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12 February 2003, 11:54 am
Racing Fleet Ready to Set Off
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Puerto Vallarta Race
Marina Del Rey - Puerto Vallarta

It's party time for the Salsa Division boats in Turtle Bay, but the mood will be serious when nine Racing Division competitors cross the starting line in Del Rey Yacht Club's 17th biennial race to Puerto Vallarta the next three days.
Six PHRF B boats will start at 1 p.m. Wednesday, followed by two PHRF A boats Thursday and Roy Disney's Pyewacket in an all-out assault on the 18-year-old race record on Friday. Disney's sailing director, Robbie Haines, has said, "There will be two boats on the line Friday---Pyewacket and Joss."

The latter is a phantom opponent: Richard and Camille Daniels' MacGregor 65 that raced the 1,125 nautical miles of the longest enduring race to Mexico in 4 days 23 hours 0 minutes 4 seconds in 1985. Conditions may be ripe for Pyewacket, Disney's Reichel/Pugh 75 ultralight maxi sled that holds the Transpac record and last year added the Newport-Bermuda and Chicago Mac race records to its portfolio.

Camille Daniels recalled that, like this week, the race started in a low pressure system that Joss---which means "karma" or "luck"---rode all the way, with steady following winds of 15 to 25 knots.

"It was honkin' right out of [Marina] del Rey," she said. "We'd had a storm the night before and we actually set a spinnaker right off the starting line. Then we went out around San Clemente Island . . . and crashed a bunch of times. Blew the wind point off the Windex.

"We slowed down a little bit at Cabo [San Lucas] for half an hour, and then we didn't stop again until Punta de Mita [at the entrance to Banderas Bay]. There was a really tight close reach across the gulf. We had like a number two blast reacher, and the end of the boom was hanging in the water. It was quite a ride."

The crew included Linda Elias, who died last month after a nine-year battle with cancer. She was one of the principal drivers. Others on board were Mike Elias, Chris Sellars, Wally Gordon, Mark Daniels, Pat McCormick, Jim Robinson and Greg Heath.

"That was when we had the boat right out of the box," Camille Daniels said. "We didn't know anything about it. It had too much sail area."

"When we got into Punta de Mita and the wind stopped, we all started peeling off our foul-weather gear---literally. Nobody could even change their clothes for the whole time. We were literally hanging on."

The record has withstood the onslaught of the West Coast's fastest ocean racers for nearly two decades.

"I couldn't believe that Silver Bullet didn't break it, or Pegasus or these enormously fast boats," Daniels said. "But it has to be the right conditions. I wish them luck on Pyewacket. Somebody's going to beat it."

Meanwhile, the 14 Salsa boats' departure from Turtle Bay for the second of three stops at Bahia Santa Maria was delayed until Wednesday because of late arrivals. The fleet also had to change its mooring location overnight Monday when the wind shifted, exposing them to a 20-knot breeze.

Immediately after the completion of the race, North Sails and the Mexican Sailing Association are sponsoring a new five-day regatta in Banderas Bay called Vallarta Race Week. All Marina del Rey-Puerto Vallarta participants were invited to take part.
Rich Roberts/ISAF News Editor
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