Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Camaraderie + Perseverance Keys @ N2E Race

J/88 sailing Newport Ensenada Race Anyone Seen The Amazing “Blue Flash”!?
(Ensenada, Mexico)- The 68th annual Newport to Ensenada International Yacht Race saw over 200 boats hit the starting line on April 24 around noon in less than ideal conditions.

Hosted by the Newport Ocean Racing Association, the beloved N2E is an eclectic mix of serious sailors campaigning multi-million dollar yachts racing alongside recreational cruisers.  As a result, there’s no putting a damper on the attitude of competitors; camaraderie and the spirit of competition trumps lofty winds and rogue showers every time. Via the challenges of this race however, we learned it can be rewarding to get swept away with your family; it is OK to get off to a bad start, teenagers cure doldrums and look to the horizon for brighter days!

J/88 BlueFlash wins Ensenada RaceSpeaking of young sailors, Scott Grealish credits his 16-year-old son for their J/88 BLUEFLASH winning the Gil Knudson Trophy for Best Corrected Time in PHRF D Class. In their first N2E and second ocean race ever, Grealish said his son, a champion dinghy racer, was the one on deck who pulled the J/88 out of the doldrums. Although Grealish lives in Oregon, he keeps BLUEFLASH in San Diego. He decided to race N2E because it was appropriate for his 29-foot boat and because of N2E’s rich history.

The J/120 Class had seven boats with many of the top boats from the SoCal region racing.  After some close, spirited sailing in drifty conditions at the beginning, the choice was going out or staying in along the shore.  Some tried both.  After much gnashing of teeth, it was Mike Hatch’s J-ALMIGHTY crew that persevered in the end with an elapsed time of 24:47:37, just 6 minutes faster than Rudolph Hasl’s HASL FREE.  Taking 3rd was John Laun’s CAPER another 12 minutes back, followed by Peter Bretschger’s ADIOS in 4th and Tom & Terri Manok’s POLE DANCER in 5th.

The seventeen boat PHRF A class had the hottest California offshore boats in the 40-60 foot range.  Top dog amongst the J teams was Viggo Torbensen’s J/125 TIMESHAVER in third place.  Sailing one of their best offshore races in awhile was Carolyn Parks’ magnificent bright red J/145 RADIO FLYER, just 9 minutes back from TIMESHAVER.  Taking 8th in class was Mark Surber’s J/125 DERIVATIVE.  Winning bragging rights amongst the J/160 fast cruiser-racers was John Lyon’s INNOCENT MERRIMENT over Paul Margis’ INDIGO.

Having a duel for nearly the entire race in the fourteen-boat PHRF B class were two fast-reaching J’s.  Crossing the line first and also taking handicap was John Raymont’s J/122 T.K.O. over Seth Hall’s J/124 MARISOL, earning 6th and 7th in class, respectively.

The ten-boat PHRF D class got “flashed” by Grealish’s numbingly fast J/88 BLUEFLASH. Jack Mayer’s J/109 ZEPHYR was the only 109 to persevere for the entire endurance contest and took a well-deserved third in class.  The lone J in the 15-boat PHRF E class was Juan Lois’ J/105 ROCINANTE, taking a hard-fought third overall in class.

J/125 sailing fast in Ensenada RaceKeith Magnussen from Ullman Sails Newport Beach sailed aboard Viggo Torbensen’s J/125 TIMESHAVER.  Here is K-Mags’ report on his experience:

“Every year hundreds of boats leave Newport Beach on a Friday afternoon in full view of thousands of people along the shoreline who admire and question what is actually going on.  Contrary to what most sailors think, not a lot of people really pay attention to, or know what sailboat racing is all about, much less what going on an adventure like this entails.  At Just Go And Sail, we strive to bring you the real story without the boring technical stuff.

2015 was a highly anticipated year for the N2E.  Entries are increasing and sailing is gaining popularity amongst the general public so organizers were gearing up for the "best" Ensenada ever.  Only problem was no one told the wind God's!

