OFFSHORE: Distance Racing, West Coast Style

Published on April 1st, 2013

For the offwind sleds that line-up for the 800 mile Newport Beach (CA) to Cabo San Lucas Yacht Race, the ETA for cervezas and carne asada is typically about three days. So when the winner of ORR-1 needs four and a half days, and it is a boat from the Great Lakes that is eager for the fun and sun of west coast offshore racing, they might feel a bit cheated. According to Detroit-based Bora Gulari, even a bad Cabo race is pretty good…

This year I was lucky enough to sail the Newport to Cabo race for the first time aboard Phil O’Niel’s TP52 Natalie J as a warm-up for the Los Angeles to Honolulu Transpac Race later this year. As a crew we have competed in the east coast and midwest distance racing scene before, but except for our bowman and trimmer, the rest of us had never done any distance racing on the west coast.

To say we were excited to go downwind for 800 miles was an understatement. I was also looking forward to learning about how to play the West coast downwind slide game. The race itself was fantastic, champagne downwind sailing, squadrons of dolphins escorting you down the racetrack, awesome Baja California mountain scenery always just visible through the haze, and every day was Ground Hog’s Day playing the same strategy over and over and over.

By the end I think we did a reasonable job of figuring it out. In what became a 600-mile match race with the Southern Cross 52 Meanie, we were able to squeak by them in the final morning and hold onto our lead until the finish. I am certain I speak for the rest of the crew: Philip O’Niel, Dave Oswald, David Otenbaker, Brian Torresen, Patrick Drummond, sailing legend Steve Benjamin, put this race on your bucket list.

I can’t wait to do it again.

Race website:

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