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San Diego Yacht Club Mexican Race Stories
Since 1953, San Diego Yacht Club has been sending racers down the Baja California coastline for distance races to Acapulco, Manzanillo, Mazatlan, and Puerta Vallarta, Mexico. There is no better way to inspire people to go on a similar adventure than to pass on to them a morsel of your own. Here are some stories that were submitted during a contest prior to the 2008 Vallarta Race, where entrant Chuck Simmons was selected as the winner. Enjoy!
From Dennis Conner:
Racing to Mexico was a very big part of my sailing life for many years. I remember how excited I was heading out to the starting line for Acapulco aboard the PCC "Mickey" with my best friend Mike O'Bryan and Gary Gould. We had a bit of wind approaching Cedros Island. In the dark of night, it seemed like we were flying (perhaps 10 knots) and all of a sudden we were headed right at the island. I remember the scramble taking the spinnaker down so we could harden up to avoid a certain disaster! Our navigator was using a radio direction finder to see where we were. (Things have come a long way.)
My big break came the following race when my hero Ash Bown said I could join the crew of "Carousel". He had a all star crew of Malin Burnham, Bud Calwell, and Jim Reynolds, and they needed someone to bail the boat out. I remember a young man sailing a 33 footer in the race coming in days after we finished. His name was Doug Peterson. It is stories like these that made every race special, as there were always highlights to remember. I am looking forward to another exciting race this year to Puerto Vallarta. I just hope we can finish while the wind is still up as opposed to four in the morning!
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From Tom Leweck:
You'd think that after 59 (soon to be 60) long distance races to Mexico, they'd all start to blurr, but that's certainly not the case. One of my most vivid memories is the 1978 Manzanillo Race -- a race I sailed with Jim Phelps aboard the Spencer 62, Ragtime. Space does not allow me to enumerate how this early ULDB (Ultra-light displacement boat) differed from the IOR Mark I boats I'd sailed on during my previous eight Mexican races, but steering would certainly be near the top of that list.
One beautiful evening, while steering Rags down waves at 18 knots under a full moon, I took my hands off the wheel and spun around quickly -- doing a tight little 360-degree turn in the back of the cockpit. And then another 360. And then I did a third 360 before I grabbed the wheel again. With both hands back on the wheel, I checked the compass to find that Rags had only drifted 5-degrees off course during this period of inattention, and was still charging down waves at 18 knots. It was an act that would be impossible to replicate on any of the squirrelly, IOR 'lead-mines' of that era. The '78 Manzanillo Race was also the first time I'd logged more than 300 miles, point-to-point between the daily roll calls. On Ragtime -- that was simply effortless.
Looking back now after 30 years, that memorable race was like heaven opening up to warmly welcome me to the wonderful world of ULDB offshore racing.
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From Kimball Livingston:
Reading about San Diego Yacht Club's plans for the pre-start parties ahead of Vallarta Race 2008, I had to think it sounded fantastic. But I also had to wonder at the talk of a genuine, extravagant Mexicano sendoff. Would they do that margarita fountain again?
I remember one San Diego Yacht Club margarita fountain (dimly) as the night before a morning that I remember (all-too clearly) as the only time I've ever had the dry heaves on a start line.
But enough of that.
I was in grad school in 1974, and the situation was imperfect. For example, I was the only person in graduate school with a tan. I had a meeting with the dean and we agreed, more or less: If they would give me a masters degree, I would leave; and if I would leave, they would give me a masters degree. About 72 hours later I was on my way to Mexico on the last of the Acapulco Races.
SDYC had begun racing to Acapulco in 1953. Acapulco was the place to go at the time, but times change. Other good options appeared as Mexico grew and emerged, and eventually racers from the USA preferred to avoid the obstacle of the last few hundred miles down the mainland. Think light air.
We proved the problem.
In my 1974 race to Acapulco, we woke up on the morning of day nine (I believe it was day nine) looking at Acapulco off the bow. When the sun went down, we were still looking at Acapulco off the bow.
But that's not my story.
We had one guy on the crew who had promised us, long-distance rookies all, that he would take care of us once we got to that place where, apparently, most of the people spoke Spanish. That faraway place called Mexico.
