Quiet start

Rich Roberts reports on the departure of the Salsa Class in this year's Marina del Rey to Puerto Vallarta race

Friday February 16th 2007, Author: Rich Roberts, Location: United States
The Salsa fleet's party two nights earlier was noisier than their start in Del Rey Yacht Club's 19th biennial race to Puerto Vallarta Friday. The 11 boats sailed quietly away in shorts and shirtsleeves under a clear sky with a summer-like temperature in the high 70s (degC) and precious little wind - but no problem.

The pe ople on Doug Baker's Magnitude 80 will be far more disappointed if conditions are similar next Friday when they start their bid to better Joss's 22-year-old record in the 1,125-nautical mile race.

Maybe Joe Ebin, a local crew member on Hideshige Seki's Japanese entry, Tayana 52 Polaire, had the right attitude for the Salsa boats that will continue to party together on three overnight stops en route to mainland Mexico, motoring part of the way if they must.

"Most of us are serious racers," Ebin said, "but we're looking at this as a party cruise. If you focus on winning, you'll likely be disappointed. But if your focus is on having a good time, your success is guaranteed."

Or, as Jim Puckett, son of local legend Allen Puckett who is sailing his dad's Farr 55 Amazing Grace said, “This is the best kind of racing. We love it. A race is a race and this is still racing.”

So it was, even as some of the boats struggled to reach the starting line and then sailed into the mist toward the Palos Verdes Peninsula. There they would turn left down the coast toward Mexico through the San Pedro Channel that separates Santa Catalina Island from the mainland.

Breeze for the six spinnaker class Salsas was 4 to 5 knots from the southwest, allowing them to sail hard on what little wind there was straight through the line set square to the course. Ten minutes later the five non-spinnaker boats found only 2 or 3 knots as they drifted out of sight.

Gil Maguire's Tenacity, a J/133 from California Yacht Club, was the early leader, crossing the line on a strong pace and soon pulling away from Amazing Grace and the smaller Voice of Reason, an Ericson 32 sailed by co-owners Jim McCone and Mike Verla from Redondo Beach.

Maguire, perhaps more serious than some of his rivals, had his strategy worked out. "It looks pretty light, so we won't try to get too far from the coast," he said before leaving the dock in a parade behind a fountain of spray from a Los Angeles County fireboat. "We'll stay in close while watching the [weather forecasts]. It looks like there'll be wind offshore [Saturday]. The weather is so variable that it's too risky to take any flyers."

The Salsa fleet is being escorted by Del Rey YC member Larry Silver's Diver Gent, a power cruiser equipped with radar, sonar, infrared cameras and other electronic gear.

"I can see them all at any time, even underwater," Silver said.

The five Racing Division boats will start Wednesday and Friday at 1pm following their send-off party Feb. 20.

Racing Division (starts Feb. 21 and 23)
-with handicap ratings in seconds per mile
Magnitude 80 (Andrews 80), Doug Baker, Long Beach (-165)
Scout Spirit (Reichel/Pugh 77), David Janes, Newport Beach (-123)
Raincloud (J/48), Lorenzo Berho, San Diego (-25)
Sapphire (Synergy1000), David Rasmussen, Novato, Calif. (27)
E.T. (Antrim 27), Todd Hedin/Liz Baylis, San Rafael, Calif. (60)

Salsa Division (starts Feb 16)
Spinnaker class
Barking Spider 3 (MacGregor 65), David Kory, Concord, Calif. (-24)
Tenacity (J/133), Gil Maguire, Marina del Rey (9)
Amazing Grace (Farr 55), Jim Puckett, Pacific Palisades, Calif. (12)
Jungle Jim (Jeanneau 49), Jim Maslon, Marina del Rey (69)
Classic Impulse (Catalina 40), Sean Roll, Riverside, Calif. (102)
Voice of Reason (Ericson 32), Jim McCone/Mike Verla, Lomita, Calif. (180)

Non-spinnaker class
Vision (Tayana 48), Jean Rooryck, Woodland Hills, Calif. (78)
Polaire (Tayana 52), Hideshige Seki, Tokyo, Japan (87)
Far Niente (Catalina 42), Pat Hearne, Monarch Beach, Calif. (102)
Segue (Island Packet), Peter Hirsch, Santa Monica, Calif. (114)
Aquarius (Jeanneau 43), Hiro Funaoku, Marina del Rey (117)

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