Vallarta Race: One Fine Race Track

Published on February 22nd, 2016

The 32nd running of the Vallarta Race, a 1000nm course from San Diego, USA to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, began with staggered starts on February 19 and 20 for the 21-boat field. Here’s an update on February 22 from Peter Isler on the Santa Cruz 70 Holua…

Want to sail in one of the world’s great ocean races? Come on out to the West Coast and try out one of our famed races to Mexico. The Bermuda Race, Caribean 600 and Fastnet have nothing on this race track… and we’ve lucked out this year with a continuation of great conditions. Tough not to like 20+ knot VMG running in 8 foot swells, with each day getting warmer.

Last night we crossed gybes – just ahead of Pyewacket as the full moon witnessed a great battle between two of these venerable west coast “sleds”. Holua is a Santa Cruz 70 and Pyewacket is an Andrews 70… essentially the same creature – a very light narrow 70 foot hull with a relatively short rig.

A couple of decades ago there were nearly 20 of these crafts racing in the mostly downwind races along the California coast. The fleet thinned out over the years with many moving to the Great Lakes – but they are starting now to come back west and do what they were meant to do… surf downwind easily with a relatively small crew (we are sailing with 9 on Holua).

The wind started fading a bit today as expected, and next up on the tactical front is the passage ahead through the transition zone in the lee of the southernmost tip of the Baja California Peninsula. This is a real challenging dilemma because the hole can stretch downwind for 50 miles or more – and the sea state is akin to being in a washing machine.

We’ve been watching the big tri Mighty Merloe make her bid to get through – sailing some 70 miles wide of the Cape. They’ve had a good race so far – and the record that we set on Tom Siebel’s MOD70 Orion two years ago is definitely at risk.

Often the fortunes of this passage through the transition decide these races – and we are working hard and trying to build all the luck when we get our opportunity to get it “right”. It looks like we’ll get there by Tuesday morning.

Given that Pyewacket and we have been in touch and in phase nearly the entire race, I expect that we’ll both try to push through near the same spot – so it may come down to boat handling and sail calls in the light air zone up ahead.

Editor’s note: Holua has taken over the Class 2 lead and is under 400nm from the finish.

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Approaching the turn.

holua crew

Holua crew with Peter Isler in front. Photo by Bronny Daniels.

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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