Monday, May 2, 2016

J/Teams Crush Epic, Record-breaking Ensenada Race

J/120 Pole Dancer sailing Newport Ensenada Race (Newport Beach, CA)- For decades, one of southern California’s most popular offshore races has been the annual 125nm blast down the SoCal/ Mexico coastline from Newport Beach to Ensenada.  It is a marquee event in SoCal offshore circles for many reasons:  the downhill sleighride more often than not is loads of fun flying spinnakers most of the way; and the pre-race “send-off” party and the post-race awards party have gone into notorious folklore status for many boats and crews, good, bad, or otherwise!  It is truly a classic event for those who’ve experienced the traditions of SoCal offshore sailing.  Organized and hosted by the Newport Ocean Racing Association, the beloved N2E is an eclectic mix of serious sailors campaigning multi-million dollar yachts racing alongside recreational cruisers.

This year, the weather forecasters promised a somewhat benign event, a light start with a building breeze from the north to northwest in the overnight hours.  What no one anticipated was that a bizarre El Nino-influenced setup for weather systems would accelerate the strength of the breeze on a clear evening into the low 20 kts all night long!  The consequence was that records for this 125nm sprint were simply eviscerated!  The multihull record set by a MOD 70 was blown away, and the monohull record that stood for 20+ years was also obliterated.  What this meant for most of the fleet was an epic sleighride downhill into Ensenada of near Biblical proportions guided by the stars and the moon into the finish line!  It was an experience to be memorialized for the scrapbooks!

For starters, read these two stories below, one from the J/88 BLUE FLASH and the other from the well-known J/125 TIMESHAVER to get a flavor of how much fun this record-breaking race was for the crews.

J/88 Blue Flash sailing Newport Ensenada RaceJ/88 BLUE FLASH Report
Sailing the J/88 BLUE FLASH was Scott Grealish from Portland, OR from the Pacific Northwest. Scott bought the gorgeous flag blue, impeccably prepared boat from the famous radio talk-show host, Dr. Laura from Santa Barbara, CA.  His goal was to have fun sailing in warm waters with his son and friends.  To say that he is well on his way to reaping the rewards of that choice would be nothing short of an understatement.  Who knew that a bunch of guys in INTEL-land could race boats even faster than they blast down the famous nuking 20-30 kts Gorge River, which is mostly flat water but blows “dogs off chains” every day!  They are no strangers to pushing boats to their absolute limits.  Here is Scott’s commentary:

“I won’t remember the 2016 Newport Ensenada for the record setting pace, the perfect breeze that veered and built, letting us nearly sail the rhumbline and never set a jib, or the sunny warm day turning into a crystal clear full moon night with that same “just right” wind in the low 20’s at just the right angle to gybe and finish before shutting down on the boats behind solidifying our class win and 4th place overall in a solid 200+ boat fleet.

My memories will be all about coming together as a team and sailing to our potential after a “disappointing” Islands Race the month before where an epic wipeout during a 30 knot gust with the big kite up left us with our new boat speed record of 18.5 knots- - plus, a shredded kite and staysail.  We still had a six mile lead, but in trying to play it “safe”, we throttled back too far and ended up second in division.  As a skipper, I did some serious reflection afterwards and as a crew, we rallied around our strategy for the next race:  Be safe, be totally prepared, keep everyone focused on their roles, but keep pushing the boat!!

Summary of N2E 2016?  It was awesome, and everything the Islands should have been for us.  The main difference?  Great boat preparation and bow work from Andrew Coates at SD Boatworks, great navigation and weather calls from fellow Portlander Andrew Haliburton, and fast driving in the waves split between myself, my long time friend Kerry Poe from North Sails Oregon and my 17 year old son Sean.  We all know the boat well, and driving at speed in waves was uneventful this time.  No wipeouts, no drama, just hours of surfing between 10-16 knots boat speed.   We found the class kite to be quick and actually easier to drive than our bigger kite.  With a full moon, it was possible to keep pushing all night, and just when we saw a burst of 17.5 knots on a big wave and thought about “backing off”, the breeze eased just enough keep us comfortable with boat speeds in the low teens.

Overall, the whole race had perfect conditions for the boat, with the big zero up at the start, then the breeze built and veered as expected so we went to the A4, then finally the A2 all the way to the end, while we stayed pretty much on the rhumbline throughout.  But, as the breeze got above 18 kts, rather than follow an exact “route”, we mostly drove to catch waves like sailing a Laser in our home waters of the Gorge.  The boat really comes into it's own with either zero conditions or surfing conditions, and we were lucky to have both!

At the finish, we had no idea where we had placed in the absence of trackers, but when we docked in with some 50 foot boats and saw all the open slips in the marina reserved for race boats, we had a feeling we had placed well!  But more importantly, we knew we had sailed well as a team, and that was an even better feeling.  But, what was the best feeling?  Well, we have a little string of blue LED lights inside the boat that give a cool effect at night.  They have always brought us luck, but for the Islands Race they didn’t work.  Bad juju.  I’m not superstitious, but I tested them the night before N2E just to be sure...and, at the finish, we celebrated in the blue glow of the cabin!  The “Flash” was back!

