It may be more than eight months before next February, but 21 boats and crews are already gearing up for the 2005 Del Rey Yacht Club Marina del Rey to Puerto Vallarta Yacht Race.

The race is run every two years in odd-numbered years and is the longest international yacht race to be run on the West Coast.

Jack Taylor’s Santa Cruz 50, Horizon, heads eager, early entries for the 18th biennial 1,125-nautical mile race, Del Rey Club officials say.

Taylor won the annual 75-mile Around Catalina race from San Pedro to Dana Point on corrected handicap time.

Although launched 20 years ago, Horizon won the PHRF-B (Performance Handicap Racing Fleet) class in the last Puerto Vallarta race, held last year.

The sleek white mini-sled from Dana Point Yacht Club has aged gracefully with strong maintenance and is faster than ever after technical upgrades, including asymmetrical spinnaker configuration, Del Rey Yacht Club race planners say.

“We’ve been through the whole boat,” Taylor said.

The first entries are split almost evenly between 11 in the Racing Division and ten in the Salsa Group — the division for skippers who prefer to cruise to Puerto Vallarta and break up the event into three legs.

Horizon won last year after a come-from-behind battle of Santa Cruz 50s against Bay Wolf, sailing under charter by Richard Parlette from owner Kirk Wilson of Cabrillo Beach Yacht Club.

Horizon and Bay Wolf were among four boats to post corrected times faster that Roy Disney’s former Pyewacket, since sold.

Pyewacket fell less than six hours shy of the MacGregor 65 Josh’s enduring record of four days 23 hours set in 1985.

Three preparation seminars for the February race are scheduled Monday, October 11th, Sunday, November 14th, and Thursday, December 9th.

Information, Del Rey Yacht Club, (310) 823-4664 or www.dryc.org

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