So when a light breeze finally carried us into Acapulco Bay and across the finish line in the deep darkness when we felt like we should have been there hours before, we motored over to the only light we could see on the water. It was a small fishing boat with two guys dangling poles over the side. Our man said, "Dandee istee clubee yachtee."
They didn't even look up.
But that's not my story.
I sailed the race on Ed Perry's Ambush, a One Tonner (hot at the time) as the bow boy for both watches (think, less sleep, more fun).
This could lose me some friends, but I'll tell you a secret. I don't drink on boats. Not beer, not etc.
I was also the only member of the regular Ambush crew that was free to race to Acapulco, so Ed brought in a bunch of his fellow airline pilots. Sailing freaks all, including a couple with somewhat more of a yen for beer than I've expressed, if you get my drift.
Being heavy, the six-packs were loaded into the bilge along with (being heavy) the non-feathering propeller for the trip back up the coast.
Now, define "battery."
Salt water in the bilge plus aluminum plus a second metal agent, for example.
Halfway down Baja, the beers started coming out of the bilge suspiciously light. It was almost a moral issue.
Can you spell c-r-i-s-i-s?
Me? I just popped the new guy into the pole, every time we gybed. That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.
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From Chuck Simmons:
In the '98 SD-PV race I started out on Ron Kuntz's Andrews 52' Cantata that he took delivery of on that day from Brad Avery of OCC. We were supposed to go offshore for the paperwork but it was just too windy blowing out of the south at 30-40 with huge seas. The lee of the submarine tenders at ballast point was a great spot for Brad and Ron to do their deal while we sorted the boat out with a full reef and the number four. After dropping Brad off, we still had time to run the line which was off Zuniga jetty in huge seas (poor race committee). We were the only boat to start on time and actually tack on a couple of shifts and after 45 minutes had a huge lead over Velos.
The Hippy (Jon Shampaign) and I were sorting out the sails down below after tacking and heard a couple of cracks. I told Hip if its gonna go let it be soon. We hit the deck just in time for a nice squall, where the rain would hit your foullie hood so hard it was like you were front row at a concert. I asked the Hip to look forward to see how hard it’s blowing and got an FU for a reply. The squall was starting to let up a bit just when crack-boom-bang…the rig falls off to the side. The port bulkhead had pulled out of the boat and we were done. We cut the whole thing away and motored back to SDYC to join Ron in a “welcome to boat ownership” party.
My goal now was to get on a boat that would be starting the next day. Pete Heck hooked me up on Cheval with a great bunch of guys: Keith Kilpatrick, Jeff Madrigali, Big Mike Howard, and the Curmudgeon himself. We started the next day in 15-22 southerlies, missed the first leftie and followed the other boats down the coast. It was a beautiful sail to the cape and a power reach to PV across the gulf. We had caught a few boats and weren't looking bad, and at three in the morning I got woken up to help with a sail change. We were just charging along at 15-18 knots, and since I'm groggy from sleep, they put me on mainsheet. The boys are getting the new kite ready when Keith, who's trimming the kite, yells to watch out for that reef. Well, it wasn't a reef… it was a whale sleeping on the surface.
The boat T-bones the whale and I'm the highest person on the boat about twenty-five feet above the water as we do a nosestand. I have time to ask Madro, who was driving at the time, if I should pull the main in or not just when we slid off to weather (which was better than the other way). We called for all hands on deck, life rafts, and Big Mike to get Dr. Hal (paraplegic) up on deck. We didn’t know if the keel was still there or what. Behind us we can hear the whale huffing and puffing like he got kneed in the nuts with the keel bulb and can't catch his breath. We took the kite down, checked the bilges and keel bolts and the Curmudgeon’s head. Seems he and a couple of others were sleeping with their heads forward, so when we hit, he hit his head on the bulkhead and when he heard the all hands and liferafts call he hit it again on the cabintop. I made sure he stayed in the cockpit till his eyes quit rolling around and he started talking sense. The boat checked out okay and we put the new sail back up and cleaned up.
