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J Composites 2022 - J45 LEADERBOARD

John Raymont's Fast Exit II wins the 2022 Puerto Vallarta Race

by San Diego Yacht Club 18 Mar 18:55 PDT March 10-18, 2022

Distance ocean races come in all different shapes and sizes. There's a point where it goes from an event you can grit your teeth and battle through, to a length of time on the boat where you need to establish a flow for the on/off watch periods and cycle of racing day and night. The average time on the course in this year's Puerto Vallarta Race was 5 days, 2 hours, which needs that flow to succeed.

Stan Fleming, J/125 Nereid, shared why the race to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico needs a different mentality than shorter races.

"What you're trying to do is get to an equilibrium...a balance between performance and self care. Once you get into that equilibrium, you can sail as long as you want. In this race, at San Cedros on about the third day, for the evening then night watches, I got to do exactly the same thing regardless, and I lost that conventional vision of time. That's kind of a good feeling when offshore. The Cabo Race is barely enough time to get in that flow. But this race was really a long distance have to get into that equilibrium. That's where experience is key, being able to manage yourself."

In addition to the time on the water and the competition between boats, the carrot at the end of the stick is the beautiful destination of Puerto Vallarta. Sunny weather in the 80s and the immediate opportunity for those sticking around to pivot from distance racing to buoy racing in Banderas Bay for MEXORC is a draw for many. Some teams are in the marina cleaning up for a delivery, while others are changing modes to start buoy racing for MEXORC on Saturday. The partnership between the PV Race and MEXORC adds value to both events and gives the teams another reason to sail to Mexico.

Congratulations to the 2022 Puerto Vallarta Race Overall and Class 2 winners John Raymont and the crew of the Ker-51 Fast Exit II. John's team has been working hard over the last few years to improve the boat and raise their competitive level sailing in many west coast ocean races. Fast Exit II was the stand out from Class 2, besting 2nd in Class, Mark Surber's TP52 Bribon by 11.5 hours while the rest of Class 2 landed mid-fleet for overall honors. Read the winner's article here.

Pyewacket 70's first 24 hours set the stage for their record breaking elapsed time and at the first 0800 check in on Sunday, they also were estimated as overall leader in corrected time. But by Monday, Fast Exit II had pushed ahead and at each subsequent 0800 roll call, they maintained a 3-4 hour lead over closest competition - BadPak and Peligroso. When BadPak finished at sunrise on Tuesday and saw the breeze shutting off for the approach to the finish, they held onto hope that Fast Exit II would lose their grip on overall leader. The 4-hour lead for Fast Exit II slowly ebbed as they fought through the light air toward the finish, but ultimately claimed overall honors by slightly more than 90 minutes.

Class 2 Fast Exit II was able to sail boat for boat with most of the Class 1 entries through the Cabo lee passing 40-70 miles off the coast. But that didn't last long, and the small window to get through without losing time closed quickly. Those that made it made big gains on the fleet behind. Fast Exit II's 30-mile lead over Bribon turned into 90 miles.

As discussed previously, the monohull course record was set this year, with the previous 2016 record eclipsed by both Pyewacket 70 and Rio100.

With the strong westerly at their Saturday start, the Class 1 boats had the wind to generate substantial horsepower and tore down the course. BadPak and Peligroso in particular were well matched over much of the course. Going into the finish, BadPak maintained a 15-mile lead on Peligroso and it looked like if Peligroso could keep BadPack close they could win the class and potentially the Overall Honors as well. The wind within 10 miles of the finish (coast line) really died down around 0300. BadPak was within 3 miles at that point and only needed 1 hour to sail to the finish for Class 1 honors and 2nd Overall. Peligroso was 7 miles behind and took 3 hours to finish, which pushed them to 5th in Class and 6th Overall.

BadPak's Navigator Arite Means had three big takeaways from their 1st in Class, 2nd Overall race.

"We planned to keep the boat light, as we knew the Cabo to PV section was under 10 knots. Minimizing the sail list was critical. We only had one jib! Working with Chris Bedford in the planning for the race, our primary focus was surviving Cabo, the whole race can be won or lost there. Thanks, Chris! We also made sure to minimize risk. Big shifts, not getting stuck in a corner out of phase was critical."

In West Coast ocean races, the J/125s are often seen as formidable opponents having a lot of success in recent races. While not the most comfortable experience, the boats are light and turn small tweaks into immediate gains. Class 3 was won by Stan Fleming's J/125 Nereid, by 5 corrected time hours.

Fleming shared some of his analysis of the 2022 PV Race.

"Nice breeze up to Cedros. We had a really nice sail and this year's gulf crossing was above average. Back home [in San Diego] when you get a flat spot (breeze die-off) inside, it's like hitting the wall, and everyone behind just sails up to you and stops. But here, the wind just quit coming out of the gulf and so it froze everybody in position, which favored us out front.

We were watching the wind shadow off Cabo, there was a shadow and a narrow spot to sail right through that was moving towards us, which closed right up after we got through, sometimes you just get it right.

In addition to some returning staples on the Nereid roster like Jeremy Davidson and Damen Craig, when compiling his team, Stan likes to include a rookie. For the 2021 Transpac, it was Calvin Schmid. In this year's PV Race, it was Casey Gignac, captain of the San Diego State University sailing team (which has made a big leap in their program performance this year).

"I like to have a rookie on board. The guys really like having a kid on board. They are always explaining what they're doing, what makes the boat work. They get a chance to think about what they're doing when explaining it."

