered race skippers and their guests, with one awarded a free weekend's use of an electric roadster;
Thursday night, 6 p.m. - The Sendoff Fiesta for skippers, crew, family and friends at the Bahia Corinthian Yacht Club.
The race starts Friday at noon with class starts on a split line at 10-minute intervals, big boats first. Viewing areas include the pier, the beach and the bluffs above Corona Del Mar State Beach that the racers will pass on their way south into a full moonlit night. The long-range forecast for Friday is for a westerly wind of seven knots and the week's high temperature of 78F.
What's in a name?
The last-minute preps are routine for many of the 175 current entries, including those on the half-dozen boats that have logged 30 or more races: It's OK, entered by Tres Gordos Sailing LLC; Amante, Mel and Bud Richley; Fee Event, Chuck Wert; Freestyle, Jerry Wetzler; Golden Skye, Richard Mulvania, and Checkmate, John Garrison.
The all-time leader with 51 N2Es is the late Lou Comyns' Cal 40 Ahsante from Long Beach, with John Szalay's Pussycat (45), Dr. Vic Stern's catamaran Imi Loa (44) and David Price's Tres Gordos (43) close behind, all bearing names from the past and present. One of the most serious discussions when someone buys a sailboat is about what to name it.
Mel Richley recalled, 'I was going through a Spanish dictionary looking for a name and came upon this word 'amante.' It means 'lover.' I told my wife that and she said, 'That sounds like fun. Let's name the boat that.' '
Richley, 83, from Newport Beach, still sails the Choate 48 in local races, just not at night, so his three sons---Bud, Tim and Steve---will take it to Ensenada to maintain the tradition they helped to build as kids in contributing to a shelf of trophies.
'One time we went in along the shore and it worked out well for us,' Richley said. 'Another time we went outside and we jibed at the right time and it worked out well. I believe we won the race twice overall. Now [Bud] starts the Ensenada race and then his brothers take turns.'
There have been seven It's OKs, a line launched by Lew Beery of Covina. Andy Rose joined the team partnership with Beery and Tom Purcell of Balboa Yacht Club '15 or 20' N2Es ago. They call themselves 'Tres Gordos Sailing LLC (Limited Liability Company).'
One of Beery's earlier boats in partnership with David Price and Reg Hasbach was named Tres Gordos---politely, 'three portly gentlemen.' Later, the name was borrowed for the It's OKs. This one, an Andrews 50, is the fastest by far. It won the Maxi class two years ago, out clocking Dennis Conner's Stars and Stripes by 3 1/2 minutes on handicap time.
'And if Dennis hadn't hit an island of kelp he would have beaten us,' Beery said.
But … the name, It's OK?
When Beery got the first one, Rose recounts, 'Lew was sitting around with family reading the paper and trying to think up a name, and every one he'd say, 'All right, that's OK,' not looking up from his paper. [So after a while] they said, 'That's the name then.' '
Whatever, the team has been a winner in most West Coast events. For the N2E race, they stay at the Coral Hotel for the weekend---no 'turn and burn' for home, as some boats do.
Rose said, 'The Ensenada race is one of the great [racing] traditions on the West Coast [or] anywhere … an incredible spectacle. We make a weekend of it. We try to make time for a croquet match [at the Coral] … a special kind of croquet.'
'I'm the champion,' Beery said once. 'Last year I was fortunate enough to win. One of the rules is you have to have a glass of wine in one hand and hit the ball with a mallet in the other.'
The race is sponsored by the City of Newport Beach, Pirates Lair, the Log, Mount Gay Rum, Vessel Assist, Sailing Spoken Here, West Marine, Marriott Newport Beach Hotel and Spa, Visit Newport Beach, Hornblower Cruises and Events, North Sails and Ruby's Diner.