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Five of 29 boats set sail for 2020 Puerto Vallarta Race

by Casey Allocco 6 Mar 03:14 PST 5-13 March 2020
2020 Puerto Vallarta Race, day 1 © Mark Albertazzi

San Diego Yacht Club has been hosting the Puerto Vallarta Race to the Mexican mainland since 1953, making this year the 35th running of this west coast classic.

Twenty-nine boats are competing in six classes in this edition of the PV Race with starts on Thursday, March 5 (Class 6), Friday, March 6 (Classes 3, 4, 5) and Saturday, March 7, 2020 (Classes 1 and 2). The destination is 1012 nm away in Puerto Vallarta Mexico.

The festivities began on Wednesday with a kick off reception for Class 6 boats who started the race today. The main event Wednesday was a media event for the Mexican Ocean Racing Team, presenting their plan to race in the 2021-2022 Ocean Race with their VO65 Viva Mexico. SDYC presented skipper Erik Brockmann and the boat ownership group their support in this effort. Viva Mexico will start the race on Saturday in Class 1.

Weather conditions for the Thursday start were ideal. With full sun, and no clouds, the winds were 12-15 kts from 290 making for a powerful reach along Point Loma and their 3 mile exit of San Diego Bay into the Pacific Ocean. One thousand and nine miles to go.

All five of the Thursday starters in Class 6 consists of 5 boats under 40 feet. While all the boats approached the line at the same time, there was a respectable and conservative amount of space between the boats and the line at the start signal as there is no logic in mistakenly being over the line a second or two early in a 1000+ nm race.

Bill Hardesty of San Diego Yacht Club, a past Rolex Yachtsman of the Year and World Champion in multiple one design classes is sailing his Hobie 33 Sizzle in his first Puerto Vallarta Race. Hardesty has sailed recent offshore races with Tom Holthus aboard the Pac52 BadPak, and now turns to the Hobie 33 bringing Holthus along as a crewmember for this PV Race.

Also starting in Class 6 is one of three Mexican teams entered in the PV Race aboard the Capri 37 Belat, from their home port in Puerto Vallarta. This will be the longest race for the boat and the owner Juan Felipe Karam, and a longtime dream come true for this team.

Spectators are invited to the end of Shelter Island at 1130 on Friday and Saturday to watch the race starts and join in the sendoff festivities.

Another Class 6 starter is Mark Ashmore's Cal 40 Nalu V which has been taken apart and rebuilt with everything but the fiberglass and is ready to race to PV. They had a disappointing Tranpac Race last summer, retiring on Day 2 after unknown location of ingress of water was unmanageable. The team is excited to take the boat south, and will cruise across to Tahiti in April after the PV Race.

Boats will be scored using the ORR (Offshore Racing Rule) formula which provides a custom Puerto Vallarta Race handicap TCF (time correction factor). That number is multiplied by the boats elapsed time across the course to give the final corrected time for scoring (the larger the rating #, the faster the boat).

Each boat will carry a YB Tracking race tracker, allowing spectators to follow along with the race online here. The boat's location, heading and speed are updated hourly, and are displayed with a 4 hour delay to keep the competitors from knowing exactly where or how fast their competitions is going at that moment.

Each morning prior to the starts, SDYC hosts a competitor briefing for boats starting on that day. Thursday's briefing featured an course weather analysis from legendary navigator Peter Isler who shared his knowledge and experience of the PV Race course with a room full of first time PV Race competitors.

Isler focused on key principles of west coast downwind sailing like "sail away from bays and into points" referring to the strategic approaches to typical wind behaviors around geographic features. A key topic of interest was the challenging rounding of the southern tip of Baja.

The debate is whether to round close to shore or stay 40+ miles to the south to avoid a wind shadow, and what time of day you are making your approach to this iconic landmark. The wrong choice can park a boat for many hours and erase days of effort to create a race winning lead. On the other hand, high risk moves like sailing along the beach can result in progress like a desperate game winning end-zone touchdown.

On Thursday evening, SDYC hosts the PV Race Kick-off Party bringing together the 24 teams that have yet to start along with SDYC members and guests.

More information at

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