Damian Craig, Nereid Navigator:

"We tried to be very disciplined in our sailing. We did a lot of work since 2021 Transpac on our polars and sail crossovers including working with Peter Isler to go through all our race log files. We worked very hard to keep the right sails up sailing the correct angles for the course and wind we were in at any given moment. That meant never sailing with the wrong sail up or steering an angle the sail wasn't meant for so the crew worked very hard.

We also did a lot of work on the boat, refining systems and controlling the things we can control. Jeremy Davidson did an amazing job preparing the boat for this event and it showed in the lack of gear failures we had coming down. We also did some rating work with our spin sizes reducing our A2's and a bottom job to keep the boat gliding through the water. Stan Fleming, the owner, has really stepped up and ensured the boat is as prepared and fast as it could be. We wouldn't be here with this result without his commitment to the Nereid program and doing all the little things that add up.

My focus navigating was on making sure we had the most recent weather GRIBs downloaded so I was able to work with the best information. We believed going in that the GFS was best modeling the weather so I really focused on getting those files right when they were updated along with HRRRX at critical points. We used an IridiumGO with SailMail and had no broadband of any sort for data. This meant limiting the size of our file request so downloading multiple smaller area GRIBs and combining them together and picking and choosing when to get the high resolution files. We used the tracker at certain key sections of the race to see what other boats had done and how our lines compared to them. I like having the tracker delayed four hours as you can see what others did but you can't use that to make your decisions as the information is too old. We tried to stay in the breeze and position ourselves for the shifts that were coming. The GFS was surprisingly accurate on wind direction with the pressure generally being a few knots more. We felt we did well at the critical points of the race in stepping in and using the land features and diurnal shifts to our advantage down Baja. We really did a great job getting around Cabo with boats inside and outside of us not having the great rounding we did.

It is a well earned result for this program. Couldn't do it without the crew from front to back Rick Graef, Casey Gignac, Charlie Jenkins, Jeremy Davidson, Owner Stan Fleming and myself Damian Craig."

The Santa Cruz 50/52s have also been staples of the West Coast ocean racing scene, this year with three competing in Class 4 with a J/145 and DK46. Tom Camp's Santa Cruz 50 was the middle-rated boat in the class, and came out with the class win by 45 minutes over 2nd place J/145 Katara.

Trouble's Navigator Mike Maloney gave his take on their experience.

"The PV Race is one of the great West Coast events and this one was magical.

In addition to great boat prep, Tom Camp put together a stellar crew that quickly gelled, enabling us to change gears as needed to keep the boat moving and hit the shifts effectively. We knew we faced tough competition against closely rated boats, so maintaining boat speed was paramount.

The key to this race is getting into position to get past the Cabo wind shadow. We calculated our course to pass as close (approximately 35 miles) as conditions would allow. A bit of luck here goes a long way, and we had our share getting through before the door closed.

The final leg offered fantastic sailing conditions with Katara holding a more southerly line that favored them, so we were motivated to keep the pedal down to the finish."

Michael Ewens Olson 40 Akaw! was the final finisher in the race this year. In some years, the last boat to arrive is late to the Friday night awards at the Westin. But this year, Akaw! finished before sunset on Thursday and also ranked up to 2nd in Class 5 and sailed the shortest course (1093) of the whole fleet.

For the first two thirds of this year's race, Paul Grossman's Class 6 White Cloud sailed ahead of the entire fleet, reaching Cabo Tuesday afternoon, just as Pyewacket 70 made up the 48-hour head start given to the Thursday race starters and passed them. White Cloud was 11th to finish, and was first place in Class 6. The competition in Class 6 was small but was made up of two boats from Washington and one from San Francisco, whose teams were eager to not only compete but duck the cold home climates and start the summer early with the tropical weather in PV. Owner Paul Grossman sailed with an all Corinthian crew out of San Diego.

Steve Wright offered, "We had to consider racing with a shorthanded crew of four. Gybes and sail change strategy included conserving energy, reducing mid-watch all hands maneuvers. We knew we needed to stay in watch and rest to be successful."

"This was an amazing race for White Cloud. Lots of very different conditions to contend with and tactical decisions to be made. For us, sticking with our strategy in the face of uncertainty, keeping the boat moving in light air and 24/7 focus and intensity is what made the difference. We all had a great time and really appreciate the efforts of the organizers to successfully put on such a complex event."

There are many challenges in bringing the diverse types of racing boats to Puerto Vallarta, and this race wouldn't be the excellent event it is without the support from the Marina Vallarta Harbormaster Pablo Fernandez and his team in the marina. Working with the Navy and the Port Captain, understanding the needs of the racers, his efforts are more than necessary and always appreciated. The immigration and customs processing upon arrival in PV is nothing to be excited about after sailing 1000 miles, but the partnership with Juan Arias and the agents who are willing to work at all hours to process the hundreds of sailors arriving in PV makes a difficult situation manageable and seamless. And the generous support of the Mexican Navy makes it possible to berth the big deep draft boats such as Pyewacket 70, Rio100, Hollywood Down Under and GoodEnergy on the seawall just outside the shallow inner PV harbor and as close as possible to the event venue.

Next up for many of these teams are Ensenada Races, CA Offshore Race Week and Pacific Cup this summer. San Diego Yacht Club is proud to host the biennial PV Race as a staple event in the ocean racing schedule and look forward to another great event in 2024.

Full results available here.

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