New law may impact California races

Sailing from the United States into Mexican waters just got more complicated.

While it is not known how this will play out in the Gulf of Mexico, a new Mexican law appears destined to complicate activity in the Pacific Ocean. The new rules require each person on a boat to have completed an online application and to have paid the 295 peso fee (approx. $23 USD).

An immediate issue is that the race courses off of San Diego frequently drift over the Mexican border. The cellular service companies are quick to charge the international rate, but it is not known how quick the Mexicans will be to start policing the region. The Mexican Navy will be in charge of patrolling Mexican waters and enforcing the new requirements.

While Mexican officials claim the new rules are for all people using their ocean, it is strongly believed that this fee structure is to protect their fishing industry. To quote from a recent Mexican presentation in San Diego, the per person, single entry fee applies to the following:

“If you are a foreigner and wish to enter Mexican territorial waters for recreative, sporting or resting reasons, as well as for the practice of any water-related recreational activity and are on board of a nonprofit ship destined exclusively for personal pleasure of their owners.”

It remains to be seen how this will play out for sailing, but the San Diego fishing fleet is clearly worried. “People need to feel comfortable,” said Pat McDonell, editor of Western Outdoor News. “Nobody really wants to be boarded by the Mexican Navy – kids who are 16, 17, 18 years old pointing M1’s at them. It’s very upsetting.”

Look for the racing circuit to get well-tested with three races finishing in Mexico:

March 13: San Diego to Puerto Vallarta Race, 1000nm
March 14: Corona del Mar to Cabo Race, 800nm
April 25: Newport to Ensenada Race, 125nm

If the law is applied, the Ensenada Race may have the most to fear. Administering the fee among their 200+ boat fleet could prove a task, and with many racer/cruiser entrants, an additional fee may affect participation. Said Judy Foster, Executive Secretary for the host organization, “We are working on a solution to this fee and will post information on our website as soon as it is resolved.”

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