J/125 Timeshaver sailing Newport Ensenada RaceJ/125 TIMESHAVER Report
The J/125 TIMESHAVER is pretty well-known in the SoCal offshore circuit.  Owner Viggo Torbensen has campaigned her for years and, more often than not, they “finish in the chocolates”!  No strangers at collecting their fair share of silverware, Viggo often has some of the leading edge sailors in his neighborhood sailing with them. One of them happens to be Eric Shampain from Newport Beach. He’s done the race multiple times and won class and overall twice on the Santa Cruz 50 Horizon.  Said Eric about this year’s event, “it was an amazing race! Maybe my personal fastest finish at just a hair over 12 hours elapsed on the mighty J/125 TIMESHAVER. So fun, so fast. Not a bad streak as well! Insanely, we got 3rd class, 3rd overall PHRF monohull! In other words, our class crushed it! The crew consisted of owner Viggo Torbensen, Tom O'Keefe, Jack Maranto, Blake Hamilton, and my dad Jon Shampain!”

Erik continues to explain; “It had been a while since I sailed a J/125 so I was looking for my fix. The 2015 Transpac doublehanded on Tim Fuller’s RESOLUTE was my last J/125 sail to be precise. When Viggo from Dana Point asked if I would do the Ensenada Race along with the following series of races that comprise the California Offshore Race Week, I had to say yes! I figured that the light air battle that is generally the Ensenada Race would be well forgotten by the time we got the boat in its element offshore down the central California Coast!

Our intel had it being a good race. It ended up being a great race. While it never got extremely windy, it did blow a solid 19-22 kts for an extended period of time making the overall race time quick. With the changing wind speeds and directions, I believe we did 6 or 7 spinnaker peels, each better then the last.  The driving was great fun as we hit 16-17 knots consistently. One of the highlights was late in the evening as we gybed into the moonlight on port. The seas lined up and the boat was humming with figure tip control.

We finished just past 12:12am for an elapsed time of just over 12 hours on the 125nm course. The next morning, we awoke and went to the host hotel to find out that we were 3rd in class and 3rd overall PHRF! Not too shabby for having a fleet of around 142 PHRF entrants. 212 counting all the multihulls and various cruising classes.

After that blast, I am really looking forward to the California Offshore Race Week, which is comprised of three legs starting in San Francisco, and stopping in Monterey, and Santa Barbara, before finishing in San Diego.”

The epilogue?  TIMESHAVER was fastest boat down the track on elapsed time in the winningest division- Class C, crushing Shampain’s former SC50 Horizon ride by nearly 45 minutes!  The winner corrected at 12:32:26.  TIMESHAVER corrected at 12:35:24, e.g a delta of just 2 minutes after 125nm!

While the J/88 and the J/125 had amazing runs down the track, a number of other J/Teams also faired incredibly well.

J/120 sailing Newport Ensenada RacePeter Bretschger claimed two trophies for his J/120 ADIOS, for Best Corrected PHRF-D and Best Corrected J/120. “I couldn’t be more elated for my crew,” said Bretschger. One of which is only 14 years-old. “It was our fastest race ever. 15 hours!” he said. In 17 years racing N2E, he’d only placed second one other time.  Rudolph Hasl’s J/120 HASL FREE from San Diego YC took third in class.  In fifth place was the J/122 TKO, sailed by John Raymont from Balboa YC.

Then, the J/120 POLE DANCER skipper Terri Manok, took home the Caroline Starr trophy back to Oceanside Yacht Club. Many of her all-women crew dedicated the race to veteran sailor Sue Senescu, who died unexpectedly last year. “I learned a lot from her,” Manok said and called her crew, “my dream team, the best I could have ever hoped for. The team agreed they were in great company while reviewing all the names of groundbreaking women sailors etched onto the side of the trophy!”

J/145 Radio Flyer sailing Newport Ensenada RaceIn the big boat world in PHRF A, John Lyon’s J/160 INNOCENT MERRIMENT from San Diego YC dueled with classmate Carolyn Parks’ J/145 RADIO FLYER from Santa Barbara YC the entire race.  On elapsed time, the two big J’s were just over 7 minutes apart and docked at virtually the same time in Ensenada!  However, on handicapped time, Lyon’s INNOCENT MERRIMENT took third in class while Parks’ RADIO FLYER took fifth.

The lone J/105 on the race track was Juan Lois’ ROCINANTE from Santa Barbara, taking 4th in PHRF H Class.  Another team from Santa Barbara took fourth in PHRF J Class, Stephen Mcdonough’s J/30 EGGEMOGGIN and Scott McKenney’s cute J/32 cruiser BETTY sailed with determination to grab fifth in class, much to the surprise of her classmates!   Sailing photo credits- Tom Walker   Sailing Photo credits- Leslie Richter.  Sailing photo credits- Ultimate Sailing/ Sharon Green.  For more Newport to Ensenada Race sailing information