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Zhik 2022 Choice of Champions LEADERBOARD

A Q&A with Peter Bretschger on the 2022 Newport to Ensenada International Yacht Race

by David Schmidt 20 Apr 08:00 PDT April 22-24, 2022
Newport to Ensenada International Yacht Race © Tom Walker

The annual Newport to Ensenada International Yacht Race has long been a fixture of West Coast springtime distance racing. The event begins off of Balboa Pier, in Newport Beach, California, and ends at a finishing line that's set off of the Hotel Coral, in Ensenada, Mexico. All told, the course gives sailors some 120 nautical miles to stretch their offshore legs.

The Newport to Ensenada International Yacht Race is organized by the Newport Ocean Sailing Association (NOSA), and has a history of attracting a wide array of boats. Sometimes a lot of them (read: 600-plus in the early 1980s!).

This year's entry list ranges from classic plastic such as C&C and Ericson 35s to One Designs like Beneteau 36.7s, Farr 40s, and various J/Boats, to all-out ocean machines like Manouch Moshayedi’s Bakewell-White 98 Rio 100

Sail-World checked in with Peter Bretschger, who serves as a NOSA board member and the organization's chief marketing officer, via email, to learn more about the 2022 edition of this classic West Coast offshore race.

Can you please describe the culture of the Newport to Ensenada International Yacht Race to sailors and readers who have not had the chance to participate?

The Newport to Ensenada International Yacht Race is in its 74th year, [and is] one of the largest sailboat races on the West Coast. At 135 miles, it is a good test of overnight racing skills, varying conditions and fun competition among a wide range of sailboat designs and skills.

This year, there are nearly 200 competitors sailing three different courses to either Dana Point, San Diego or Ensenada. Over 80-percent of the boats will go to Ensenada.

What's the competition like, and what kinds of sailors can one expect to meet on the docks before the start?

The competition is keen. This year's scratch boat will probably be Manouch Moshayedi’s Bakewell-White 98 Rio 100.

There are PHRF boats [that] have the same families racing them for years, as well as newer sailors who compete in the Cruz non-spinnaker as well as Cruz Spinnaker Classes. They enjoy the competition, but also savor the after-race comradery in Ensenada.

What kind of entry numbers are you seeing this year? Also, how do these stack up to previous editions of the race?

This year we expect some 200 boats to enter the race. Last year, following the Covid pandemic, there were 180 boats.

At the zenith of the race in 1983, there were over 670 boats in the race.

In a very famous finish in the mid-80s, some 180 boats finished within 10 minutes of each other in what was locally called "The Crush".

Weather-wise, what kind conditions can sailors expect to encounter off the coast of California and Mexico in late April? What are the best-case and worst-case weather scenarios?

Weather for the race can be all over the anemometer. The race usually starts in a mild 8 -10 knots southerly and then the afternoon fills with the usual westerly of 12 - 15 knots.

By sunset the boats are usually off San Diego and the Coronado Islands where the winds can be extremely light and variable. Some boats chose to go inside the Coronado Islands and catch a wind from shore, but the majority will go outside the islands in search of fresh winds still coming off the backside of San Clemente Island that will carry them into the Bay of Ensenada.

As the sun comes up around [0900] there is a filling breeze from the west which carries the bulk of the fleet into Ensenada with an enjoyable 15-knot run to the finish line.

I know it's still early days, but are your eying any perennial favorites for strong finishes? What about any dark horses?

If the breeze is up, the PHRF overall winner would likely come from the PHRF A or B class as they would finish in the middle of the night and avoid being becalmed during the early morning hours.

A boat like Rio 100 can finish in nine hours or less, before sunset. The course record is around six hours.

But what makes the race so much fun is that in prior years we've seen the PHRF overall trophy go to a Cal 25 or a C&C 34 who both all took unique flyers on the course and it paid off with steady breezes.

What's the standing course record for the Newport to Ensenada Race? (Who set it and in what year?) Also, what kinds of odds are you placing on Rio 100 breaking this record this year?

Arguably, the winning-est and most famous sailor of the race is America’s Cup skipper, Dennis Conner. Conner and crew won best elapsed time honors seven times from 1989 through 1996 on the 60-foot America's Cup catamaran Stars and Stripes. Two years later, adventurer Steve Fossett captained the same Stars and Stripes to Ensenada in a time so fast it took 18 years to best.

It was just last year that businessman Tom Siebel’s Orion, an [MOD 70] with a crew of eight, broke the record with a staggering elapsed time of 5:17:26.

Are there any important changes or updates to the race, ahead of its platinum jubilee (75th anniversary), that racers and readers should know about?

With all of the issues that international sailboat racing has dealt with over the last 5 years, (declining fleets, lack of experienced racers, Covid and border issues), NOSA is excited about seeing the return of the sailors to offshore racing and more importantly overnight offshore racing.

We seek to continue to educate and motivate new sailors, new owners to join the existing experienced crews and boats with finding their own measures of success, personal satisfaction and sailing experiences.

We need to encourage more junior sailors to get involved with offshore racing and find competitive boats that owners can afford to race and find enough experienced crew with the time and enthusiasm to get out there.

We should have over 350 boats if we can solve some of these barriers to more participation.

Can you tell us about any efforts that you and the other regatta organizers have made to try to lower the regatta's environmental footprint or otherwise green-up the regatta?

All sailors are concerned about the environment. Proper on-board waste management, use and recycling of bilge pads plus cleaner-burning engines are being supported up and down the Coast.

We also encourage our racers who are transitioning back from the race to fish out debris like mylar balloons and large floating objects. We also ask them to report any unusual floating objects which might damage boats such as slightly submerged containers or logs. I think there is still an underlying fear of hitting something in the middle of the night that lumens as a deterrent to night crossings or racing.

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

We'd like to acknowledge the over 90 race volunteers who handle the registration and check-ins, race management, race committee as well the hospitality crews who greet the sailors and manage the famous result boards in Ensenada. NOSA is strictly a volunteer organization made up of representatives from at least nine Southern California Yacht Clubs.

Editor's Note: to learn more about NOSA, navigate to: nosa.org

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