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San Diego to Puerto Vallarta Race 2014: NorCal vs SoCal

Published on March 13th, 2014

by Erik Simonson,
On the eve of the 1,000 nm southern jaunt down Baja California from San Diego to Puerto Vallarta, we take a look at the history of, and the competition, and more specifically, the Nor Cal Boats entered this year and their crews.

An offshoot of the Acapulco Race, which was 430 nm longer, originally established in 1953 , the Vallarta race is the 4th reduction of the course which was reduced to Manzanillo in 1976 and Mazatlan in 1996. This will be the 7th running to Puerto Vallarta, which has witnessed Magnitude 80 claim the 1st to finish honors 3 times, Pyewacket 70 and turboed Pyewacket 70′ taking line honors twice and Akela and Loe Real winning one apiece. Overall, on corrected time, Blue Blazes and Peligroso have each won twice, with Stark Raving Mad, Grand Illusion and Pyewacket also winning overall honors. Akela has made the best time thus far, galloping down the course in 3Days: 08hr:52:01.

Can the record be broken in 2014?

That is yet to be determined, but if there have ever been boats on the course capable of establishing a course record, the two Trimarans, Tom Siebel’s Mod 70 Orion and HL.Enloe’s Orma 60 Mighty Merloe, have the power. Zan Drejes who double handed Mr Enloe’s previous super fast tri Loe Real in 2012 is in awe of the two boat tri race this year.

“Mighty Merloe is the old Groupama ORMA 60 and is just damn fast. She was so fast that she pretty much demolished the ORMA 60 class by herself.” Zan said. “In the Islands Race Last weekend, she was untouchable, we were on her tail the entire race, usually about a mile behind, which is incredible as we were just flying on Orion”. Zan goes on to exude how awesome the Island race is for the Tri’s and what a perfect playground is for big tri sailing, “Flat water and 18 knots of breeze and we are routinely hitting 35 knots.”

Can Orion or Mighty Merloe set the new standard this year?

“I don’t know, the forecast is looking light, and if there is any swell, the big multi’s tend to slap around a bit, knocking the wind out of the sails, while the big sleds can power right through.” Zan is joined with Bay Area’s Matt Noble and recent transplant Charlie Ogletree on Orion, along with Peter Isler, Damien Foxall, Max St-Maurice, and Francisco Cabildo Quiroz.

In Class 1, 6 non sleds will be battling out for class and line honors. Thomas Akin’s RP 52 Meanie will be side by side with sistership, Ricardo Brockman’s Vincitore, a swan song for the boat and crew as new ownership will greet Meanie upon arrival. Jeff Thorpe, Tom Akin, Hogan Beatie, Sam Heck, Tom Powrie, Mo Gutenkunst, Gary Gorden, Dr Joe, Dan Malpas, and James Clappier will be guiding “Meanie” down on her final Bay Area crewed voyage.

The souped up RP 63 Invisible Hand is also Nor Cal talent with Frank Slootman, Norman Davant, Patrick Whitmarsh, Rufus Sjoberg, Bill Colombo, Bill Erkelens, Jay Crum, Rod Daniels, Jeff Causey, Paul Allen, Dominic Marchal, Ben Allen, Ruben Gabriel leading the charge and representing NorCal. Navigator Patrick “Whitey” Whitmarsh is working his 3rd major ocean race on “The Hand”, and while he isn’t excited about the forecasted light breeze, he’s stoked to be sailing with such a talented crew and a freshly rejuvenated boat.

“The new light air sails will be a big help this year,” he indicates. As far as strategy at this point, he says, “We may be hunting for breeze,” meaning offshore or inshore are both in play.

