Racing down the coast to Cabo San Lucas

Published on March 22nd, 2015

(March 22, 2015) – Newport Harbor Yacht Club has enjoyed a long-standing tradition of hosting the Newport to Cabo San Lucas Yacht Race. Since its first race in 1971, sailors have enjoyed the 800 mile race down the Baja coastline to the warm weather and big breeze of Cabo San Lucas. Over the 40+ years of hosting the Cabo Race, NHYC has witnessed the tremendous evolution of yacht design and offshore sailing.

Typical entries in the 70’s and early 80’s we IOR boats with unique downwind sailing characteristics; the ultralight (ULDB) boats arrived in the early 80’s with the Santa Cruz 50 making their debut in 1981. These offwind speedsters opened the door to bigger ULDB’s and the 70 footers began their reign of the Mexican Races in the mid 80’s. Bigger, faster boats evolved through the 80’s into the 90’s with the development of the 80 footers like Magnitude and Pyewacket. These boats brought along asymmetrical spinnakers, canting keels, and daggerboards. Elapsed times records were always at stake once the 80 footers arrived.

Today the regatta sees a resurgence of the legacy ULDB boats with the 50 and 70 footers returning to the West Coast for the offwind races like Cabo and Transpac. The regatta also continues to attract new designs in all size ranges and speeds to compete in these tremendous offwind races.

Three ORR classes started on Saturday (Mar 21) between 1300 and 1400 hours, which included the Santa Cruz 50/52’s and the “70’s” sub-classes. About until about 10pm, the entire fleet stayed close together, inside the rhumb line, making the most out of the light winds, keep maneuvers to a minimum. By the time they reached San Diego, each of the ORR classes were grouped pretty close together. In the evening, as the wind increased, the boats started heading further off shore, still grouped fairly close together, and by midnight, the ORR1 class is well offshore traveling consistently above 11 knots with the rest of the boats following their lead.

At about 0500 on Sunday morning, and about 80 miles offshore, the first boats gybed heading inshore and by 0700 all the boats had gybed moving fast in the good morning wind. The ORR’s will be passing up the PHRF fleet within hours and will be sailing into building winds all day Sunday.

One of the ORR class boats, OEX, filed this report today:

“We have joined a gathering of vessels participating in the biennial sleigh ride to Cabo San Lucas, hosted by the Newport Harbor Yacht Club. On the race course are all manner of vessels from Frankenstein rebuilds of 100′ Maxi boats (Rio 100) to a smattering of current ORR boats, several alien looking vessels with more than one hull (which somehow seems unfair) and a group of 28 year old sloops that are aging better than most of their crews – the West Coast 70 sleds. TPYC Staff Commodore Bill Lee and his Santa Cruz crew launched an entirely new way to enjoy sailing.

“On board the OEX we have Randy Smith and Bill Petersen as watch captains, Jib Kelly navigating and Erik Berzins, John Busch, Jim MacLeod, Bill Herrschaft, Dave Hood, Peter Hambrick, Jon Andron and John Sangmeister. Our competitor’s include Roy Disney’s “Pyewacket”, James McDowell’s “Grand Illusion”, Brack Duker and the “Holua” crew and Chris Slagerman and his crew on board “Maverick.” All familiar faces and worthy competitors. We are a decidedly “Corinthian” crew but feel up to the task of challenging the San Diego mafia.

“Our race almost ended before we started. En route to the starting line from Alamitos Bay, a larger grey whale surfaced within a boat length of our boat. After a third row start on a one row line, we managed to tack out into better pressure and were soon leading our fleet south. We all remarked what great sailing conditions we enjoyed getting out of Newport Beach. As we came abeam San Diego, our fleet experienced a familiar COma Off Point Loma as conditions became spotty at best.

“Our routing has called for us to stay offshore at least 25 miles. All night we were accompanied by dolphins zooming alongside our hull, leaving long trails of phosphorenscent trails like torpedoes. Our fleet is similar in performance and we were tightly grouped together at sunrise. The boats inside faired better and we are now making up time as the afternoon seabreeze builds to 20 knots and we slide down indigo blue swells toward Cedros Island. We have a bit of leverage on our group and hope to make steady gains.

“Last night Chef Pete Lehmar sent us Lobster Mac’n’Cheese from Gladstone’s Long Beach. Tonight is a surf and turf of Filets and Shrimp skewers on a bed of Coconut rice. Glamping indeed. Good wind, fine boat and a great crew, we have much to be grateful for.”

Two of the three multihulls started on Saturday afternoon after the ORR boats in light winds. While Phaedo won the start, ExtremeH20 quickly passed to leeward and started building a lead, crossing and establishing about a 4 mile lead as they raced south. Near midnight, following the lead of the other fleets, they both headed outside in the building breeze with ExtremeH20 building their lead to about 8 miles. Early Sunday morning, ExtremeH20 gybed and headed back in moving at about 8 knots. Both boats are now mingling with the ORR2 and ORR3 as they start sailing into building winds today and this afternoon.

Today, at 1300, the last of the multihulls, the Mighty Merloe started and is expected to quickly catch up with her competitors.

It’s been about 43 hours since the PHRF started on Friday (Mar 20). The PHRF boats are still ahead of the ORR’s and Multihulls at about 220 miles from the start, but it looks like the first of the ORR’s, Rio 100, is going to over take them anytime now.

It was slow going for most of the day on Saturday for the PHRF fleet, struggling to maintain speed in the light winds off San Diego and the Mexican border, with Between the Sheets still holding the far outside position. By about 1400, the wind started to build and by afternoon most of the fleet was moving at 7 knots or better. By midnight, the wind continued to build as most were moving at 8 knots or more. The fleet started navigating further outside, decreasing the leverage enjoyed by Between The Sheets.

At about midnight, Between the Sheets gybed heading back toward the coast while the rest of the fleet continued on starboard gybe heading out. By 6am, most the fleet gybed back to port heading in with everyone enjoying good winds and moving from 8-9 knots. While Between the Sheets still enjoys the lead, Miramar has taken the outside position and is a very close 3rd place, while Second Wind is well inside them both, moving very fast and in 2nd place.

The forecast for the area of the PHRF fleet Sunday morning wass NNW 11 to 15 knots building to NW 15 to 20 knots in the afternoon.

Track all the action online

Current position reports and standings are available on the website Results Page.

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