As the Australians learned at the 1987 America’s Cup down in Fremantle, don’t mess with Dennis Conner when he has a score to settle.
That’s on the minds of Lew Beery, Andy Rose and Tom Purcell, the Tres Gordos LLC group that owns It’s OK, an Andrews 50, as they prepare to defend last year’s Maxi class victory in the Newport Ocean Sailing Association’s 63rd Newport to Ensenada International Yacht Race starting Friday, April 23, off Balboa Pier.
The Tres Gordos guys beat Conner’s Farr 60, Stars & Stripes, by 3 minutes 29 seconds, with Alec Oberschmidt’s Reichel/Pugh 50, Staghound, only eight minutes farther back.
That’s talking PHRF corrected handicap time, which is what counts when disparate boats compete. Theoretically, the system rewards the crews that sail their boats closest to their rated potentials.
Boat for boat, Stars & Stripes, with a rating of minus-63 seconds per mile, actually finished about 28 minutes ahead of It’s OK (-57) in their contest for the President of Mexico trophy last year.
“And, Beery said, “if Dennis hadn’t hit an island of kelp he would have beaten us. He did it early in the morning around 3 … probably got too close in [to shore].”
But last year’s top three Maxi finishers will go at it again for 125.5 nautical miles of the offshore tradition.
Conner said, “I have enjoyed the race since the mid-50s. My first races were on PCC and Owens Cutters. In those days it was THE race everyone looked forward to as there were much fewer races.
“Not much has changed in the race itself. Ensenada has seen the biggest changes with the new downtown and paved roads.”
Beery said of the 2009 contest, “What was really amazing was that the first three boats couldn’t have sailed a shorter course. All of the other guys went clear outside.”
It was a special year with a moderate but steady offshore breeze blowing from an ideal direction that allowed the fleet to sail a straight-line reaching course until turning into Todos Santos Bay.
Beery, Rose and Purcell certainly know the way. Beery reckons he has sailed more than 40 Newport-Ensenada races and Rose and Purcell about 30 each.
“That gives us about a hundred years of experience in the race on board,” Beery said.
Beery’s boats named It’s OK also have been a race tradition.
“This is number seven, and all of ‘em have been in the race,” he said.
And the fun doesn’t stop at the finish.
“We check into the Coral [hotel], and we have our annual croquet tournament there,” Beery said. “I’m the defending champion in that, too. One of the rules is you have to hold a glass of wine in one hand and hit the ball with the other.”
Until then, they are focusing on sticking as close as they can to Conner.
“He is a fun competitor,” Beery said.
Conner said, “I am hoping for another good time in this year’s race.”
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