Taniwha, a Ferrier 32, at Friday's start.  They'd claim Fastest Elapsed Time honors and two trophies after temporarily losing a crewmember overboard.

Taniwha, a Ferrier 32, at Friday's start. They'd claim Fastest Elapsed Time honors and two trophies after temporarily losing a crewmember overboard.

N2E 76, great winds and close racing


29/04/2024 - 20:29

The 76th annual Newport to Ensenada International Yacht Race is in the books with sailors enjoying excellent sailing conditions over the three-day event.

With exciting weather forecasts correctly predicting mostly consistent winds in the high teens to low 20 knots and choppy seas, the age-old N2E decision to go inside or outside the Coronados was not as clear as in previous years.

That decision would determine wins or losses on this 125 nm adventure by only minutes and seconds.

Defending ORCA A -class and overall champion Taniwha, a 32-foot Ferrier, pulled into the lead by Dana Point Harbor and crossed into Mexican waters just after 4 p.m.

On approach to Todos Santos Bay before dark, the four-person crew was preparing to jibe, when Mat Bryant slipped, line in hand, and fell off the side of the boat. Bryant reported they may have hit a wave while setting up, and that he tried to hold onto rope but had to let go.

Helmsman Pete Melvin did a quick stop maneuver– head to wind, backed down the gennaker - then tacked to sail over to him. A thrown heaving line helped him back aboard via the low transom.

“The whole thing took about 5 minutes,” said Bryant. He was wearing his PFD, foul weather gear, and deck shoes, making swimming a challenge. “It was very fortunate to have Pete (renowned yacht designer and multiple race-winner) at the helm. “He has great decision-making skills on the water,” said Bryant. In that instance, his other crew mates, owner Jerry Fiat, and Frank Dair, were very quick to respond.

The highly experienced sailing professional knows the importance of being safety-conscious and runs safety briefings on other boats he sails with.

“This can happen to anyone at any time,” said Bryant. “I’m constantly harping on implementing good safety practices, and how critical it is to run Man Overboard drills. I’ll be even more so in the future.”

Taniwha continued racing to claim first to finish with an elapsed time of 10:05:54 but placed second in class to newcomer Bottle Rocket, a Sea Cart 30 in ORCA A. But they still took home two trophies.

Even with the MOB, Melvin reported this was the fastest N2E he’d ever done.

Bottle Rocket, whom Fiat expected to do well, took home three trophies, including the Stein Cross Trophy for best-corrected catamaran and best-corrected ORCA A.

Jerry Poprawski's Kaster Pollux was a big winner for Anacapa Yacht Club on his 20th N2E. The Moorings 4300 finished with a corrected time of 12:34:12. On corrected time, three of the four boats in ORCA B finished within 11 minutes of each other, except Some Tuesday, a Lagoon450S, that lost time replacing a shredded spinnaker.

But it was only 2 minutes and 8 seconds over Amanzi, a Lagoon 42 on its inaugural N2E that won Kaster Pollux the Best Corrected ORCA B, President of NOSA Trophy for best corrected ORCA, the Stern Choi Trophy for best-corrected catamaran as well as N2E’s highest honor, the Tommy Bahama Trophy for overall best corrected time.

Making calculated decisions landed John Raymont’s Fast Exit II a modified Ker52 as the first monohull to finish with an elapsed time of 10:24:08. It was a first for the Maxi for many of its crew, who all checked in to the Hotel Coral before midnight.

Navigator Damian Craig said that GRIB files reported more pressure on the inside route, but they decided to lean into the outside; but not too far.

“The goal is to find where the magic is,” said Craig. Finding the magical spot with consistent wind won them the President of Mexico Trophy for Best Corrected time UL Maxi, the Lahaina Yacht Club Trophy for best elapse monohull, and the Jack Bailee trophy for the best corrected of a Newport Beach Yacht Club.

The boat ran at 2.3 knots faster than true wind, said owner Raymont, whose first N2E was in 1983.

