The Champagne regatta is always a favorite year’s end event for the racers at CYA. This is my fifth time for this regatta and still cannot figure out if it is a fun race that racer’s take seriously or a serious race that racer’s sail for fun? I think a combination of both!
The Westerly winds forgot to arrive blowing into the AcapulcoBay, instead the slow Southerly wind showed up instead. Racers prefer the stronger Westerly wind for a fantastic spinnaker ride into Puerto Marquez and race to take down the spinnaker before the boats sail up onto the beach at high speed. That would not be happening at this year’s Champaign race.
The first leg to El Presidente was a combination headsail and spinnaker leg. Both A & B class had to choose whether to navigate the large cargo ship anchored in the middle of the bay by going higher than course with the headsail and then setting a spinnaker after the large ship or going low of course with the spinnaker hoisted early but possibly having to take the spinnaker down early if the wind changes more to the south. The low boats came in fast to the buoy reaching hard with good angle, paying dividends to the boats that stayed low toward the beach/Costera side.
The next buoy was at the upper end of the Boca Chica. At this point in the race, several of the boats had good position and were probably comfortable with their position against their competitors. The wind was blowing from the perfect Southerly direction to wreak havoc on the wind and boats trying to sail up the channel. The normal west wind funnels down the channel and provides good consistent wind, but today the wind was block by La Rocheta and the wind was anything but consistent! I think Knitissima and French Kiss that came through the channel without stopping or getting turned the wrong direction drifting looking for wind! Many changes in the leader board after that simple mile of sailing! This was “re-start” #1.
First to the inflatable buoy and making the turn back down the coast to the finish at Puerto Marquez was Vincitore followed by Patches by 3 boat lengths. The only other boat within minutes of the big boats was the orange Knitissima! Heading for the finish (and Champagne) Patches tried some moves to get by Vincitore, but both boats were very solid in trim and course going about 8.5 to 9 knots toward the finish.
As the big boats entered Puerto Marquez, only the orange hull of Knitissima could be detected, it looked good for the big boats against the smaller boats in A class! Then, restart #2! Vincitore sailed into the bay with a spinnaker low toward the center of the bay and Patches held the jib closer to the rocky cliffs on the right. Patches hoisted the light air spinnaker to drop down in front of Vincitore who found a huge hole of no wind which proceeded to swallow up both boats! The knot meters were pegged at zero knots! That translates to zero miles per hours and zero kilometers per hour! The rest of the fleet sailed into the bay with the same wind that Patches and Vincitore had just enjoyed 15 minutes earlier! Boats were going any direction with spinnakers and headsail trying to find the magic puff of wind to blow their boat to the finish and VICTORY! Patches found their puff of wind and crossed the finish line going .25 knots! It was amazing to see all the strategies of finding the wind and getting to finish. The boats sailed closest to the rocky cliffs (where Patches came in) and the boats that were all the way over to the Pichilingue side seemed to catch the wind better than the boats in the middle of the bay where Vincitore had entered. The boats in the middle of the bay seemed to be “stuck” between a southerly sea breeze and the northerly off shore breeze in a big cancellation “no wind” zone!
The big winners were Emilio Garcia’s Farr 50”BSM” in A class with Tania Fichtner helming and Robert Vulling’s Peterson 40 “Piet Hein” in B class. The nice thing about a race with a start, re-start #1 and re-start#2 was every boat was potentially winning the race at any of those moments! I am sure many crews were licking their lips with the taste of victory so close to their reach, but had to settle for only the taste of champagne after finishing behind BSM and Piet Hein. Many sailors drank the Moet & Chandon bubbly in victory and many drank it in celebration of “almost” winning the Champaign Race!
The tradition is to finish the race and anchor the boats together in the upper corner of Puerto Marquez at Pichilingue. Right on cue, all the boats came together and the fiesta began. Food, drink and fun started with the special delivery of champagne from the CYA support boats. For the boats that missed the race, you missed a great gathering of sailors, friends, family and good people celebrating a great year of sailing and competition. We hope to see you all at the next race on January 14-15 at CYA.