Friday, January 26, 2018

Sail J/24s Off Yucatan!

J/24s off Yucatan, MexicoGulf Stream Sailing with Dolphins, Whales, & Sunfish!
(Yucatan, Mexico)- Two years ago, Jorge Ojeda grew weary of racing mis-matched boats with handicaps. He said to his friends, we should all sail the same boat!

Many amigos were hesitant, but, equally weary of the lack of competition in Yucatán. The small group of sailors believes it was one of their British grandfathers that first brought recreational sailing to Yucatan.  So, los amigos wanted to grow racing, while older members of the yacht club (Club de Yates y Vela de Yucatán) saw no reason.

“In every yacht club there are two yacht clubs,” said Pedro Gianotti. “I know this to be true. In the best scenarios, the groups overlap energies. But, there are the racers and the cruisers, and beyond, the hammock sitters.  And even others, the knife & forkers, and the powerboat guys, and even the fishermen!”

Jorge was determined to change the sailing climate in Yucatán.

That’s when Nacho Cruiser Manzanilla, the club’s Commodore and a locally influential man, stepped in. Nacho and Jorge set a date. They would buy their first J/24 on February 10, 2015!  Together, no less!

J/24s sailing in Yucatan, MexicoThe fleet would grow from there to a dozen boats in two years. While Jorge builds J/24 Yucatan racing, Nacho is working to build a yacht club. Until now, the club would meet in borrowed locations throughout Progreso, the seaside town 30 miles outside of the thriving city of Mérida.

So, by December 2017, I caught wind of Jorge’s invitation to the Regata de Amigos, an annual series of 13 regattas, one held each month, consisting of two or three windward/leeward races.

I flew into Mérida for two days of exploring, a spectacular city for it, and two days of on the water.

Pedro Gianotti, the Argentinian-born UK Sailmaker down from Houston for the weekend, spent Saturday giving a seminar and measuring boats. Saturday night, Nacho organized a holiday boat parade of lights. Pedro spent Sunday coaching the J/24 Yucatan sailors through the Regatta Los Amigos, the 13th and final installment of 2017. After the regatta, the annual award was given to Tomas Dutton and the crew of CARISMA.

Our fearless leader, Jorge, has assumed the responsibilities of his passion, the kind of natural paternity that shines without requiring translation. Gregarious and expressive, when I asked him about the seminar and measurements, he said simply that he was pleased, his fleet having grown [developed] a lot this weekend.

J/24 Yucatan sailorsIt was Jorge who coordinated Pedro’s visit, and who along with his wife and crew, an attractive woman named Mercedes, ushered my own visit. One of four female J24 sailors in the fleet, Mercedes would ask questions during Pedro’s seminar, take notes on the boat’s new list of needs as he measured, and use oil and acrylics to paint the Regatta de Amigos annual trophy, a sunset sailboat scene on a flat cut of oak!

Were it not for their hospitality that brought me there, much of what is special about Yucatán and its sailors would have been beyond my reach. Pedro’s seminar was in Spanish, so for two hours I sat mostly trying to guess the topics with my elementary vocabulary. It turns out I was not alone in translating the words. While South American countries and Spain use Spanish words for the various parts of a boat, Yucatán and Mexican sailors tend to use English words!! How amusing! So, in fact many of the club’s questions for Pedro involved translating his Spanish to their Spanish!

At the Christmas boat parade of lights that followed Saturday’s seminar, Pedro mentioned sailing in a championship regatta once in which he and his three other crew spoke four different languages. When the sail went flapping, a cacophony of words erupted all at once!

J/24 Yucatan Mexico launching tractorOne sailor, who goes so far as to have the definition of the name of his J/24 elegantly strewn down the hull, is French born, Yucatán married, and with American in-laws. He and most my amigos for the weekend moved between English for me as needed, but there were still many more jokes I failed to grasp than those I understood. Instead, I smiled a lot! Moreover, as my skipper Mike Dutton yelled the Mexican-Spanish word for “Hike on Jorge’s boat, Pedro struggled to get his crew to understand the same command in Argentine-Spanish! Needless to say, I was reminded that sailing has but one language.

In sailing as in life, it is all understood through analogy. Mike referred to an electric guitar during the tuning seminar, insisting his boat worked the same way.  In addition, at one point, Tomas shared a story about the race to create a pen that would work in space. If you recall, the crazy American’s at NASA spent tons of money investing in research to make that space pen; meanwhile the Russians simply used a pencil!! Haha! The moral? Do not let the language stop you from accepting Jorge and Los Amigos de Yucatán invitation to race. They are ready, and at 6.5 km, the port of Progreso is the world’s longest, offering a warm bathtub about nine feet deep and averaging 20 knots of perfect regatta time!
For more Yucatan J/24 Fleet sailing information Add to Flipboard Magazine.