The boat wasn't the same, the keel was bent and the kelp cutter wouldn't budge as it was filled with blubber. We lost three boats and limped into PV with no trophy but a great story.
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From Andrew Vare, San Francisco:
I came to race down to Mexico during my college years at UCSD. I was lucky enough to crew for the good Doctor Al Simon and local businessman John Pedlow, as well as sail in the San Diego Star fleet. On the ocean racing side, I have many memories, and certainly one of them was during the 1983 Manzanillo race aboard the Holland 41 Tomahawk, chartered by John and Joyce Pedlow and the one and only Bennett Greenwald. Let's just say it was a character-building experience.
We suffered very light air down the Baja peninsula, with a 1/2 oz. spinnaker barely filling between puffs. As everyone knows this can be stressful to the crew, fraying nerves and allowing personalities to blossom in full view of a bored watch. Well, one of the guys who ran the foredeck named Ciaran (last name omitted for the sake of privacy) was pretty darn high strung, kind of like an Irish setter who needs to be hunted every other day. In a good way, though. He was always looking for something to do and spend his energy productively. Truth was, it was "blowing" 3 - 6 knots, and there was really nothing to do except be really calm and put your weight in a good place and try to coax the kite along.
Well, Ciaran was way too high strung and couldn't sit still for a minute. This worked on everyone a bit, so John Prentiss and I came up with the idea that we could hoist Ciaran aloft and he could "check the rig". Talk about a solution! Up the rig the guy was busier than ants on cake, and the rest of the watch got a well- deserved break from his adult ADD. We figured the whole thing was good for about 15 minutes, after which there arose a split in the crew thinking. Half wanted to leave him up there and half lobbied to bring him down. There was talk of a permanent "crow's nest lookout" position for him, however good naturedly, but after awhile he called to come down. Sideways banter about "the cleat's stuck, can't let off the halyard" and "whoa look at the knot in the halyard, it's gonna take awhile to sort that out" were heard, but eventually we let him down the rig.
He got the point.
There were laughs all around and he blew off his steam. It was a really funny light air diversion that preserved morale and got us working together again. Makes me think of the old saw "most of the solution is in the problem somewhere".
The light air and beautiful weather that Mexico can offer while racing pose a set of challenges to the offshore racer that are second to none. I remember some of the "18 kts. of wind, under spinnaker at 110 apparent, 75 degrees and full sun, surfing with the porpoises..." was tough work. Navigating into Ensenada by smell...fetching malted beverages for Rob Batcher...someone had to do it.
I feel lucky and honored to have participated in many such great races and offer a heartfelt thanks to skippers and crews alike for their camaraderie during that special time.
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From Sandy Purdon:
As the brand new owner in 1978 of a cold molded 37' fractional
rigged WEST system Bruce Nelson design (his first revenue in his
racing sailboat design career) named RENEGADE, I recall a very
exciting race from San Diego to Manzanillo, Mexico. The Curmudgeon
refers to this race in his recent contribution.
The crew consisted of six mostly in our 20's and early 30's
including Bruce Nelson, Bill Selby, Bruce Mereck, Jim Moxham, Wytie
Cable and myself. Moxham, Cable and myself would become SDYC
Commodores years later. We had our hands full with RENEGADE and the
storm fronts that hammered the race all week. Initially we worked
our way through issues such as a rudder that leaked and filled with
water so at times it took 4 guys to steer the boat.
Then 30 miles from the finish of the 1200 miles race, we were off
Cereyes in a tropical storm with gusts over 50 knots. We just
crossed tacks with Free Wheeler, a light displacement 50+ foot boat
so we knew we were in the hunt as our daily reports showed us at the
top of the standings. We jibed the boat with a #3 and a full main
in a lull but the starboard runner caught on the upper spreader and
we couldn't get it tight. I went forward to try and unhook it when a
gust hit us sending the rain sideways. The backstay was loose as we
were running, which was our downfall as the gust snapped the mast
just above where the vang came in about two feet above the mast
step. I slipped forward to the bow pulpit and, in what I remember as
slow motion, the entire rig and sails came down on my shoulder as I
draped the pulpit.