Sailmaker Bill Colombo from Doyle Pacific was aboard for last year’s Cabo Race and indicates the boat suffered through the light stuff. “We have a lot more sail area with the Stratis radial code zero, the masthead genoa G-zero plus a new A-4 spinnaker, we expect to be much more competitive in the tight reaching department. If we stay out of holes, we should be competitive.” Erkelens, the program manager expects their main competition to be Bad Pak, Tom Holthus’s well appointed STP 65 which has fared well in offshore events in recent years. Peligroso, Lorenzo Berho’s Kernan 70 and Destroyer, the TP52 owned by Eduardo Saen round out Class 1 .

The Westcoast 70’s, formerly “The Sleds”, is loaded with downhill talent who have previously raced to Mexico with Pyewacket the favorite. Roy Disney continues to hold the family mantel high, whether Transpac or Mexican races the Magical Cat lives for success. Rock Star heavy Holua, Brack Duker’s SC 70 has David Ullman, Peter Holmberg, Doug McLean and Erik Shampain on board this trip south, and can be expected to be in the running for class honors.

Lindy Thomas’s Andrew 70, Condor, the SC 70’s Grand Illusion (James McDowell), Maverick (Chris Slaggerman), and Mirage (John Delaura) fill out a very competitive field that is heavy in talent but light on NorCal sailors.

Friday’s starters in Class 3 has two SC 50’s representing the Bay Area. Hula Girl, Paul Cayard’s 1 campaign family ride to Hawaii which was purchased by J-World is led by Wayne Zittel, Barry Demak and Kevin Sullivan and a supporting cast of pay-to-play sailors who get the chance to experience real world ocean racing without committing to a campaign for a lengthy time.

Said J/World’s Barry Demak, “J/World’s Hula Girl is a different program than most since we have six clients aboard, most of whom have limited experience sailing offshore let alone racing and handling a ‘big boat’ like Hula Girl. Still, they are motivated and vested in the opportunity to compete against seasoned crews. What the team lacks in experience racing together, we make up for with positive attitude, work ethic, determination and enthusiasm! A challenge for our coaches is to nurture the development of the team as quickly as possible! We can’t afford to give miles away by taking our foot off the pedal or not pushing the boat to its potential. We’ve got friends,alumni and a J/World coach aboard Deception so we’re certainly keen to finish ahead of them and keep our time! Their core team have at least 4 long races under their belt together, and countless other coastal and buoy races – on that boat. We need to get our guys to their level within a day or two of the start. If we can do that and make decent routing decisions, we expect to be drinking margaritas before them! We’re in it to win it – and that means sailing our boat the best that we can, and not just focusing on Deception.”

Hula Girl’s counterpart Deception, William Helvestine’s SC 50 will sail with the crew Mike Arraj, Sue Alexander, Steven Meyers, Charles Stuart, Jasper Van Vliet, Shana Bagley and Mark Howe. Deception competes on an intensive level on SF Bay buoy races, and offshore has expanded into the longer ocean races with the addition of Mark Howe and Shana Bagley adding additional ocean racing experience. We expect to see their results get better and better as time progresses. The J-125 Hamachi from Seattle have to be class favorites, with Fritz Lanzinger, Jonathan Mckee and Trevor Baylis onboard, you can expect a tightly run program with little drama. Bretwalda III, Bob Pethick’s Rogers 46, was 1st in the 2013 Cabo race and 2nd in class in the 2013 Transpac. Bill McClure’s Allure rounds out the division.

The final representative from Norcal is Sebastien de Halleux’s Swan 45 Swazik crewed by Seadon Wijsen, Stu Bannatyne, Dave Rolfe, Andy McCormick, Alexis van de Wyer, Graham Anand and Mike Rohde. The GGYC representative was 1st overall and 1st in division in the 2012 Pac Cup and hope to repeat that success this year. Standing in their way are the well-traveled vintage Westward, owned and magnificently maintained by the Bell Family, Dean Fargo and John Chamberlain’s Swan 651 Second Wind, and Kjeld Hestehave’s Velos.

The fun starts this Friday with Div 4 warning at 11:55, Div 3 at 12:55. The big boys start on Saturday,
Division 2 at 11:55, Divison 1 at 12:15 and the multis at 12:35.

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