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Puerto Vallarta Race Day Six - Catch of the day by Pyewacket 70

by Casey Allocco 10 Mar 17:41 PDT 5-13 March 2020
2020 Puerto Vallarta Race © San Diego Yacht Club

In years past, PV Race Committee has typically been coordinating customs clearances and interviewing the first few finishers by Tuesday evening in the race timeline. The 2020 race is going to be one of those years... not so much.

On the race course, boats are running their polars with the latest grib files to assess their ETA. While each boat makes the most of the conditions they find themselves in, they will be having 'that discussion'. Balancing a competitive and corinthian effort against room nights and airline departures is a tough equation to balance. There is no time limit for this race, so that's not a consideration. The OA feels if someone commits the effort to the race, they should be allowed to finish. The awards banquet will proceed as planned, and awards that are mathematically secure will be handed out. It's not ideal, but these logistics are all but changeable.

Notice came from the Santa Cruz 52 Trouble Tuesday afternoon that they were retiring, and would make way to PV after a fuel stop in Cabo to prepare for MEXORC starting on Saturday.

The winds for today have been teasing competitors down the course. For now, boats within 20 miles of the coast will live and die by the thermal winds washing on and off shore like the waves. It appears that the 'inside' track this year is now offering only pennies on the dollar for effort. Those that have maintained a steeled commitment to course rhumbline, are making maximum speed to the finish. The players on the outside (100+ miles offshore) and in the back are threatened with some more disheartening beating into a light southeasterly before things look up later today / tomorrow. From their outside position, they have some tough geometry getting around Cabo and heading up another 15 degrees to port to lay the finish at Punta Mita. Watch the angles of boats in the back of the race. If they are pointing at Baja, they are probably tacking... in the light winds. They will need lots of care when they reach the finish. It's a 'mental' kind of rough out there.

Wednesday should be 'better', and the further south the course, the better it will be thruoughThursday morning. Some models are showing one more 'beat down' with light air and an expanded 'no go' zone south of Cabo for Thursday midday into evening. That Thursday 'event' will be a decider for several boats with respect to the equation we spoke of earlier. Thursday night and all day Friday forecasts promote the breeze of dreams to develop and power those still racing towards the finish.

The highlight for Tuesday is 'the catch'. Division 1's Pyewacket 70, Roy Disney's Volvo 70 has finally overhauled the leader of the Thursday starters in Class 6, Bill Hardesty's Hobie 33 Sizzle, for the first to finish pole position. In 2018, Rio 100 passed Class 6's Marjorie, a 48' Beneteau about the same time (mid-day Tuesday) but was half way across the Gulf of California, and 125 miles from the finish at 'the catch'. Pyewacket 70 has 320+ miles to go, but is pointed right at the finish.

Elsewhere in Division 1, the scratch boat in the race, Steve Meheens' Botin 80' Cabron, was bow to bow with Pyewacket 70 for the first 48 hours down the course but needed to do something different. They rolled the dice for an inland track and came up snake eyes. Not a good thing.

And local MX favorite Viva Mexico, a Volvo 65 skippered by Erik Brockmann hung it way out to sea (100+ nm) and drew even with shorebound Cabron. But she is now trying to stay out of the high pressure band dealing those light southeasterly winds.

The Tuesday overall race leader is Grand Illusion, who is playing in the middle and keeping their cards close. We don't hear any commentary from the boat other than the required 0600 position, speed and barometric pressure. That's what a game face looks like to Race Committee.

Other class leaders are hard to figure. There are a couple of formulas that take different paths to the finish, and predict a boat's speed over that course with different amounts of optimism, most showing all of the Class 2 boats ranking in the top 7. We feel like everyone is a winner at this point! See last paragraph below from Katara for the point...

The stories direct from the race course:

Snoopy, J/125
Tuesday, March 11, 2020, 1400

Bowman Ben here to give you a brief update to help you "visualize" our strife and perseverance in the face of futility. Since you last heard from Mark on Saturday we've seen less and less wind, forecasts that don't come to fruition (like, at all!) and shifts so wacky they make you second guess your instrumentation. We lost hope of finishing on Wednesday several days ago; we're hoping to make it before the stroke of midnight on Thursday when the boat will surely turn into a pumpkin and Scott's boots turn back into glass flip-flops. Morale is otherwise improved as Ian opened the secret stash of Ginger Lemon Cremes. Everyone rejoiced and it was great. Timmy even changed his underwear.

Katara, J/145
Tuesday, March 11, 2020, 1400

Position: 24 32.5N 112 13.5W
Speed: Not dang fast enough
Distance to go: Too much (438.12nm)
Weather: Gloomy and still too dang cold
Winds: Who knows? Maybe? Sometimes? Every once in a while it sneaks down to us from East...ish at 2,3,4kts?
Sail Package: Whatever will carry. The tweener for now. 6 minutes from now... who knows?

OK. We've had our fun. Jokes over. Someone turn the wind back on...

The sea life last night was pretty incredible though. We had a whale surface just off the beam and apparently take some interest in us as he swung around and followed us for about 30 minutes. Sam attempted to talk him in to a lift, but apparently his Whale isn't as fluent as he thought it was. Later, several sea lions played around the boat. We tried to lasso them as well and press them in to service but they too were uncooperative. In every race when you start wondering why you're out here something so awesome comes along and reminds you. A good friend of mine emailed us last night thanking me for reminding him why he doesn't do offshore sailing. He must be missing the point, because despite all of it, there's nowhere else we'd rather be. We're a strange bunch, us offshore sailors. Too much salt on the brain?

Horizon, Santa Cruz 50
Tuesday, March 11, 2020, 1400

After a good night of sailing progress, we were again beset by a high pressure cell (no wind zone) that impeded our progress over most of the morning. These slowdowns are frustrating and not typical for this race. There was thicker cloud cover this morning and we could barely see the sun as a dim orb in the clouds above. But the weather is still warm, warm enough to wear our t-shirts and shorts below the haze.

We can see any of our fleet today, they are all sailing in different parts of the ocean over the horizon. The sea was like glass this morning with no breeze, not even a ripple in the water. You could look down at the water and see yourself looking back! 3 whales came to keep us company. They always announce their arrival by a blast of air out of the breathing hole when they surface. They swim on the surface for a little bit, then start to dive back to the subterranean depths, flipping their tail in the air before they disappear below the surface. We also had a few seals sticking their noses out of the water and looking us over. I always wonder what they are doing more than 30 miles offshore, looking for delectable fish I guess. Dolphins also come to play alongside Horizon at irregular intervals. Brian Bolton, who seems to know the most about fish behavior amoung our crew, says we can always tell when dolphins are near becuase the sea bids land and begin picking up the small fish that are being chased to the surface by these playful critters swimming around below.

We are now about 140 nm from the tip of baja and we are really looking forward to getting there because of the much stronger breeze that we know is blowing on the other side of Cabo San Lucas, in the Bay of California. We expect a fast ride to PV once we cross over the wind shadow at the tip of Baja and head southeast in the direction of Puerto Vallarta. Our MVP for today's report was Brian Bolton, who demonstrated mastery of the bow during many sail changes in the middle of the night, not to mention that his mom baked us a great egg soufle that we ate this mornng to cheer ourselves up over the slow sailing conditions! Don't know how can make an egg souffle that is so light and fluffy when it has to go into a frozen pan!

All systems on the boat are functioning normally and we are looking forward to seeing loved ones, downing a drink, and having our crew dinner on the beach when we reach PV.

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