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11 February 2003, 10:01 am
Salsa Fleet Begin to Reach Turtle Bay
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Puerto Vallarta Race
Marina Del Rey - Puerto Vallarta

It figured that Allen Puckett would lead the Salsa fleet to its first stopover in Del Rey Yacht Club's 17th biennial race to Puerto Vallarta. Nobody knows the way to Mexico better.
Over more than half a century the 83-year-old owner/skipper of Amazing Grace, a Farr 55 from California YC, has done more than 20 Mexican races, not counting about 40 Newport-to-Ensenada overnighters. So when he arrived in Turtle Bay Sunday night it was almost like coming home. The actual finish line was 85 miles earlier at Cedros Island, where Amazing Grace crossed at 8:35 p.m., more than three hours ahead of the next boat, Ross Pearlman's Between the Sheets, a Jeanneau 52.2 representing the Santa Monica Windjammers YC.

As of noon PST Monday, 12 of the 14 Salsa Division boats had finished the initial leg. Scott Adam's Davidson 53, Quest, and Wes Stone's Farr 33, Seaker II, seemed determined to complete the leg under sail despite light winds. Rules allow Salsa competitors to use engine power in light or no wind, although they must pay a time penalty for each minute of use at the end of this first of four legs of the 1,175-nautical mile race. Winds were 8-10 knots from southeast at Monday morning's report.

The three classes in the Racing Division will start Wednesday, Thursday and Friday at 1 p.m. They will have no stopovers or engine allowance. The Racing Division skippers' meeting will be Tuesday, 5 p.m., at Del Rey Yacht Club, preceding a Mexican-style fiesta. Rain is forecast for the Los Angeles area on Wednesday.

Puckett, a serious racer in most of his earlier events, planned to enjoy this one with its three stops, parties and a fishing contest leg before crossing the Gulf of California from Baja California to the mainland. He recalled when Turtle Bay---Bahia Tortugas---once was "a very primitive little village with good lobster fishing," and how on a later visit he saw that "on every other house there was a satellite receiver dish in the front yard."

That was partly his legacy. While chairman of the board at Hughes Aircraft he oversaw development of communications satellites.

Official results for the first of four legs, computing engine use time and PHRF offshore racing handicaps, would not be available until the last two boats finished. Amazing Grace would be docked for 27 hours of engine time, while David Fell's Gold Digger, a Nelson/Marek 50 from Seal Beach YC, would be charged for only 18.5 hours, less than the average for the fleet. Gold Digger was eighth at Cedros, 39 seconds ahead of Broadway Babe, Jim Maslon's C&C 110 from Del Rey YC.

One surprise in the final accounting could be Firelight, Patrick Mickle's Catalina 470T from Dana Point YC. Although in Non- Spinnaker B class, Firelight was the third finisher, boat for boat, and had used only 25.5 hours of engine time. Quest had motored the least---only 18 hours.

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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