On Saturday, January 6th, Del Rey Yacht Club will host the first race in the Berger/Stein Series, which many consider the unofficial start of the yacht-racing season. And while the Berger/Stein always draws large numbers of competitors and is a definite highlight on DRYC’s race calendar, this isn’t the only upcoming contest that the club is geared up for.

On February 16th, the club will also host the 19th Biennial International Yacht Race from Marina del Rey to Puerto Vallarta, an international event that spans over 1,100 nautical miles (1,261 miles) and sends most of the sailors on a week or more of open ocean sailing.

The race is said to be the longest and oldest enduring race to Mexico’s mainland and it also touts a record that can’t seem to be broken, set back in 1985. In the past 20 years, some of the finest sailors in Southern California aboard large, extremely fast and very expensive boats have not been able to topple the record set by Joss, a MacGregor 65 owned by the late Richard Daniels and his wife Camille.

It took the Daniels four days, 23 hours and four seconds to make the journey, which accomplished racers such as Roy Disney sailing the famous Pyewacket and Doug Baker in the equally formidable Magnitude 80 have tried to beat, but thus far have come up empty, although Baker missed the record by only three hours in his winning effort the last time around.

“The wind was honkin’ right out of Marina del Rey,” said Camille Daniels in an interview about the race many years ago. “We’d had a storm the night before, and we actually were able to set a spinnaker right off the starting line. That night the wind blew the wind point right off the windex (wind indicator).”

The favorite for line honors and first overall is 66-year-old Baker and his 80-foot maxi Magnitude 80. This modern racer, designed by Alan Andrews, is a true thoroughbred with an impressive track record and Baker is a seasoned and savvy skipper. Mag 80 holds the record for the fastest time in the San Diego to Puerto Vallarta Race and is always a favorite in the Transpac and Newport to Ensenada Races. Sailing World magazine said of the boat:

“A canting keel system, forward daggerboard and pivoting bow pole give Doug Baker’s Magnitude 80 a colossal advantage in West Coast distance races.”

But as good as Baker’s chances are this year, another sailor to watch is DRYC’s own Ross Pearlman sailing Between the Sheets, a Beneteau 52.2.

Pearlman is an excellent offshore sailor and — with the wins in the cruising class of the 2003 MdR-to-PV race, back-to-back wins in the Transpac race to Hawaii in the Aloha A class and in last spring’s Balboa Yacht Club race to Cabo San Lucas that had no cruising class — Between the Sheets more than held her own: first in class and fifth overall among 19 boats in Americap handicap scoring and third overall in PHRF (Pacific Handicap Racing Fleet) among 23 boats.

For the 19th version of the race Pearlman is going for overall honors in the Racing Division, something a “cruising” class boat has never won.

The race this year is slightly different than in years past. The organizers decided to incorporate some concepts and technologies that other long-distance races have used in the hope of making the event more enticing for racers, thereby increasing the entrant tally. They are touting the race as “four races in one.”

According to the event Web site, they will be incorporating “the scope of several other popular races to Mexico by marking the approximate finishing points of those shorter races with navigational “crossing lines.” Without stopping, the boats’ times will be scored automatically by signals to shore from transponders mounted on the stern pulpits.”

The segments will be Marina del Rey to Ensenada (159 nautical miles), Ensenada to Cabo San Lucas (669) and Cabo San Lucas to Punta Mita at the entrance to Banderas Bay (280).

Prizes will be awarded in Puerto Vallarta to the boats with the best corrected handicap times between crossing lines, but the segments will not be factored into the total race result.

“This continues Del Rey Yacht Club’s tradition of innovation,” said race chairman David Ross. “The 2007 Puerto Vallarta Race will combine the best of all Mexican Races in one.”

From a sailor’s perspective Doug Baker said of the changes, “You have to be imaginative and creative in organizing races these days.”

For more information or to see about entering the 19th Biennial International Yacht Race from Marina del Rey to Puerto Vallarta, log onto www.pv07.com. The race is once again sponsored by Corum, a manufacturer of high-end watches.

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