PUERTO VALLARTA, Mexico—In its battle with Magnitude 80 for the record in Del Rey Yacht Club’s 19th International Yacht Race to Puerto Vallarta, presented by Corum, the good ship Scout Spirit wound up in an unexpected place: Magnitude 80′s slip in Long Beach’s Alamitos Bay Marina.
Worse yet, without its mast.
Such are the fortunes when men go to sea to test the natural forces in their meanest state, which dashed the hopes of David Janes and his crew as they hurtled downwind 15 miles past Santa Catalina Island only 3 ½ hours after the start in Santa Monica Bay Friday.
With the wind blowing 20 knots from behind over turbulent seas, Magnitude 80, a slightly larger and faster Andrews 80, was already running away at record speeds, but Scout Spirit, a Reichel/Pugh 77, was also on a wild downhill sleigh ride when suddenly, at about 4:30 p.m., the backstay gave way and the mast fell forward above the lower spreaders about 15 feet above the deck.
Surveying the damage in Long Beach, Pete Heck, the watch captain, said, “We heard this loud bang and looked up to see the backstay let go. Then the mast broke. We were lucky. It fell over the starboard side and not on the deck.
“The crew did a great job and no one got hurt. The boat only has one scratch on it and we saved the new North main [sail]. We had to cut loose the rest of the mast. It weighs about 1,000 pounds and there was no way to get it onboard. We were in pretty rough seas. As soon as we got everything cleared away and secured we started motoring back to Long Beach. It took us eight hours to get back plowing [upwind] through the waves the whole way.”
David Janes, the owner and skipper, looked tired and disappointed but was relieved that everyone was okay.
“It was a little hairy for a while in rough seas, but everybody did their job and nobody got hurt,” Janes said. “That’s the most important thing.”
Arriving at Long Beach before dawn, Scout Spirit asked the Harbor Master where they might park their crippled boat.
“Well,” they were told, “Magnitude’s slip is available right now. They’ll be gone for awhile.”
Long gone, it seems.
By Saturday afternoon Magnitude 80 was clocking 16.7 knots over the 1,125-nautical mile course, well above the overall average speed of Joss, a MacGregor 65, when it set the record of 4 days 23 hours 14 seconds in 1985 in similar conditions.
That’s no guarantee of a record, though. The wind can be treacherously tricky in the Gulf of California past the Baja California peninsula and even less reliable over the last 30 miles in Banderas Bay to the finish line off the beach in front of the Westin Regina Hotel.
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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