On the eve of the 1,000 nm southern jaunt down Baja, California from San Diego to Puerto Vallarta, we delve into the history, competition, and more specifically, the Nor Cal Boats entered this year and their crews.
An offshoot of the Acapulco Race, which was 430 nm longer, originally established in 1953 , the Vallarta race is the fourth reduction of the course which was reduced to Manzanillo in 1976 and Mazatlan in 1996. This will be the seventh running to Puerto Vallarta, which has witnessed Magnitude 80 claim the first to finish honors three times, Pyewacket 70 and turboed Pyewacket 70' taking line honors twice and Akela and Loe Real winning one apiece. Overall, on corrected time, Blue Blazes and Peligroso have each won twice, with Stark Raving Mad, Grand Illusion and Pyewacket also winning overall honors. Akela has made the best time thus far, galloping down the course in 3Days: 08hr:52:01.
Can the record be broken in 2014?
That is yet to be determined, but if there have ever been boats on the course capable of establishing a course record, the two Trimarans, Tom Siebel's Mod 70 'Orion' and HL.Enloe's Orma 60' Mighty Merloe have the power. Zan Drejes who double handed Mr Enloe's previous superfast tri Loe Real in 2012 is in awe of the two boat tri race this year. 'Mighty Merloe' is the old 'Groupama' ORMA 60 and is just damn fast. She was so fast that she pretty much demolished the ORMA 60 class by herself' Said Zan : In the Islands Race Last weekend, she was untouchable, we were on her tail the entire race, usually about a mile behind, which is incredible as we were just flying on Orion.'
Zan goes on to exude how awesome the Island race is for the Tri's and what a perfect playground is for big tri sailing. Flat water and 18 knots of breeze and we are routinely hitting 35 knots. Can Orion or Mighty Merloe set the new standard this year? 'I don't know, the forecast is looking light, and if there is any swell, the big multi's tend to slap around a bit, knocking the wind out of the sails, while the big sleds can power right through. Zan is joined with Bay Area's Matt Noble and recent transplant Charlie Ogletree on Orion, along with Peter Isler, Damien Foxall, Max St-Maurice, and Francisco Cabildo Quiroz.
In Class 1, six non sleds will be battling out for class and line honors. Thomas Akin's RP 52 'Meanie' will be side by side with sistership, Ricardo Brockman's Vincitore, a swan song for the boat and crew as new ownership will greet Meanie upon arrival. Jeff Thorpe, Tom Akin, Hogan Beatie, Sam Heck, Tom Powrie, Mo Gutenkunst, Gary Gorden, Dr Joe, Dan Malpas, and James Clappier will be guiding 'Meanie' down on her final Bay Area crewed voyage.
The souped up RP 63 'Invisible Hand' is also Nor Cal talent ladened with Frank Slootman, Norman Davant, Patrick Whitmarsh, Rufus Sjoberg, Bill Colombo, Bill Erkelens, Jay Crum, Rod Daniels, Jeff Causey, Paul Allen, Dominic Marchal, Ben Allen, Ruben Gabriel leading the charge and representing NorCal. Navigator Patrick 'Whitey' Whitmarsh is working his third major ocean race on 'The Hand', and while isn't excited about the forecasted light breeze, is stoked to be sailing with such a talented crew and a freshly rejuvenated boat. 'The new light air sails will be a big help this year,' He indicates; and as far as strategy at this point' We may be hunting for breeze' meaning offshore or inshore are both in play. Sailmaker Bill Colombo from Doyle Pacific was aboard for last year’s Cabo Race, and indicates the boat suffered through the light stuff. '
We have a lot more sail area with the Stratis radial code zero , the mast head genoa g-zero plus a new a-4 spinnaker, we expect to be much more competitive in the tight reaching department, if we stay out of holes, we should be competitive. Bill Erkelens, the program manager expects the main competition to be 'Bad Pak', Tom Holthus's well appointed STP 65' which has fared well offshore events in recent years. 'Peligroso', Lorenzo Berho's Kernan 70' and 'Destroyer', the TP52 owned by Eduardo Saen round out Class 1 .
