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An interview with Randy Hough on the 2022 Banderas Bay International Regatta

by David Schmidt 21 Mar 08:00 PDT March 23-27, 2022
Bahia de Banderas Bay Regatta © JL Digital Media

Coldhearted is the cruiser who never dreams of heading south for the winter. And if your destination is Mexico's West Coast, why not check out one of the more welcoming and inclusive regattas afloat? The 29th edition of the Banderas Bay International Regatta is set to unfurl on the waters of Banderas Bay from March 23-27, and is being hosted by the nearby Vallarta Yacht Club.

The Banderas Bay International Regatta is open to basically any mono- or multihull that's 16', LOA, or bigger. Boats regularly run the gamut from "comfortably appointed cruisers" (read: people's floating homes) to all-out racing machines, however the entry list's bell curve tends to favor comfortable cockpits over carbon-fiber rails.

And that's to say nothing of the post-racing festivities and the regatta's overall welcoming and friendly vibe. (If this sounds to you like an antidote to another long pandemic winter, you are not alone.)

I checked in with Randy Hough, chairman of the 2022 Banderas Bay International Regatta, via email, to learn more about this classic late-winter event.

Can you please tell us a bit about the Banderas Bay Regatta, it's history and culture, and the kinds of teams and sailors that one can expect to find here?

The Banderas Bay Regatta [BBR] was started about 30 years ago. We like to say a bunch of cruisers were having a party and a race broke out.

It has always been a regatta focused on people that are racing their homes: Cruisers. Over the years we have attracted all sorts of boats, from beach cats to full on MEORC raceboats. [There's] something for everyone as long as they are having fun.

What kinds of numbers and interest levels are you seeing ahead of the 2022 edition of the Banderas Bay Regatta, compared with the recent years?

BBR has seen ups and downs over the years, from the 20-30 boat range to 60+ participants. We are a bit down on our average, about the same as last year. We had to cancel 2020 due to Covid and we had to cancel the social events last year.

What kinds of on-the-water racing can attending skippers and crews look forward to? Are we talking about mostly W-L racing, or will you also run races that use the islands as turning marks?

BBR uses Vallarta Yacht Club courses. The courses include from W/L for some of the more serious classes, but most aim to provide cruising boats with two to three hours of random leg sailing. The last time I looked, I think our courses were 60-70-percent reaching, perfect for overweight cruising boats and cruising multihulls.

Sending the BBR fleet out around the islands makes for a long day. We keep threatening to do it but the current record from Nuevo, around the islands, and back to Nuevo is 7:45... Some of the cruisers would take nine hours or more.

Weather-wise, what kind conditions can sailors expect to encounter off on Banderas Bay in late March? What are the best-case and worst-case weather scenarios?

We call it sailing in paradise for a reason. It is very rare to get skunked with less than six knots of breeze, and [it's] equally rare to see high teens to twenty [knots of air].

Our racing area takes advantage of the reliable thermal breeze that starts about 1230 [hours] every day.

Some weather patterns create a hole on the north side of the racing area but we are pretty good at spotting it early so we can avoid sending the boats to a parking lot.

In the right conditions the north/right side of the course area has more pressure, and we like to get the boats into the best breeze each day.

If you could offer one piece of advice to visiting (and local) teams, what would it be?

Have fun. Play nicely with others. When in doubt, go right. Cover.

What about onshore entertainment? What can sailors look forward to, once the finishing guns have gone silent?

BBR week is mostly about fun and socializing.

Wednesday is "Start your heart out", were the RC gets to practice running start sequences and the boats that have never raced or haven't raced in years can practice their starts.

We try to run starts every five minutes for a couple of hours. Party at [the] Vallarta Yacht Club after.

Thursday is Race One, courses selected based on the days weather prediction. Party at [the] Vallarta Yacht Club after.

Friday is Race Two, same deal, party at Party at [the] Vallarta Yacht Club after.

Saturday is Race Three. We may have a surprise course. Followed by the awards party on the beach with a Mexican Buffet and Live Music.

I realize that the pandemic is a fast-moving target, but can you please tell me about any lessons that you and the other organizers have learned about safety running a regatta amidst a global health disaster?

We have run several events during the pandemic, including the J/70 Nationals for Mexico and Optinam (Optimist North Americans). We have some common-sense protocols in place at the club and have worked with the local healthcare infrastructure to provide testing etc., for International Events.

The biggest impact is having to limit the social events. At the moment we are limited to fifty-percent capacity at the club, so the evening parties may have to be by reservation, but we are looking at other options. The Awards Party is outdoors on the beach and under 500 people so it should not be a problem.

We are all adults and we all have our own comfort levels. Our protocols are mainly to protect Vallarta Yacht Club members and staff. They have become the new normal.

Can you please tell us about any efforts that the club has made over the last year or two to further green-up the regatta and make it an even more sustainable event?

BBR has been a Sailors for the Sea "Clean Regatta" for several years. We discourage single-use plastic containers and offer to refill everyone's water bottle at no charge. We encourage people to practice "MOB" drills to pick up any trash they find in the racing areas.

I'm happy to say that ten years ago you couldn't miss trash in the water, now you have to actively look for it. Vallarta Yacht Club will have a bin to collect anything that people 'rescue' from the racing area.

Is there anything else that you'd like to add, for the record?

Just a friendly invitation to all the boats in Banderas Bay to come out and join the fun. No matter what you sail, there are probably three or four other boats that are pretty close.

We split the fleet into five to eight divisions so we will find a place for you!


  • Performance Cruising - Boats that think they are fast
  • Multihulls - From Beach Cats to Cruisers
  • 20 Somethings - Racy boats from 20-30 ft (J/80s etc)
  • Cruisers under 45 feet
  • Cruisers over 45 feet
  • JAM (Jib and Main, no spinnaker)
  • Jack and Jill - Doublehanded

Your boat will fit somewhere. We provide ratings at no charge. Just bring your smile and your dancing shoes!

Find out more at

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