David Fell's Gold Digger from Long Beach was the first boat across the starting line---but just a split second too soon---as the first fleet of Del Rey Yacht Club's 17th biennial race to Puerto Vallarta got under way Friday.
The 14 Salsa Division boats will stop three times along the 1,125-nautical mile route to the Mexican mainland, a more casual strategy than is expected of the Racing Division classes that will start next Wednesday, Thursday and Friday without stopping en route as an option.
Gold Digger, winner of the Area C PHRF High-Point Championship last year, is accustomed to that more aggressive style, and it showed. The Nelson/Marek 50 led the Salsa spinnaker class in a full-speed charge to the line in 8 1/2 knots of breeze, dipped slightly after sailing past Jim Maslon's smaller Broadway Babe to windward and then poked its bow across by inches ahead of the gun.
When the second recall gun was fired, Gold Digger turned back immediately to restart and lost a minimum of distance in the six-boat fleet. Meanwhile, Broadway Babe took the early lead, followed by Ross Pearlman's Between the Sheets, a dark blue Jeanneau 52.2 from Santa Monica Windjammers Yacht Club.
Ten minutes later, as storm clouds gathered over Santa Catalina Island 25 miles offshore, the wind had built to 10 1/2 knots for the Salsa non-spinnaker start. Scott and Jean Adam's Quest, a custom-built Laurie Davidson 53, had to rehoist its roller furling mainsail from the boom after it slipped out of the mast track but recovered to reach the line just in time.
The only problem then was that Quest fell into irons, headsail luffing, as the rest of the non-spin fleet sped past, led by Principessa. Greg Daley's apple-green Newport 41S from Del Rey jumped the entire fleet on port tack to get out to sea before tacking once more to clear the Palos Verdes peninsula and turn left for Mexico.
Start boat officer Tom Redler had set the line square to the S-SE course to the point, and by the time the fleets started the wind had swung into line to make it a perfect upwind heading, as well. Despite the relative inexperience of the non-racing sailors and the glitches suffered by Gold Digger and Quest, the starts were generally clean and well-executed.
"Those were the best cruising division starts you'll ever see,"
At least one boat won't be back for a couple of years. Ron Hoskin and his wife Valerie, sailing their Columbia 43 called Valerie K from Long Beach, have left their yacht management business and plan to continue from Puerto Vallarta on a cruise through the Gulf of Mexico, then transit the Panama Canal to the Caribbean next year.
"We worked hard and saved our money, and we're at an age when we can do it,"
said Hoskin, 52. "Our families weren't real happy about it, but they felt better when we said we'd have a satellite phone and e-mail."
Meanwhile, the PHRB B class in the Racing Division added a ninth entry. Richard Parlette has chartered Kirk Wilson's Santa Cruz 50, Bay Wolf, from the Cabrillo Beach Yacht Club. The Racing Division skippers' meeting will be Tuesday, Feb. 11, 5 p.m., at Del Rey Yacht Club, preceding a Mexican-style fiesta.
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 are invited to take part.
(Boat/Type, Sail Number, Skipper, Yacht Club, Rating/Time Allowance)
PHRF AA (starts Feb. 14)
Pyewacket (R/P 75), USA-4, Roy E. Disney, Los Angeles, -153/-47:48:45
PHRF A (starts Feb. 13)
Locomotion (Andrews 45), US-46860, Keith Kilpatrick, South Shore, -45/-14:03:45
Sorcery (Mull 82), US-1777, Jacob Wood, California, -48/-15:00:00
PHRF B (starts Feb. 12)
Atalanta (Tripp 74 ketch), US-69581, Richard Hedreen, Corinthian, 0/0:00:00
Black Knight (Farr 39ML ), US-83400, Phillip Friedman, Del Rey, 15/4:41:15
Bay Wolf (S/C 50), Richard Parlette, Cabrillo Beach, -3/0:56:15
Ghost II (Farr 395), US-7077, Al Berg, Santa Monica Windjammers, 30/9:22:30
Horizon (S/CD 50M), US-18926, Jack Taylor, Dana Point, -3/0:56:15
Zamazaan (Farr 52C), US-3883, Charles Weghorn, St. Francis, 6/1:52:30
SALSA DIVISION (All starts Feb. 7)
Amazing Grace (Farr 55), US-18949, Allen Puckett, California, 0/TBD
Gold Digger (N/M 50), US-90210, David Fell, Seal Beach, 12/TBD
Broadway Babe (C&C 110), US-28767, Jim Maslon, Del Rey, 54/TBD
Cheyenne (Whiting 49), US-57782, Alan Blunt/David Fox, California/Santa Cruz, 66/TBD
Between the Sheets (Jeanneau 52.2), US-51593, Ross Pearlman, Santa Monica Windjammers, 78/TBD
Misty (Cal 39-2), US-67200, Harold Alexander, Seal Beach, 114/TBD
Quest (Davidson 53), US-7201, Scott/Jean Adam, Del Rey/California, 51/TBD
Quamichan (Davidson 44), US-77026, Sandy Clark, South Coast Corinthian, 60/TBD
Sunseeker (Tayana 55), US-63434, Alfred Benaroya, Seattle, 72/TBD
Seaker II (Farr 33), US-53360, Wes Stone, Cabrillo Beach, 102/TBD
Fly'n Bry'n (Catalina 42), US-46493, Jerry Bryan, American Legion, 105/TBD
Principessa (Newport 41S), US-20878, Gregory Daley, Del Rey, 105/TBD
Firelight (Catalina 470T), US-46763, Patrick Mickle, Dana Point, 105/TBD
Valerie K (Columbia 43), US-7780, Ron Hoskin, Hawaii, 117/TBD
TBD---In Salsa Division, time allowance is computed at end of each leg for distance sailed. Engine use permitted with penalty applied. In Spinnaker class, all boats race with PHRF off-wind course (OWC) rating on all legs. In Non-Spinnaker class, initial "cruising" ratings are adjusted after each leg.