The Westcoast 70's, formerly 'The Sleds' is loaded with downhill talent with Pyewacket the favorite. Loaded with talent 'That have been to Mexico before' Roy Disney continues to hold the family mantel high, weather Transpac or Mexican races, the Magical Cat, in whatever its current form, lives for success. Rock Star heavy 'Holua', Brack Duker's SC 70' has David Ullman, Peter Holmberg, Doug McLean and Erik Shampain on board this trip south, and can be expected to be in the running for class honors.
Lindy Thomas's Andrew 70, 'Condor', the SC 70's 'Grand Illusion' (James McDowell), 'Maverick' ( Chris Slaggerman), and 'Mirage' (John Delaura) fill out a very competitive field that is heavy in talent but light on NorCal sailors.
Fridays Starters in Class 3 has two SC 50's representing the Bay Area. 'Hula Girl', Paul Cayard's one campaign family ride to Hawaii which was purchased by J-World is led by Wayne Zittel, Barry Demak and Kevin Sullivan and a supporting cast of pay to play sailors who get the chance to experience real world ocean racing without committing to a campaign for a lengthy time. J/Worlds Barry Demak adds:
'J/World's 'Hula Girl,' is a different program than most, since we have six clients aboard, most of whom have limited experience sailing offshore let alone racing and handling a 'big boat' like Hula Girl. Still, they are motivated and vested in the opportunity to compete against seasoned crews. What the team lacks in experience racing together, we make up for with positive attitude, work ethic, determination and enthusiasm! A challenge for our coaches is to nurture the development of the team as quickly as possible! We can't afford to give miles away by taking our foot off the pedal or not pushing the boat to its potential. We've got friends, alumni and a J/World coach aboard 'Deception,' so we're certainly keen to finish ahead of them and keep our time! Their core team have at least four long races under their belt together, and countless other coastal and buoy races - on that boat. We need to get our guys to their level within a day or two of the start. If we can do that and make decent routing decisions, we expect to be drinking margaritas before them! We're in it to win it - and that means sailing our boat the best that we can, and not just focusing on Deception.'
Her counterpart, 'Deception', William Helvestine's SC 50' will sail with the crew of Mike Arraj , Sue Alexander, Steven Meyers, Charles Stuart, Jasper Van Vliet, Shana Bagley and Mark Howe. Deception competes on an intensive level on SF Bay buoy races and offshore has expanded into the longer ocean races recently, the addition of Mark Howe and Shana Bagley adds additional ocean racing experience and we expect to see their results get better and better as time progresses. The J-125 'Hamachi' from Seattle have to be class favorites, with Fritz Lanzinger, Jonathan Mckee and Trevor Baylis onboard, you can expect a tightly run program with little drama. Bretwalda III, Bob Pethick's Rogers 46' was first in last year Cabo race and second in class in the Transpac and Bill McClure's Allure round out the division.
The final representative from Norcal is Sebastien de Halleux's Swan 45' 'Swazik', and is crewed with Seadon Wijsen, Stu Bannatyne, Dave Rolfe, Andy McCormick, Alexis van de Wyer, Graham Anand and Mike Rohde. The GGYC representative were first overall and first in division in the 2012 Pac Cup, hope to repeat that success this year. Standing in their way is the well-traveled, vintage Westward, owned and magnificently maintained by the Bell Family, Dean Fargo and John Chamberlains Swan 651 'Second Wind' and Kjeld Hestehave 'Velos.'
The fun starts this Friday with Div 4 warning at 11:55, Div 3 @ 12:55 the the big boys starts on Saturday,
Division 2 @ 11:55, Divison 1 @ 12:15 and the multis at 12:35! Yellowbrick Tracking Event website Pressure Drop website