After calling in our problem and that we were OK, we cut away the
rig and dumped everything in the ocean off the coast. We limped to
the finish line under power and looked pretty dreary after 6 days of
hard and wet racing and no rig in the boat. I ended up getting the
boat back to San Diego using another competitor’s trailer. She got
fixed up better than new and returned to get a good finish in 1980, but
following that race with an overall win as the first US boat to win
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From John Rumsey:
It was aboard the San Francisco Yacht Club 38' motor sailer named Eight Bells that I had my first long ocean race from San Diego to Acapulco. Three of my school friends and I were invited by the owner of the boat and one of the yacht clubs experienced sailors to go in the race. We had a practice or two sailing out to the Faralons and back over night and then down to Newport Beach and on to San Diego for the race.
It was 1958 and the boats were all yachts with fine accommodations and Corinthian crews who were in it for the adventure. There were big boats in the race like The Novia del Mar, the Escapade, Celebes and the M class Serius. There were Newporter motor sailors, L-36s, PCCs, and the Eight Bells.
The Celebes, owned by Jack Hedden of San Francisco burned and sank a day or so after the start and the crew of the Escapade rescued the survivors and continued on to finish the race.
Aboard the Eight Bells life was good. We had a comfortable ride, the food was good and we were about as fast a Newporter. After a day or so of sailing, the faster boats had left us behind but on the second morning the bright red L-36, Andesolo from Acapulco YC came over the horizon astern with the spinnaker and proceeded to sail past us during the day. This happened two more days and we figured out that the Mexican crew led by Carlos Braniff and Javier Velasquez were taking their spinnaker down at night. On we battled near the rear of the fleet until our steering cable broke and we had to use the emergency tiller for thee rest of the race.
Our finish was far back but our arrival at the Club de Yacht Acapulco was unbelievable for a young crew who had never been south of latitude 38. For me it was the beginning of a long ocean-racing career, which has includes more than 20 races down the Mexican coast.
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From Chris Caswell:
One of the Acapulco races, aboard the Columbia 40 Carib, stands out for being truly bizarre.
No, it wasn’t being caught by the skipper on the night before the start while rolling around with his daughter in the vee-berth. No, it wasn’t the fact that the co-owner got in a fist fight about three nights out, retired to his quarterberth and wasn’t seen until the finish. Nor was it that the provisions had come from a restaurant supply store in big boxes, so we soon discovered that we had 20-gallon cans of Spanish rice to consume, not to mention 4000 Oreo cookies, with which we set new records for the number of times they would skip on the very calm water of this race.
What does stand out, however, was the constant, pervasive heat. We found ourselves totally becalmed at one point not far away from Islander. By radio, it was discovered that they had lots of ice but no beer. We had lots of beer, all air temperature. A deal was struck: if we would row over, they’d trade with us.
But as we inflated our Avon, one of the crew noticed a snake in the water. Suddenly, the sea was literally alive with writhing snakes that would try to leap on deck if they bumped the hull. There were some who felt a cold beer was worth a row in an air-filled rubber boat in a sea of snakes (which turned out to be some jungle version of water moccasins) but wiser heads prevailed.
And so it was that we ended up off the cliffs of Acapulco, in sight of the finish line, hot, parched and becalmed again, forced to watch a huge Coca-Cola sign flashing on shore for hours.
I vowed never to sail aboard an unrefrigerated boat again.
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From Howard Macken:
I remember going out to watch the start of one Acapulco race with my folks, it was the late 50's, I was probably 15 or so and all these people were walking out to the lighthouse. We were commenting if these people were REALLY interested in sailing or just coming out because it was a "happening". There was a nice looking couple ahead of us and we actually made a point of speculating why they would be out here.
Then someone walked by the couple and said, "Hi Lowell (North), good to see you." Ha, kind of ended our speculation! That has always stuck with me, never take for granted who you maybe next to in a crowd.
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From Dan Schiff:
My deep southern Mexican ocean race adventures started in the early 80’s which introduced me to a true Mexican experience that for me is lasting a lifetime. The delight of Coco Locos, authentic (non-gringo) Mexican food under palapas while barefoot on the sand, a true tropical “Cheeseburger” in paradise.
