MARINA DEL REY, Calif.—The Salsa fleet’s party two nights earlier was noisier than their start in Del Rey Yacht Club’s 19th biennial race to Puerto Vallarta Friday. The 11 boats sailed quietly away in shorts and shirtsleeves under a clear sky with a summer-like temperature in the high 70s (C.) and precious little wind—but no problem.
The people on Doug Baker’s Magnitude 80 will be far more disappointed if conditions are similar next Friday when they start their bid for Joss’s 22-year-old record in the 1,125-nautical mile race.
Maybe Joe Ebin, a local crew member on Hideshige Seki’s Japanese entry, Tayana 52 Polaire, had the right attitude for the Salsa boats that will continue to party together on three overnight stops en route to mainland Mexico, motoring part of the way if they must.
“Most of us are serious racers,” Ebin said, “but we’re looking at this as a party cruise. If you focus on winning, you’ll likely be disappointed. But if your focus is on having a good time, your success is guaranteed.”
Or, as Jim Puckett, son of local legend Allen Puckett who is sailing his dad’s Farr 55, Amazing Grace, said, “This is the best kind of racing. We love it. A race is a race and this is still racing.”
So it was, even as some of the boats struggled to reach the starting line and then sailed into the mist toward the Palos Verdes Peninsula. There they would turn left down the coast toward Mexico through the San Pedro Channel that separates Santa Catalina Island from the mainland.
Breeze for the six spinnaker class Salsas was 4 to 5 knots from the southwest, allowing them to sail hard on what little wind there was straight through the line set square to the course. Ten minutes later the five non-spinnaker boats found only 2 or 3 knots as they drifted out of sight.
Gil Maguire’s Tenacity, a J/133 from California Yacht Club, was the early leader, crossing the line on a strong pace and soon pulling away from Amazing Grace and the smaller Voice of Reason, an Ericson 32 sailed by co-owners Jim McCone and Mike Verla from Redondo Beach.
Maguire, perhaps more serious than some of his rivals, had his strategy worked out.
“It looks pretty light, so we won’t try to get too far from the coast,” he said before leaving the dock in a parade behind a fountain of spray from a Los Angeles County fireboat. “We’ll stay in close while watching the [weather forecasts]. It looks like there’ll be wind offshore [Saturday]. The weather is so variable that it’s too risky to take any flyers.”
The Salsa fleet is being escorted by Del Rey YC member Larry Silver’s Diver Gent, a power cruiser equipped with radar, sonar, infrared cameras and other electronic gear.
“I can see them all at any time, even underwater,” Silver said.
The five Racing Division boats will start Wednesday and Friday at 1 p.m. following their sendoff party Feb. 20.
Non-participants at home will be able to follow both the Salsas and the Racers on the Internet.
Awards will be presented at separate banquets in Puerto Vallarta March 2 and 3. Corum, the lead sponsor, will present the Admiral’s Cup Trophy 41 watch to the winner of each class within each division. The timepiece with a 41mm stainless steel case and nautical pennants instead of numerals to indicate the hours was introduced by Corum before the 2005 race.
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