If someone had to sum up the 60th Newport to Ensenada Race, sponsored by Lexus, in three letters or less it would have to be “DNF” — did not finish.
The strong winds of the previous weeks did not arrive for the start of the largest international yacht race in the world and pulled a no-show for the rest of the contest as well.
Of the 449 official entries, among them many Marina del Rey sailors, there were only 241 finishers, the most dropouts in the long history of the storied race.
“This is my 45th race and this was the slowest race in my memory,” said David Price, skipper of Tres Gordo from Newport Beach, who won Spinnaker B in the Cruising Class.
As night fell and the accompanying dampness and drifting weakened the will of the strong, so many crews, moving at a negative V.M.G. (velocity made good), broached the tender and sensitive subject of pulling into San Diego to wear the scarlet letters. Itís often around the midnight hour with the lights of Tijuana in the backdrop that quiet discussions are held.
Inevitably, someone aboard has crunched the numbers and gives best- and worst-case scenarios about E.T.A.s. “Saturday evening, after nine?” “One in the morning?” “Sunday at daybreak?” “What about the party?”
All of the factors are weighed and re-discussed in different variations, and then there is more drifting on the windless ocean while the emotionally-divided sailors silently digest their options.
Then, at some point a crewman breaks the silence. He or she is either the strongest voice or the weakest, depending on perception, but they speak the words that everyone dreads and longs to hear — “Letís head into San Diego.”
Itís then that relief and shame can blend, making an uncomfortable ride, especially when the on-board field was divided.
“I adamantly demanded that we finish the race,” said crewman Randy Hunt from Way to Go, which was among the hundreds of boats that discontinued. “Iíve been doing this race for 15 years and I never wanted to quit a race.”
For just a few others, the weather was fine. Staghound, one of the smaller boats in the big boat class (Reichel/Pugh 50) was happy with the gentle breeze that they found along the way.
“The weather band was working for us,” said Alec Oberschmidt. “We do well in light air and we do well going to weather. Thatís the way we built the boat, so itís natural for us to win a race like this.”
Doug Bakerís Magnitude 80, which just broke the speed record in the Marina del Rey to Puerto Vallarta Race, was the first over the line in 21 hours and four minutes, sailing the slender 80-foot racer to another Mexican victory.
On the local front, some notable sailors had strong showings. Multi Marine owner and multihull legend Mike Leneman from Fairwind Yacht Club was on hand and, true to form, took first in the ORCA (Ocean Racing Catamaran Association) class, sailing his F-31 Delta Vee.
Leneman beat the 60-foot monster trimaran Loe Real — a boat that was built for the film Waterworld — on corrected time.
Gary Green with Green Dragon, from Marina Venice Yacht Club, came in third in his class; John McLaurin drove Pendragon IV to fourth in the Maxi class; Del Rey Yacht Clubís Phil Friedman took fourth skippering Black Knight in the highly competitive PHRF (Pacific Handicap Racing Fleet) B class.