Newport to Ensenada Yacht Race primed for a battle of the big boats

Per Peterson’s Alchemy gasps for wind behind Peligroso
The 2012 Lexus Newport to Ensenada Yacht Race is now primed for a battle of the big boats when it gets underway on Friday just off the Balboa Pier.

Following the cruising classes, whose 10-minute starting sequences start at 11 a.m., five of the first seven boats to finish last year will go off the line at 12:40 p.m. In order of the 2011 finish, that will be Bill Gibbs' 52-foot multihull, Afterburner, and four monohulls---Per Peterson's Dencho 70, Alchemy; Bob Lane's Andrews 63.3, Medicine Man; the Tres Gordos' Andrews 50, It's OK, and the iconic yellow Reichel/Pugh 68 Taxi Dancer, owned by Dick Compton, Jim Yabsley and Tom Parker.

Missing because of a personal obligation will be Dennis Conner and his Farr 60, Stars & Stripes, which scored a rare hat trick last year: first monohull to finish, first in class (Maxi) and first overall on corrected handicap time. Afterburner finished 70 minutes ahead of Stars & Stripes but the catamaran owed the monohull almost three hours in corrected time.

Conner has sailed 32 races to Ensenada but he's disappointed to skip this one this one because of a conflict with Opening Night at the Manhattan Sailing Club based in his marina in North Cove, New York City.

He'll miss not being in the race but will be following the reports ... and he wishes everyone a hearty, 'Good luck!'

They'll need it to challenge the monohull elapsed time record for the 125-nautical mile race of 10 hours 37 minutes 50 seconds by Doug Baker's Magnitude 80 in 2009, and the virtually untouchable multihull record of six hours 46 minutes 40 seconds set by the late Steve Fossett on the 60-foot Stars & Stripes catamaran in 1998---the only boat ever to finish before sundown on the same day it started.

Both of those record races enjoyed highly favorable wind conditions.

Lane and the others will be rooting for that ... although maybe not as much as he saw in the Corona del Mar to Cabo San Lucas Race earlier this month.

'It was windy and we had about a 37-knot gust and the boom just broke,' he said. 'The boat was not out of control or anything. Nothing exciting. The boom's fixed. We're going to Ensenada ... not a problem.'

Medicine Man---Lane's business is pharmaceuticals---is slightly smaller than most of its Maxi class rivals but rates faster than most of them at minus-99 seconds per mile, second only to Tom Holthus' STP65, Bad Pak, at minus-141.

Bob Lane (r.) steers Medicine Man to a drifting birthday finish - Newport to Ensenada Yacht Race

'We've won our class more than once,' said Lane, who sailed his first race to Ensenada in 1975 and celebrated his 70th birthday on finishing day last year. 'It just happened to be that day---April 15,' he said. Although the much-modified Medicine Man is not actually a classic ultralight, or sled, 'I like to race against the sleds,' Lane said.

He has kept his boat more than competitive with periodic upgrades guided by the original designer, Alan Andrews.

It was built as an Andrews 56 in 1990, 'Then in '97 we added spinnaker area and were the first boat to break Merlin's record [in the Transpacific Yacht Race to Hawaii],' Lane said.

Actually, Medicine Man started three days earlier than the largest boats but beat the 20-year-old record and held it for 2 1/2 days, as Lane paced the Ala Wai waterfront, until a handful of bigger, later starters led by Roy E. Disney's Pyewacket overtook it.

Later, over the years Lane switched to 'a couple new masts' and had the hull rebuilt a few times until it became an Andrews 63.3.

Andrews, meanwhile, has been part of the crew, working on tactics with Randy Smith, Keith Ives and the skipper.

'It's tactics by committee,' Lane said.

They'll be aiming at the new finish line visible from shore off the new race headquarters at the Hotel Coral and Marina. A week before the start there were 213 entries. Racers may still enter online.

For those not racing and wanting to join in the festivities in Ensenada, round-trip bus service will be available from Newport Beach, Dana Point and San Diego.

Newport to Ensenada website
http://www.sail-world.com/96349