The 1984 race introduced me to Manzanillo, thanks to Roger Macgregor and his own 65ft “Anthem” (Hull #1). I had this opportunity to share with Roger and his family in their one of many accomplishments along with the efforts of Skip Elliot. Although the brand new N/M 68ft "Swiftsure" took the gold, we had a very competitive match race against “Merlin” most of the way down the coast, being on the losing end of the last shift entering into Manzanillo bay. Another aspect that made it “personal” for me was that I was able to pay some respects, before becoming a teenager I learned how to sail on Roger’s first design, the 21ft Venture (Hull #652).
Following the 1987 Puerto Vallarta race, a MEXORC immediately followed and took us back down the coast to Manzanillo while enjoying the exotic coastline in between ports with a stop-over in Careyas. At this time the 70’ft Sled class was taking shape, great wind conditions with warm weather allowed us a memorable high speed surf fest, beating the land support vehicles that had to navigate the numerous Topas (Mexican speed bumps) to each port. The competition continued thanks to generous owners sponsoring Ping Pong tournament parties at Manzanillo’s Presidential suite compound in the Las Hadas Hotel (Bo Derek’s movie “10” scenes) and lavish house parties on the plush La Punta.
After finishing in the San Diego – Manzanillo race in 1988 on the SC 70 “Kathmandu” I found my own perfect 10, managing a clothing store in the same Puerto Las Hadas Marina. I then participated in every race headed to Mexico to travel and visit my new friend after racing concluded. She eventually came to live briefly in San Diego (to learn english with her sister) and watched me leave from the San Diego Yacht club during the 1990 Manzanillo race headed for her home town with live Mariachi music playing from the Club House deck. The “Curmudgeon” himself witnessed a lot of this first hand who has always played a big role while in Mexican waters, he not only shared in his vast Latin knowledge base of where to go, he contributed in solidifying my off the water future as well. After arriving in Manzanillo it was time to meet my lady friend’s parents for the first time (without their daughter). I needed a translator who spoke more than “mas cervesas por favor” and could make a good impression while providing a tour to a yacht that resembled the stench of a men’s locker room. The “Curmudgeon” had no trouble pulling this off, I got married the following year in Manzanillo. My In-laws have asked of the Curmudgeon and how he is doing, I say I still get input from him almost daily.
Today and most every day going on 17 years now, I eat fresh made salsa with home cooked authentic Mexican meals in Southern California. My trips to the Mexican ports today arrive by plane to visit relatives; I am constantly reminded of the many memorable racing experiences, discovering these ports first by way of the sea. Although today, the vibrant luster of Puerto Las Hadas has diminished somewhat, there is nothing quite like making that left hand turn after days of racing to discover the East facing sunset laden hillside and secluded harbor of Manzanillo’s Las Hadas Hotel and back drop.
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From Duncan Kelso:
In 1984, while working at North Sails San Francisco, I was involved with the new Bill Lee “Turbo” SC50 Acey Deucy. Our first race was to be the 1984 San Diego to Manzanillo race. A race most of the crew will always remember, but sadly not all.
Herman Moniz was the young owner of Acey Deucy. (Herman had also commissioned the first of the new SC70’s that would become Blondie.) We had a total crew of seven for the race that included Zan Drejes, Tom Walsh, Terry Drew, J. R. Parker and a friend of Herman’s. At least that was the plan.
The morning of the race I arrived at the boat to find a man sitting in the cockpit with luggage. These were not sea bags mind you. I had never met this person before but he introduced himself as Herman’s father and that he would be going on the race. Patrick Moniz was a very large Hawaiian gentleman of approximately 300 lbs. I explained that the crew papers were filed and it would not be possible to add anyone at this late date. It was then explained to me, in very clear terms, Pat Moniz would be on board for the race.
