Spotty winds for Newport Ensenada Race
Published on April 29th, 2017
The days when you could be on the water in Newport Beach for the start of the Newport to Ensenada International Yacht Race, then drive south in time to see the first boats finish is officially over.
Two years in a row now, heavy afternoon southboud traffic following the start, then backups at the border plus a pit stop for insurance and gas have hindered the timely arrival of photographers and volunteers. “Who would have thought a sailboat could make it to Ensenada faster than a car?” questioned Jr. Staff Commodore Dave Shockley.
The 70th edition had 187 entries for the iconic contest on April 28 that attracts serious sailors, weekend racers and recreational cruisers, all vying for one of more than 45 trophies.
Lloyd Thornburg’s, MOD70 Phaedo3 and Howard Enloe’s ORMA60 Mighty Merloe crossed the finish line by happy hour with elapsed times of 5:45:52 and 5:49:28 respectively, with Enloe’s team winning on corrected time. No records were broken this year but amazing that after 125 nm, they finished by only 3:56 apart.
“Mr. Enloe is quite brilliant in the way he structures his crew,” notes Will Suto. “He likes to sail with a mix of seasoned veterans, ambitious young professionals, and adventurous Corinthians. For this race we had two legends of French offshore multihull sailing, Jacques Vincent, who sails regularly with us, and Loick Peyron, who was sailing with us for the first time. It was a true privilege to sail under their leadership and to learn from their vast experience.
“The most exciting part of the race for us was about half way down the course. We had fallen behind the MOD in building breeze, but we made a few adjustments and with Loick on the helm we began to reel the MOD in. We ended up passing Phaedo to weather with about one boat length between us, both yachts pushing 30 knots and flying on one hull.”
Roy Disney’s Andrews 70 Pyewacket was the big winner, taking PHRF Overall honors along with their win in the Maxi class. “Roy really enjoys the race,” noted longtime crew Ben Mitchell. “He began doing it with his Dad when he was 13 years old.” Mitchell noted that the race was far from easy, with very changeable conditions and several lead change along the course.
Despite Friday (Apr 28) starting with a wind advisory for the Huntington Beach area, winds dissipated as boats converged on the start at 10:30 a.m. By 12:30 p.m. and the final start, big swells remained but wind had slowed to between just 6-8 knots.
However, it was so windy later that day in Ensenada, the Port Captain closed the harbor to outgoing traffic. But winds in Ensenada did little for the rest of the fleet, many of which got caught in doldrums 60 nm to the north near San Diego. The option to drop out of the race proved too tempting for 40 boats.
“Spotty winds – this is sailboat racing,” said Commodore Tom Kennedy.
Dana Point Yacht Club once again claimed honors for the most entries from a yacht club (18) and the most winners from a yacht club – Viggo Torbensen picked up the Governor of California Trophy. Not only did he take home some hardware for the Best Corrected Time PHRF A win for Timeshaver, a J/125, he placed second in the new category of Best Elapsed Time, PHRF A. The last six hours were difficult, Torbensen said. “The ocean was like a washboard. We finished upwind in 23 knots; we’ve never tried that before.”
The trying part was key to Barry Senescu’s success. His Yippee Kai Yay, a water-ballasted Class 40 racer built for crossing the Atlantic and for withstanding strong forward winds, was spending a little too much time at the dock. He and his wife Sue had been active sailors for 25 years. When she became not well enough to sail a couple of years before sadly passing in 2015, his sailing aspirations waned.
Collecting the City of Newport Beach Trophy for Best Corrected Time, PHRF B, he rightfully described his win as a comeback story.
Former and long-time crewmate, now girlfriend Betsy Crowfoot, was an integral part of pulling everything back together, Senescu said. She added a stability factor; logistically and spiritually in getting the team (that included Yippee’s boat designer Jim Antrim) and the boat in shape to race. “That gave me the confidence to put the money into sails, and the confidence to go race,” he said.
While many boats hit lulls and were stuck in holes, huge winds filled in the gaps and Yippee Kai Yay took advantage. “The conditions were perfect for a major portion of the race,” he said. “And the crew worked really well together.”
“I had an awesome crew,” said David Nelson of the Royal Lake of the Woods Yacht Club. Adding another element to the truly international event, the crew of Kite 35 consisted of two honorary Canadians and four real ones. One of the honorary ones, a Quantum Sails rep, offered some tips and tactics that helped the ID35 win PHRF C.
“We made a lot of right calls per conditions and did a good job of adapting,” Nelson said. At one point, the boat hit 19 knots, 2 more than he thought possible after last year’s speedy trip. Nelson bought the boat in Newport Beach 4 years ago with the intent of taking it to Northern Ontario to race it on home turf; a lake peppered with 140,000 islands. Someone talked him into racing N2E and now he’s hooked. “I’ve come to the realization that it’s not going back to Canada,” he said of the boat. Neither will the beautiful Newport Harbor Chamber of Commerce Trophy, but only because it is not acceptable carry-on luggage.
Echoing the importance of making the right calls, Bill Gibbs of Wahoo accurately summed up the entire race: “If you zig when you should have zagged, it will make hours of difference in your results.” Last year’s Tommy Bahama Trophy winner for First Overall Corrected and multiple N2E champ, placed second to Chim Chim, a Gunboat 62, in the ORCA class.
But we do this for the adventure; results are incidental, he said. The fastest Wahoo hit this race was almost 24 knots. The slowest was zero. The downside of swells created the only breeze. “It’s frustrating as heck, but it builds character. So it’s OK,” he smiled.
Andy Rose of It’s OK, an Andrews 50, described this year’s race as the most fascinating N2E they’ve done. Lots of choices; it becomes tactical, he said. “This is the reason we do this, for races like this.” At one point they hit 20 knots, but also reported dropping to zero. The familiarity of a regular crew helped, but they were joined this year by 15-year-old Jeffrey Peterson. “I have shirts older than you,” said one of the crew while waiting to pick up the Secretary of State USA Trophy. Peterson worked a couple positions on the boat on this his first N2E and learned a lot about sail changes as the crew did about 20 of them. “He’s a future (sailing) rock star,” said Rose.
Angelina Garcia started her first N2E Friday aboard Jazz. She said the boat got off to a good start, but then floated around for 8 hours. After discovering an issue with the engine, they finally limped to San Diego Yacht Club. From there, she and other crew members took an Uber to the border then a taxi from Tijuana so they could enjoy the festivities. That’s determination, she said.
Those discouraged by the sometime floatfest can take solace in knowing that this was not a record setting year for slow. That was in 1954 when Howard Ahmanson’s Sirius arrived first with an elapsed time of 31:09:15.
“N2E is always an adventure; it’s different every year,” said NOSA Vice Commodore Daniel Hodge. “Yet we are truly pleased when racers tell us that it’s always a fabulous event for everyone.”
The Newport Ocean Sailing Association, hosts of the race, have scheduled the 2018 race for May 4-6.
Background: First run in 1948, the N2E is a time-honored and revered tradition event for Southern California sailors, the City Newport Beach, the City of Ensenada and sailing enthusiasts from across the country. In recent years, great winds or lack thereof have tested and challenged the skills of crews of this overnight on this race. N2E’s official elapsed time record (set by the 70MOD Orion) is 5:17:26. Aszhou, a 63-foot Australian-built Reichel Pugh, holds the monohull time of 9:35:34.