Vallarta Race: Horses are on the Track

Published on February 20th, 2016

San Diego, CA (February 20, 2016) – All 21 boats have departed San Diego and the adventure to Puerto Vallarta is in motion. A pair of Farr 40s are one design racing for 1000 miles; the 60×60 trimaran machine Mighty Merloe is pacing the epic Super Maxi sled Rio100; a great collection of (Class 3) Santa Cruz 50s and 52s; the great design debate: small quick pole boat (J/125) versus classic offshore R/50 Blue Blazes; and a Class 2, the diverse and always fun to sail sled class. There is a lot going on this week in the Pacific.

Classes 3 and 4 featured Santa Cruz 50s and 52s, a Reichel/Pugh 50, a J/125, and two Farr 40s. The Friday (Feb 19) start saw a chamber of commerce day, and a great one to send boats charging south to Puerto Vallarta. Four Class 4 boats and six Class 3 boats started in a perfect westerly breeze with 10-15 knots pressure. Two-time previous PV winner, R/P 50 Blue Blazes, started strong and was among the leaders of the pack – a good sign for skipper Dennis Pennell who is aiming for his third win this year.

As the sun was rising Saturday (Feb 20) morning on a slightly overcast day, things were not looking up for the big boats starts. The 10 boats that set sail on Friday took advantage of a consistent breeze, launching them over 200 miles down the course. Most were reporting winds at 15-20 knots. Class 0, 1, and 2 boats sat around the morning skippers meeting wishing their race could have included the Friday conditions. Skipper Wayne Zittel and the team on the J/125 J Worlds Hula Girl provided some commentary on their first day on the water.

“We had a nice start down at the favored pin end of the line, and were able to lead our pack out the Bay,” reported Zittel. “As our fleets cleared the shifty/gusty stretches near Ballast point, the first spinnakers went up, and I do believe our whole fleet were into spins before we reached the ocean, with the exception of Deception who opted for their Code 0.

“The breeze had filled across the whole course, so our pack of boats all sailed a line shoreward of the Coronado Islands. It can be risky if the winds are not solid, but it is closer to the rhumbline, and yesterday this was clearly the fast call. One by one, boats peeled from their reachers to the runners, and we were off. All afternoon, our fleet drag-raced south. Lucky Duck punched out to an early lead. Horizon was next with us just off their weather hip. We worked had to reel them in, but had a bit of stubborn kelp on the keel that we absolutely could not shake…”

But Saturday dawned still and slightly overcast. Things were not looking up for the big boat start. But what a difference 30 minutes can make. As the Race Committee took station in the starting area, winds were calm. By 11:30am, 25 min prior to the start, winds were 6 knots from the south. And at the start, 11 knots from 270!

Class 2 (Sleds) were rail to rail at the pin and quickly out past Point Loma. Class 1 got underway 20 minutes later with Super Maxi Rio100’s speed reaching nearly 23 knots out of the bay. Rio100 amazingly makes its competition look small on the racecourse. Measuring over 100′ long and 20′ wide, Rio100 is targeting the West Coasts most competitive and challenging races such as the SoCal 300 and Transpacs. The crew of 18 on board pushed the Super Maxi out in front of the Class 1 boats moments after the start line and was a 1/4 of a mile in front of the competition as the boats passed Point Loma headed south.

Then, twenty minutes after that, the speedster of the event, (and after watching them sail across the start line, it is apparent why they are sailing even though they are in a class by themselves…literally and figuratively) the ocean going ORMA 60 Trimaran, Mighty Merloe, rocketed across the start line. Within seconds she was flying two hulls, with just her leeward ama in the water. ZOOM is the word that comes to mind.

SDYC wishes safe and fast travels for the 200+ competitors of the 2016 Vallarta Race.

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Source: Emily Willhoft, SDYC

Background: The 32nd running of the Vallarta Race hosts 21 teams competing on the 1000nm course from San Diego, USA to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. The biennial event in 2016 has staggered starts with Division 3 and 4 starting February 19 with Division 0, 1, and 2 starting February 20.

The fleet consists of six boats from Southern California while other boats hail from San Francisco Bay, Hawaii, Texas, Chicago, Mexico, and Peru.

The multihull race record of 02:08:33 was set in 2014 by Tom Siebel’s MOD70 trimaran Orion. The monohull race record of 03:08:52 was set in 2010 by Bill Turpin’s R/P 77 Akela.

Upon arrival in Puerto Vallarta, seven of the boats are planning to compete the following week on Banderas Bay in the MEXORC regatta on February 28 to March 5.

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