The race started in about 8-10 knots and Acey Deucy took off. Pat spent the better part of the afternoon on deck but later went below to the aft cabin. For the next 36 hours Pat rarely was seen except when passing to the head. The second night out it was discovered that the majority of our water was gone. This was a real problem as this race was a slow one. That evening Herman was asked about his father’s condition and we were assured he was just seasick. I also told Herman that the water situation was critical and that dropping out of the race was a real possibility. We decided to assess the water issue and Pat’s condition in the morning.
As the first light of the third morning pushed out the darkness, we saw Merlin abeam. We knew we must be doing well. Our great feeling was short lived. From the aft cabin we saw Pat Moniz exit and promptly collapse on the cabin’s passageway sole. With great effort we extricated Pat from the passage and got him to the main cabin. From the first smell of Pat’s breath I was sure he was in diabetic distress and in real danger.
We got on the radio immediately and contacted the escort vessel being run by Norm Reynolds. We made the quick and obvious decision to rendezvous as soon as possible. We were sailing on starboard jibe so we jibed over and began sailing to make the best VMG to intercept Norm’s boat. The wind was light and getting lighter and Pat was getting worse. We contacted the committee members on the escort vessel and informed them we would be starting our engine to make best course and speed to them. We were now motoring back up course and into the coast.
After a few hours we rendezvoused with the escort vessel and transferred Pat to the care of the physician on board. At this time Herman and his friend transferred as well. They immediately left to take Pat to the closest port with medical facilities. At about noon Acey Deucy had a crew of five half way down the Baja coast sitting with no wind and little water. We had to decide where to go, return to San Diego or continue with the race. Should we motor home or get to Las Hadas, our wives and the margaritas? This was a quick decision.
We made up our two watches, one with Tom, Terry and J. R., the other of Zan and me and started sailing again. That afternoon, while monitoring the radio, we heard the escort vessel contact another boat and report they were throttling back as Pat Moniz had died. The problem was now what to do with Pat. The escort vessel was obligated to continue following the fleet. If Pat was brought into a Mexican port both the escort vessel and Acey Deucy would be detained until an inquest was conducted from Mexico City. This could mean that both boats and their crews could be in Mexico for several weeks, or longer. After radio conversations with US officials, the doctor, attorneys and Herman’s family, the dramatic decision was made to bury Patrick Moniz at sea which was done.
Acey Deucy was great in light air and we proved this that afternoon and for the next five days. Nick Frazee’s new NM68 Swiftsure easily beat us but Acey Deucy had finished well up in the results. However after all boats were finished we were informed a protest had been filed against us. The infraction was not finishing with the same number of crew as we had started and the use of our engine. To the protest hearing we went.
A very detailed log was kept showing all radio traffic as well as all course and speed changes during our time we were diverting to rendezvous with the escort vessel. I was not expecting to win this protest but we presented this evidence to the committee. One question asked by the committee was how much time did we calculated this action had actually cost us in the race. Considering distance traveled up course and the hole we were left, I gave a conservative estimate of a few hours. The committee’s decision was to throw out the protest and actually awarded Acey Deucy time.
The interesting part of the protest was it was filed by a boat that had participated in the Calcutta the night before the race. Apparently Acey Deucy’s high finish had affected the Calcutta payouts. Who filed the protest? I can’t say with total Reliance.
PS: The death of Pat Moniz was not the last Moniz family tragedy. That summer while preparing “Acey Deucy” for the Vic-Maui Race in Victoria we received a call from the Moniz family informing us Herman would not be making the race. While riding his motorcycle in Hawaii a few days before the start of the race Herman had a spine crippling accident which ended his racing days forever.
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From Fred Schenck, 86 years young:
I sailed in the first SDYC to Acapulco race as the sailing master aboard the Island Clipper "Conejo". She was sold to Sr. Wolf Schorntorn. We were first in and won the race overall. We sailed 189 miles in 24 hours using a main and jib. It was blowing 35-40 knots. I also sailed in the 1960 race aboard the "M" boat "Pursuit" as the starboard watch captain. We were 1st in class and 1st overall. We got the broom!
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From Skip Allan:
In 1953, when I was impressionable eight-year old, the Folks loaded up the family woody station wagon and we navigated the windy, two lane, 101 south from Los Angeles to San Diego. No freeways in those days, and the half day, back road trip took you through some small, one stop sign towns named San Juan Capistrano and San Clemente.