The chosen ride for this race is the J-125 Timeshaver.  Owner, Viggo Torbensen, stresses competitive racing but at the same time a good fun atmosphere.  Sailing programs vary from boat to boat so it is important to feel out each team and understand their respective vibe.  There is nothing worse than being on a boat for an extended period of time with people whom are not enjoyable to be around.  We are lucky to race on a boat that requires a sailor to be good yet remember the main goal is fun and adventure.

A week of build up makes everyone involved in the race excited about the prospect of sailing down the coast and into another country.  First timers and veterans alike are always thrilled upon crossing the San Diego border.  Most people admire the beauty of a sailboat going through the water and when the Pacific is littered with hundreds of boats, it can make for some spectacular scenery.   This year did not disappoint as you can tell by this picture snapped just after the first start.

People always want to know what we do on the boat, where we sleep, what we eat and do we stop at night (especially interesting question when asked about the Transpac).  Just Go And Sail tells the story of what the racing is like.  What we feel, what we do and how we handle certain situation.

First off all we do not stop racing at night and have a few beers and light up the B-B-Q.  We put that myth to bed once and for all.  We sleep in tiny little bunks and eat freeze-dried food.  Some of the larger boats have decent meals and larger sleeping quarters but the average race boat is like camping while you are moving.  It is a close encounter with your crewmates and can

Starting amongst a few hundred boats only gives you a few lanes of clear traffic as you try to maximize your speed in order to get away from the light southern California coastline.  2015 was a tough year to do that.  In fact, they were still only abeam of us when we passed Dana Point, which happened to be at four in the afternoon.  Yes, this was my slowest N2E at this point.

Dana Point for me is iconic.  Living here for so long and understanding the history of this little port made me really appreciate and respect my surroundings.  It was almost sad watching it slowly fade from the horizon as the wind gently filled in.  Discussions about quitting were constant until we came together and decided to push through.  Freddy was not too pleased and decided he needed a nap at that point.  Sounded like a good idea to me but I was in it now.

What is it like sailing in this type of breeze?  It is extremely excruciating and taxing.  You need to really focus and shift gears with the slightest wind shift or velocity change.  It takes commitment and I know the good boats are committed.

Sunset came and we had still not breached the Mexican border.  When we did the wind finally came up a bit.  At this stage, we were headsail reaching with the genoa staysail.  Good combination since it was too tight for the Code 0.  When the wind finally shifted, we were just past the southern Coronado Island.  We put up a reaching spinnaker and were now doing ten plus knots right at Ensenada.  Now it is a drag race.

What did we do for the last five hours?   Sailed hard, made sail changes and packed sails.  I had the guys taking bearings of the boats around us and we figured we were in good company.

Morning comes and now is the chance to see what is really going on.  The Santa Cruz 52 Relentless and Javelin (Farr 49) were right there with us.  Being around boats that owe you a lot of time is usually a good thing right?  We will take it as a good omen at this point.  The fun part about this is that my good friends are on Relentless and we get to cross just in front making some fun gestures.

We pushed to the finish line making a few more spinnaker changes.  Finishing this one was great.  Only thing that ruined it was getting in and finding our good friends on Horizon had beaten us and won overall.  Just kidding.  Erik Shampain is a close friend and it is always a rivalry that keeps us motivated.  Great job to the team!

Ensenada is a great place to visit.  From fantastic restaurants to the wine country tours, there is something for everyone.  I highly recommend the taco place next to the legendary Hussong's Cantina.  Everything is good.  Take your time and adventure around, you will not regret it.

My time was spent winding down from not sleeping and enjoying a good meal.  Hearing the stories around town is an interesting experience.  Everyone comes away with a life changing moment or a harrowing tale.  Keep in mind I am talking to the bulk of racers who look forward to this race and spend time in the town.  There are the boats that turn and burn, the professionals who vacate immediately but the core of the racers stay to extend their experience.  The big boats might get the spotlight but the other guys make the race!”   Sailing photo credits- Rockskipper Photography   For more Newport to Ensenada Race sailing information