San Diego to Vallarta Race: Know when to hold, Know when to fold

Published on March 19th, 2014

When competing in the offshore races to Mexico, there is one truth that lurks in the back of your mind. You can be brilliant for the entire race, but if you arrive at the finish line during the wrong time of day, none of it may matter.

The heating and cooling of the land plays mean tricks on the wind.

At 08:20:25 today, Bob Pethick’s Rogers 46 Bretwalda was the first monohull to finish the 1000 nm San Diego to Vallarta International Yacht Race. But in their approach to the line, posting consistent 8 knots of speed, they hit the wall at about 0400, with just a few miles remaining. Painful!

However, they are now the overall leader, a twist of fate which could remain if the latest weather trend continues.

The next boat to finish could be yesterday’s overall leader Fritz Lanzinger’s J/125 Hamachi, which has been bleeding miles, and now sits in second overall with 25.0 nm remaining (as of 1500). The winds, apparently, are getting soft in the Gulf between the Baja peninsula and mainland Mexico.

“You got to know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em, know when to walk away and know when to run.” – Kenny Rogers, The Gambler

This report comes from Bill Helvestine’s Santa Cruz 50 Deception…

“After drifting through another never-ending wind hole, with forecasts of even less wind, a turtle doing laps around the boat, and Expedition telling us we would arrive in Puerto Vallarta sometime in August, we decided to withdraw Wednesday evening while off of Cabo San Lucas.

“We had experienced large periods of no wind over the last two days, and the gribs showed little hope for improvement during the rest of the week. With over 300 miles to go to PV as the crow flies (and likely many more miles of actual sailing), we were concerned about even finishing by the time limit on Saturday night.

“Besides, we have additional crew arriving in PV for the MEXORC regatta that starts Sunday (March 23-29 in Banderas Bay). We also considered that if we didn’t withdraw Wednesday night, we could spend another day or so in wind holes, and then not have enough fuel to motor the remaining miles to PV. Topping it off, we all felt that we had seen the best part of the race already, and didn’t relish the gamble of sailing in ultra-light winds for a few more days.

“So we withdrew Wednesday at 2000, and motored the 52 miles to Cabo San Lucas, arriving 0400 today (Thursday). We topped the tanks when the fuel dock opened at 0600, grabbed more coffee and some cervezas, and were underway for Puerto Vallarta at 0630.

“Ironically of course, once we left the harbor we were met with 20 knot winds, gusting as high as 29 knots, coming straight down the Gulf of California from the north. We hoisted the jibtop, reefed the main (we already had two roundups), put our foulies back on, and enjoyed a rollicking 30-40 minutes doing 10+ knots down the rhumbline.

“Pulling the latest gribs for where we were at the moment, they were showing southerly winds at 5 knots or less. Anyway we patted ourselves on the back and concluded that these strong northerlies wouldn’t extend to the rest of the fleet far to the south where were last night. And sure enough, the northerlies disappeared within the hour as quickly as they had appeared. So we’re back to motor-sailing with the main up, doing about 7.5 knots.

“So what did we learn from all this? ‘Don’t let your children grow up to be weathermen.’

“We’re looking forward to PV and the MEXORC racing. It’s nice and hot down here. We have plenty of food and water. And I think I’ll go have one of those cerveza’s.”

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