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25 February 2005, 09:23 am
Honors to Scout Spirit, Beau Geste, Chicken Little
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Puerto Vallarta Race
Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

Thursday was beat the clock day in Del Rey Yacht Club's 18th biennial Corum International Yacht Race, and Scout Spirit in PHRF-AA and overall, Beau Geste in PHRF-A and Chicken Little in PHRF-B were the winners.
After Doug BAKER's high-tech Magnitude 80 became the first Racing Division entry to finish at 22:00 local time Wednesday night, and with only six of the original ten Racing Division entries having completed the 1,125 nautical miles from Marina del Rey, Calif., it still remained to calculate the corrected handicap time to see who would collect the hardware, including a Corum Admiral's Cup Trophy 41 watch-retail value $2,195-for the overall winner of each class at the awards presentation Saturday.

The top prize for first overall will go to the Newport Sea Base's 78-foot turbo sled, Scout Spirit, which finished at dawn Thursday well within the 18¾ hours owed it by Magnitude 80, whose elapsed time was 5 days 6 hours 59 minutes 56 seconds.

That was eight hours slower than the record of 4:23:00:14 set by Richard and Camille Daniels' MacGREGOR 65, Joss, in 1985 in considerably different conditions. Scout Spirit's ET was 5:16:42:20.

The record survived one of its owners, Richard DANIELS, who died a month ago. In his race, the racers had tailwinds most of the way. This time they estimated they flew spinnakers only a third of the time and otherwise were slugging it out with headwinds almost as much as they were reaching. Such are the variables of races to the Mexican mainland.

That, along with how well Joss was sailed, is why the record has withstood the challenges of some of the best 21st century marine technology. It makes it doubtful whether even Randall PITTMAN's Dubois 90, Genuine Risk, if its owner hadn't injured a foot and sent the boat sail testing instead, or Roy DISNEY's maxZ86, Pyewacket, if its topmast hadn't cracked off Cabo San Lucas, could have done it.

And did Scout Spirit's co-skippers, Dave JANES and Jay STEINBECK, ever think they had a chance in the PHRF-AA class?

'You bet!' said Janes, who outsailed conventional ULDB 70s with his then-new Transpac 52, J-Bird III, to win Division 2 in the 2001 Transpacific Yacht Race to Hawaii. 'I've never had a race when I didn't expect to win.'

J-Bird III is now Flash, which Mark JONES and Dick WATTS of San Francisco chartered and chased Hong Kong businessman Karl KWOK's Beau Geste to first place in PHRF-A and second place overall.

Kwok's primary helmsman, Gavin BRADY, one of the world's top match racers, called 'it the longest match race in the history of sailing. The boats are so close that you got pushed really hard. Their guys did a really good job.'

Kwok said, 'This [6½ days] is the longest race I've ever sailed. We did Transpac in eight days [in 2003]. But what's wonderful about this race are the whales all over the place, the dolphins, and I even saw a green flash'-the sundown phenomenon at sea.

Not so wonderful were several occasions when Beau Geste's appendages were seized by kelp rooted in the sea floor, stopping the boat dead in the water. Jon GUNDERSON dived under to cut it free.

Brady said at the dock, 'We were warned, 'Look out for kelp,' but nobody on this boat had ever done this race. It was frustrating to watch [Flash] sail by. Three times we were as far apart as that boat [in the opposite slip]. Then the wind came up [Tuesday] and we stretched 20 miles on them in 12 hours.'

In a similar match race scenario between Santa Cruz 50s a few miles ahead on the same day, Kirk WILSON's Bay Wolf from San Pedro, Calif., pulled a big gainer on Don ADMAS and Rick PALMER's Chicken Little, Marina del Rey.

'We passed them 200 feet apart in the dark but didn't know who it was,' Brady said.

'It was us,' Bay Wolf watch captain Justin McJONES said.

Bay Wolf was rolling, too, but it wasn't quite enough.

Because Chicken Little is a heavier boat, Bay Wolf owed it three seconds per mile or 56 minutes 15 seconds for the race. Bay Wolf finished well in front, but navigator Richard Parlette's eyes were on his watch as he stood at the dock in the early morning glow. Then the word came over the radio: Chicken Little had just finished less than an hour behind to correct out by 3 minutes 38 seconds.

'That hurts,' Parlette said. 'It was a tiring race . . . so much slatting around. We had five sails on the foredeck in the last two miles and never stopped making sail changes. In the first two days the wind went 360 in two full loops. We jibed outside of Cabo and stayed outside while they went inside. Next thing we were 20 miles ahead.'

Janes, through his donation and some promotion, was instrumental in securing Scout Spirit (formerly Zephyrus IV and Bright Star) for the Newport Sea Base.

'Our idea is to arouse interest among young sailors in keelboat racing,' he said. 'Next time we hope we can do it with Sea Scouts as crew.'

Rich Roberts (As Amended by ISAF)
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