The chase is on today for Roy Disney's Pyewacket, the last, lonely starter in Del Rey Yacht Club's 17th biennial race to Puerto Vallarta.
The Reichel/Pugh 75 maxi sled seeks not only to overtake all of the earlier starters but Joss's 18-year-old record, as well.
This is Disney's third Pyewacket, which already holds the Transpac, Newport-Bermuda and Chicago-Mac records. His original Pyewacket, a conventional ULDB 70, was first to finish this race in 1991, as were many of the West Coast's hottest racers through the years.
While none has been able to eclipse Joss's elapsed time of 4 days 23 hours 0 minutes 4 seconds achieved in 1985, forecasts are for marginally favorable conditions into next week, at least as far as Cabo San Lucas at the tip of Baja California. With north-northwest winds anticipated, Pyewacket should be able to keep its spinnaker filled for most of the 1,125 nautical miles, although the breeze may be as variable as 3 to 25 knots.
Two PHRF-A boats---Jake Wood's Mull 82 Sorcery and Winslow Lincoln's Andrews 45 Locomotion, with Keith Kilpatrick as skipper---started Thursday in a weak inshore 6 1/2-knot headwind, in contrast to a day earlier when six PHRF-B boats flew away in an offshore reaching breeze of 13-16 knots.
However, Black Knight, Phillip Friedman's Farr 39ML that won the PHRF-B start, blew its main sail to shreds less than an hour into the race when the wind piped to 30 knots. Black Knight returned to Marina del Rey to collect a heavier main, but the delay was so costly that Friedman then decided to withdraw. He also faced the prospect of a protest for using a sail that was not aboard at the start.
There also was trouble at Turtle Bay down Baja way. The 14 Salsa Division boats tried to restart Wednesday after their first scheduled layover and were chased back into the bay by 40-knot headwinds. They finally got under way Thursday but without Principessa, Greg Daley's Newport 41S that won the Salsa Non-Spinnaker B start last week.
Earlier, Daley reported by e-mail an ordeal of re-anchoring for shelter on the opposite side of the bay Wednesday in six-foot swells and winds of 35 knots. Principessa remained in Turtle Bay.
Also, the Racing Division's two escort boats, the power yachts Magic Dolphin and Tuutsea, turned back because of exceptionally rough seas that measured seven-foot swells at nine-second intervals. Atalanta, Richard Hedreen's Tripp 74 ketch from Seattle competing in PHRF-B, is continuing as the communications vessel.
Off the wind, Pyewacket and some of the other racers might thrive in those conditions. Kilpatrick, who sailed part of the Volvo Ocean Race with Amer Sports One, said, "We just want to get kites up. We'll need at least a westerly [breeze], but we're restricted by having to take [Santa] Catalina [Island] to starboard. Anytime we're two-sail sailing, Sorcery is going to waterline us to death."
But Locomotion, little more than half the size of its class rival, led Sorcery off the line by two boat lengths and continued to extend its lead as the boats sailed close-hauled toward the corner of the Palos Verdes peninsula.
Lincoln, Locomotion's owner, put Kilpatrick in charge for this race. "I just asked Keith if he'd like to be listed as skipper," Lincoln said. "He didn't charter it, but he's been so much a part of this boat that I thought it would be appropriate. Maybe I'll ask him for a dollar just to make it official."
The eight-person crew also includes Bridget Suckling, the New Zealander who worked the bow for Amer Sports Too's all-woman boat in the Volvo.
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.