April 2014 Acapulco Race by Bruce Cooper
Racers had near perfect sailing weather with perfect MEXORC style wind conditions in Acapulco for the April Regatta. Ideal westerly wind of 12-18 knots combined a big southern hemisphere swell made for some exciting sailing in the ocean and in the bay.
Getting your boat ready for racing in more wind and having the right attitude is important to performing well when the wind comes up. On Eduardo and Becky Saenz’s TP-52 Destroyer, we were confident we could deal with the building wind by knowing our sail selections and crew ability. We felt we were perhaps a little light on crew weight for upwind work, but we could hike harder and balance the boat for optimum speed and be light and fast for downwind turbo speed. Well, we faced an uphill challenge on the first race when we jumped the gun and were called over early and had to restart behind all the boats in Class A. Tactically we were able to restart quickly and stick to our plan of getting to the right side of the upwind leg for better wind shift and some tide relieve. Destroyer was back in the race on leg one of a six leg course, things were looking good. At buoy #1 we hoisted the spinnaker, just as the sail filled the tackline clutch was accidently open and released the spinnaker away from the boat. Not good trim or speed to catch the boats ahead! The foredeck crew quickly re-rigged the tackline and the spinnaker was trimmed and we took off at 12-14 knots of speed. Good recovery.
With 4 more buoys to round, we knew with the building breeze, maneuvers at the leeward and windward buoys would have to happen quicker and more precise with the extra boat speed and force on the sails and lines. We caught and passed Bandido approaching the 2nd buoy when they had some spinnaker troubles and Destroyer crew got the spinnaker down clean and was ready for the upwind leg. As the race progressed, the wind continued to build. Having the mental toughness as part of our game plan played in that the stronger wind was our ally, not our opponent. We stuck to our game plan of getting to the right side of the course upwind and sailing the target angles downwind with early spinnaker takedowns at the leeward mark. By the finish of the race, Peligroso and Vincitore were ahead and the rest of the class was behind. Not bad for starting over early and a loose tack line on the first spin hoist.
Race 2 started in more wind. Again, switching headsails to match conditions was key to optimum performance. Flojito y Cooperando was sailing before there start with the heavier air jib checking halyard and lead settings getting it dialed in BEFORE the race, not waiting till the first leg of the race! Destroyer switched jibs as well and tightened the forestay and rigging to get better performance as the wind was now up in the 16+ knots range. Destroyer had a late start (20 seconds late) because the jib sheet came loose during the approach to the start line, but we tacked right away and sailed in clear air on the first beat. We were very close to the other 52’s at the first buoy, but still behind because of the late start. Knowing the wind was up, we made the call to round the buoy “jib up” and hoist the spinnaker and not take down the jib for the downwind leg. This was for two reasons: First, we needed the crew weight on the weather rail during the rounding to control the boat better in the turn and then have the high side weight for when the spinnaker filled and the boat took off downwind. Second, on the TP-52 the jib is ok size to use as a spinnaker staysail for better flow on the main and spinnaker when sailing in heavier wind conditions and ultimately the sail was up and ready at the leeward mark! Destroyer was much faster than the other 52’s with this technique. Racing was very close with Kayue 52, Vincitore and Destroyer, until Vincitore suffered some breakdowns in the higher winds. Actually, new Bandido was having some issues with clew rings on the jibs and Vincitore was suffering from broken jibs sheets (twice) and a broken mainsheet slowing them up to a fourth place. Destroyer destroyed the traveler pin and had no traveler control while on port tack, but not a major breakdown compared to the other two 52’s. Peligroso and Kayue 52 seemed to go unharmed and race cleanly with Kayue 52 showing good boat and sail control to take the corrected time victory in race 2.
Race 3 was modified from the normal up and/or down the Boca Chica to staying on the ocean side of the Rocheta. The large south swell was causing a large amount of turbulence in the Boca Chica Channel and the Race Committee thought it be best if the racers stayed out of the channel. It was actually nice to have a change of course on Sunday!
Well, Kayue 52 and Peligroso got the jump on the fleet with the spinnaker start and led Class A to the first gybe toward the beach. With a sprint to the El Presidente buoy, staying or being where the “puff” of wind is translates to 1-2 knots more speed on these fast boats versus your competition. Peligroso, K52 and Destroyer did well staying in the puffs (Vincitore was there until a big knot in their spinnaker sheet slowed them down in a gybe) and got to the buoy just ahead of Vincitore and new Bandido. Vincitore and Bandido battled their spinnakers, each other and the monster size swells that washed up on shore all the way to the hotel. At one point the boats, crew and lower parts of their sails disappeared between the swell sets! It looked like the sea had swallowed them whole!
Sailing steady and fast, Peligroso led the fleet out around Rocheta to the ocean buoy followed by K52, Vincitore, Destroyer, Bandido, Ruahatu and Trigarante. No matter how hard Bandido pressed from behind and Peligroso and Vincitore tried to stretch from the front, K52 sailed very clean and had their only “bad” mark rounding at the last turn at El Presidente. Destroyer worked hard to get past K52, but with new helmsman and tactician Daniel and Ander B, K52 stayed just ahead of Destroyer and right behind Vincitore all the way to the finish in front of the yacht club.
In the end, Kayue 52 was smooth and fast enough to beat the other 52’s, the bigger faster Peligroso and the other class A boats to take first for the weekend. Flojito y Cooperando was very fast in Class B taking first place and beating the other Farr 40’s Nitemare and Akelarre. Piet Hein was on top of the smaller Class C boats with only a few boats competing this month.
1. When it’s windy, plan doing the maneuvers at the buoys early rather than later. When the boat is moving faster, you will have less time the closer you get to the bouys. Getting the spinnaker down early and put away is faster than missing the mark. Remember, sailing downwind with the headsail is faster than sailing upwind with the spinnaker!
2. Check the gear before the race, during racing and between races. A bent shackle or partially chafed rope will be big trouble later in the race or later in the regatta if unchecked and left to break during the race.
3. Gain boat lengths in the basic tacking and gybing maneuvers. Kayue 52 was very synchronized at trimming and turning in these maneuvers. Many times the skipper turns too fast for the trimmers and the sails are untrimmed for long periods of time and the speed ultimately slows. This is easy to go out and practice!
4. Sail the favored side of the course for best wind and/or tide. Flojito y Cooperando slingshot into first on Sunday’s race when they tacked to the favored right at El Presidente ahead of Nitemare. Destroyer restarted behind the fleet race#1 but got to the favored right side for best wind and tide to minimize loses.
Gracias por VELEAR con Ullman Sails,
Tomas Span - Mexico U/S Dealer
Erik Brockmann - Mexico U/S Dealer
Contact your local Ullman Sails dealer for info on the Worlds fastest growing one design J70 and scheduling Friday afternoon crew practices!
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