“Success comes from good planning and this race came together really well,” said Raymont. There were some differences between forecast and reality, but adjustment made it work.

Good, clean, and fast sail changes, also made a difference, Raymont said. And there were five spinnaker changes, one for every 10-degree change in wind.

For Ohana, a long and lean 1982 Swede 55, the key to success was the decision to be flexible. Avoiding the holes that others sail into was part of the strategy. Then there’s part luck, said Co-Captain Paul Hogue.

Forecasts are great, but they found success year after year by keeping their options open. “If the wind shut off, there was another option,” said owner Joe Markee. “It worked out well.”

Wearing a 2001 N2E hat, Markee returned to the podium - again - and left with the Cliff Chapman Trophy for best corrected PHRF B, and the President of USA trophy for best corrected all PHRF.

Ohana thrives in conditions this race provided, he said. They saw winds in the high teens, got to the Coronados, and made the decision to go steady all the way down. “The wind looked like the inside would work for once,” said Hogue. To the high side, they sailed.

With some of the regular crew under the weather, the captains brought four new crew members to race. The younger sailors, including Hogue’s son, are all from San Diego Yacht Club. “We like to get the younger generation involved,” said Markee. “Everyone contributed and made a huge difference to the overall performance.”

Much to his surprise, Bernt Helgaas’ Andreas, a Norseman 447 took top honors in PHRF C. Helgaas, of Wayzata, Minnesota, a landlocked suburb of Minneapolis, spent two years in San Diego fixing up the 1981 cruiser. N2E was Andreas’ first race ever.

“The goal was to finish. I’m as shocked as anyone to find us at the top,” said Helgaas. “After watching the forecast, we had concerns about the big wind and waves, but it all went as well as it could have.” Even with the light start, they too decided to stay inside and let the swells and the 12 to 23 knots of wind carry them down.

Helgaas has sailed with a couple of his crew before this shake-down race, but never all together. Dale Peters, the navigator and watch captain, got his offshore experience on the East Coast and the Great Lakes. “I could not have done it without him,” Helgaas said. They threw up an A4 and left it all the way down.

“With the challenging conditions and waves, we decided we were not experienced enough to try to change spinnakers.” They ventured a little offshore and saw on the YB tracker that they went from 6th to first.

Helgass will race next in the weekly beer cans on Lake Minnewashta. His yacht club sees 120 Sonars, J22s, and J24 every week, all summer long.

Apparently, Minnesota cultivates some good sailors.

Since 2017, Brian Kerr has been sailing Double Down in N2E with Grant Bartee. Meeting through a California Yacht Club event, the friends discovered that they had both moved to Los Angeles from Minnesota and raced against each other as children.

The boat has consistently placed well, claiming one best-in-class win, but this is the first time the two sailed the J92 double-handed.

“Off the dock, the strategy was conservative,” said Kerr. The breeze built off the start line, and albeit lulls off Dana Point, and at 3 a.m., they saw a constant 17 knots and decided to stay inside for lots of power reaching.

No modifications were made to the J92’s rigging for the two-man sail before the race. And, they decided not to make any sail changes in the heavier seas. It was the right call, said Bartee, despite losing by just 8 seconds to Fandango, one of the three J92s.

Double Down may have finished second in PHRF UL D, but Kerr took the Volvo Trophy for best corrected double-handed, all PHRF back to SMWYC.

Three boats from Ensenada participated this year but one was the last to finish.

Speaking at a NOSA luncheon Saturday afternoon, the Mayor of Ensenada, Carlos Ibarra joked that Mexican hospitality was behind the loss; that they stayed in the fleet’s wake to make sure that everyone else got in safe and sound.

The mayor, his wife Gabriella, and daughter also attended the Sunday afternoon for the trophy ceremony at the Hotel Coral and Marina. He presented awards to the racers, alongside NOSA Commodore Phil Herzfeld. “One of the best N2E’s in recent memory,” proclaimed Herzfeld.

Andreas and Day Tripper II approach the start of N2E Friday. Andreas would unseat the 16-time class winner ahead of them here.

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