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16 February 2005, 10:03 am
Battered Salsas Lay Over
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Puerto Vallarta Race
California,USA - Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

As the Salsa Division lays over in Turtle Bay on the Baja peninsula, it can reflect that the fun is still to come in Del Rey Yacht Club's 18th biennial Puerto Vallarta Race.
The Salsa fleet started on 11 February in 11-12 knots of southeasterly breeze, but after turning the Palos Verdes corner the headwinds built to 20-25 knots on the nose with gusts to 30, steep waves and large, countering swells off the beam.

Five boats reached the first planned stop as official finishers, six forfeited that distinction when they ducked into ports along the way and the twelfth dejectedly turned back for home, too damaged to continue.

It was a rough first couple of days, but neither mal de mer, blown-out sails nor assorted gear failure seemed to discourage these mostly amateur sailors from continuing their 1,125-nautical mile adventure.

Meanwhile, 10 boats in three Racing Division will start Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, sailing non-stop. The two fastest - Roy DISNEY's maxZ86, Pyewacket, and Randall PITTMAN's Dubois 90, Genuine Risk - are making their West Coast debuts to chase the 20-year-old record of 4 days 23 hours 0 minutes 14 seconds held by Richard and Camille DANIELS' MacGregor 65, Joss.

Pyewacket, Genuine Risk, Doug BAKER's Andrews 80, Magnitude 80, and Scout Spirit (ex-Zephyrus IV and Bright Star), a maxi turbosled representing the Newport Sea Base, will go Friday at 13:00, following three Santa Cruz 50s onWednesday and two Transpac 52s and a MacGregor 65 on Thursday.

Among the Salsas, even Tim COKER's Masquerade expressed disappointment after dropping out with an unrepairable main sail and electronics failure, but all of the others planned to persevere.

The Salsas, introduced in 1995 as the 'cruising' class in the oldest and longest race to mainland Mexico , have scheduled stops at Turtle Bay , Bahia Santa Maria and Cabo San Lucas. That fleet may motor in light wind but pays a time penalty for doing so. All used their motors at one time or another to reach Turtle Bay .

The lead boat, Bob and Kathy PATTERSON's J/46, Lark, from Los Angeles , was pounding hard when it encountered a dismasted 30-foot Lancer sailboat-not a race entrant-in the middle of the 23-mile-wide San Pedro Channel between Long Beach and Santa Catalina Island . A faulty forestay did in the Lancer. The owner, Chuck ASTES of Sherman Oaks, was with his friend Bianca BARRAGON but in no immediate distress.

'We were going to Catalina and everything was OK until my forestay snapped,' Astes said later. 'I tried to start the motor but it swamped over the back. Then we couldn't get a good radio signal because the antenna is on the mast.' Lark stood by until a Los Angeles County Lifeguard Bay Watch boat arrived to tow the Lancer home to Redondo Beach . Astes, 43, said 'We were never in danger of going down. I've been sailing since I was a kid, so I was never worried.'

Some of the racers were more concerned about the conditions. Seven bailed out in the first two days. Three reported that crew members were severely seasick. William SOLBERG's Tartan 38, Wind Dancer, dropped off an ill crew member in San Diego .

Others had breakdowns. Masquerade, from San Diego , tore its main sail too badly to repair, lost its No. 1 genoa over the side when the lashings broke and had its electronics washed out by water through a hatch. Masquerade had no choice but to abandon the race.

Patrick HEARNE's Catalina 42, Far Niente, also had a torn main sail but was able to get it repaired and continue.

All except Masquerade made their way to Turtle Bay under sail, power or a combination of the two. The official finishers, in order, were Cheyenne , Lark, Lazy Bones, Quest and Camelot. Their scheduled re-start was postponed a day until Wednesday.

Jim MASLON of Marina del Rey, sailing his C&C 110, Broadway Babe, which finished third in 2003, reported electrical problems, as did Gary GREEN's Catalina 380, Green Dragon, Culver City . Maslon also said that every crew member was seasick, noting, 'These are the worst conditions I've ever sailed in.'

Nevertheless, the smallest boat, Hiro FUNAOKU's Catalina 36, Camelot, Marina del Rey, was the last boat across the starting line but also the last to use engine power when the going got rough.

Rich Roberts (As Amende by ISAF)
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