Ronstan

Cabo Race: Good Times have Returned

Published on March 13th, 2017

The biennial Newport to Cabo International Yacht Race has seen all but 6 of the 22 starters retire due to light winds. Still in the race, however is Peter Isler on the Santa Cruze 70 Holua who files this report on March 13 at 19:00, located 541 nm northwest of Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.


What a difference a few hours of nice downwind sailing can do to erase the memories of nearly 48 hours of random extremely light air sailing in fog. This afternoon, the air aloft finally started mixing down to the surface to validate what the weather models have been announcing for the last few days. Unfortunately, this follows the big story of the race which has been attrition.

There are only 4 monohulls left racing out of 19 that started on March 11, and 2 of the 3 multihulls that started a day later. Up at the front of the fleet, the first to go was the scratch boat – Rio100. She had built a nice lead and was on track to first to finish but of course no record. By today, more boats were bailing including all the boats in our sled class except for Grand Illusion and us.

No question about it the conditions were trying – light wind with random shifts right and left and everywhere – and fog turning into thick haze/low cloud that made you feel like you were sailing in a bubble. After a day or more of weather forecasts for better conditions not panning out, it was easy to get jaded and think that the “pain” would never end.

But in its own perverse way, the sailing was very challenging. Just to steer straight was a big challenge… not succumbing to vertigo and end up heading 40 or more degrees off course was hard. On top of that, you had to crane your neck to keep spying the windex. With the wind being so light, and the mast shaking, the instrument data was worthless.

But as I said, all that is in the rear view mirror and we’ve had about 6 great hours of downwind sailing in 10 to 12 knots of wind. Plus it’s getting warmer every mile south. What we now have is what we were expecting – a light to moderate air run to Cabo – not the drifter we had.

The race committee announced today – by satellite message – a further extension of the race time limit – to 5pm on Sunday, March 19. Right now our models have us finishing some time late Thursday – so even the little boats could reasonably expect to have gotten a finish horn. Oh well, we have a good race going with a sister ship who has sailed very well so far to work up a 10+ mile lead. We have our work cut out for us – so I better go – but not before relaying one of the race highlights to date.

Last night a pigeon (banded on both legs) landed on deck as we wallowed 30 miles offshore. He was tired and let Mark Sims pick him up and showed him his “spot” – the swim deck behind the lifelines. He was bribed with lots of good food and water to stay there and 20 hours later – you can see that he has spent most of his time hanging out being fed peanuts and granola bars by the crew.

Occasionally, when startled by a gybe or some other activity he’ll fly off but always come back. He’s perched nearly everywhere … including the end of the boom so he could watch our sail trim. Then today – a beautiful dove arrived on deck. Some feathers were ruffled but after a bit of a stare off – they decided they best get along so now both are hanging on the stern deck of the Holua bird sanctuary!

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Background: Twenty-two teams entered the biennial Newport to Cabo International Yacht Race which takes the fleet from Newport Beach, CA south along the Baja California Peninsula to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. Monohulls (19) started the 792 nm race on March 11 with the multihull fleet (3) starting March 12.

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