Arriving at SDYC, we hiked out over the sand dunes and dredging spoils to what was then an undeveloped Shelter Island in time to watch the start of the first sailing race to Mexico. Here came what seemed like a giant sailing ship. Dad said it was the ketch NOVIA DEL MAR. The crew looked like ants as this magnificent wind ship creamed by on a starboard tack reach, flying ever sail in the book, headed to some place called Acapulco.
When we got back home to Los Angeles, I immediately re-rigged my homemade balsa model schooner into a ketch like NOVIA DEL MAR. It must have made an impression on my father also, as he shortly thereafter ordered a new design 36 footer from a little known yacht designer named Lapworth. This design became known as the Lapworth 36, and Dad raced it to Mexico seven years later, in 1960, in the first Mazatlan Race.
I didn't get to race to Acapulco until 15 years later. It was a slow race in '68 on an even slower boat, a brand new 38 footer from a yard in Maine. On the seventh day the new high tech rod rigging started breaking mid span in a flat calm. We had to send a crew member up the headstay to hank on the jib above the U-bolt clamped repairs.
On the ninth day, as the heat below became nearly unbearable, the freshly cured resin of this new design started outgassing. We had to close up the cabin, and live in the cockpit. One of our crew, a kid named Ron Holland, started sketching yacht designs all over the cockpit. The owner was less than pleased. But became even more so when we took the one music tape aboard, his Frank Sinatra album, and cut it into telltales.
It took the first-to-finish KIALOA II nearly eleven days. When we arrived in Acapulco after more than two weeks of mostly drifting, we were a hungry and thirsty crew. Ron Holland spent a day copying his cockpit designs into a sketchbook before they got erased with the scrub brush. He was ready for his first yacht design order.
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From Bill Kreysler:
Not sure my 93 year old Dad would remember all the details, but he was
the radio operator and communications coordinator aboard the 4-F, John
Tanner's converted Coast Guard Cutter (yacht) that served as escort
committee boat to Acapulco and other Mexico races from San Diego years
ago. Two things stick in my mind from those days in the early late 50's
and early 60's when I was a teenager. One was that Tanner kept a stash
of opium aboard "just in case" and the other was that Dad took my Sabot
number 404 on the deck with him one year and sailed it around Cabo just
for kicks. I think I even have a photo of that one. He also told a
story of catching a Marlin on a hand line...but that's another story.
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From Fred Frye:
In 1976 I participated with Chuck Cheyney on his Ericson 39 VIXEN. It was my first long distance offshore race. After we rounded the Cape at about midnight, we were rocking and rolling along as only an Ericson could, and suddenly I sighted a while line that stretched as far as the eye could see in front the boat. I knew it was bioluminescence, but at midnight and on a pitch black night, I was sure that we had indeed come to the “edge” and were going to topple over. We could not steer around it as it was about a mile long. Dick Knoth and I watched this phenomenon as we rocked and rolled towards it. As we entered the “Light Zone” we could see hundreds of squid that were churning away and several splashed into the boat. They had disturbed the bioluminescent diatoms that caused the phosphorescence. It was an amazing sight and one that really scared the hell out of me until we made it through. One’s imagination really runs rampant when sailing on a very black night. On other races to Mexico, I observed similar lights but never in a straight line. Having competed in 10 of the SDYC adventures to Mexico over the years, the first is always the best.
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From Mike Kennedy, Conquest Cal 40 # 96:
I sailed with a friend in the 1976 Manzanillo Race, the first of that series. We were in a Carter 39 and about half way in the race, one night, we had a galley fire. I was so tired that I was sleeping on the settee berth and woke up to see the flames. I thought to myself, "They'll wake me up when it's time to abandon ship." We finished, although the alcohol fire, which had burned through the hose from the pressure tank, left us with cold food the last four days. The destination was great and we had a good time. Two years later, I took my own boat, a Yankee 38, and encountered a 40-knot blow right on the nose for several days. We sailed with a #3 and reefed main until the last day. Once again, the destination made it all worthwhile.
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