by Bruce Cooper
Every April sailors anticipate two Mexican Races: Newport to Ensenada Race and Acapulco Ocean Race. Starting the SoCal racing season, The Newport to Ensenada (N2E) downwind (more often than not) race to Todo Santos Bay offers a lot of sun and Mexican hospitality upon arrival. The Ocean Race in Acapulco is the 4th regatta in the Acapulco racing series. Racing in Acapulco starts fast in January and remains steady until the last race in December.
Last year with up to 30 knots of wind, the N2E won in the wind battle against Acapulco’s 10-14 knots of wind.
This year Acapulco won hands down with 9-12 knots of wind for all three races compared N2E which had no wind. The race was a drifter with the big boats like Peligroso taking almost 21.5 hours to finish, averaging just over 5 knots!
It's good to be sailing and racing in Acapulco.
During this regatta, I raced on the TP52 Destroyer as a warm up for the boat, skipper and crew for the upcoming TransPac Race from Los Angeles to Hawaii race in July. The conditions racing across the Pacific Ocean will differ from those in Acapulco, but the crew will benefit from the time spent sailing together and learning the boat better.
Wind Direction 260-265
Wind Speed 8.9-10 knots
Jib Choice: leg 1= #1, leg 3=#2
Spin choice: leg 2 & 3= A2
Getting a good start usually helps your position during the race and but more importantly, at the finish. Destroyer wanted to start near the committee boat, but made the tack too far downwind of the RC boat to have good speed and timing back to the boat. As we settled into our 2-3rd row start, it was tough watching Vincitore, Patches, Bandido 52 and Kayue 52 start cleanly on the first row. The only option was to tack to the right, but we had wanted to keep heading for the ocean to take advantage of better breeze and up-coast current. We swallowed our mistake and should of tacked back after we got clean air, but we stayed on course heading to the right hoping and looking for a right shift. Destroyer sailed in clear air, but the prim spot to be in was a bit further out, where Vincitore and the rest of Class A was.The only boat on the low right tack was Negra, who was probably wishing they were out in the better breeze as well!
At buoy #1 Vincitore and the other big Class A boars hoisted spins and made quick jibes back to the right side of the course. Destroyer rounded and elected to stay on Starboard jibe to sail the better down coast "outside" current and jibed to the buoy when on lay line to buoy#2. Destroyer made some small gains against the boats, except Vincitore who was in front and increasing their lead. On the next windward leg to buoy #3, the plan was to keep Destroyer in the middle, middle-left where the better breeze and "ebb" up-coast current was showing. Played correctly, it is a free ride or free push to the next upwind buoy!
At buoy #3, Destroyer was much closer to the big Class A boats! Our strategy to the finish was the same as the last downwind leg. Stay to the outside and make our jibe to the finish, taking advantage of the better current and sailing the long jibe combined with the now shifting wind to the right. BINGO! Destroyer sailed a clean downwind leg to finish, seconds behind B52 and ahead of K52 and Patches to take second place behind Vincitore. Good comeback for Team Destroyer.
Wind Direction 270-275
Wind Speed 10-11.4 knots
Jib Choice: leg 1= #1, leg 3=#2
Spin choice: leg 2 & 3= A2
With the wind shifting more to the right, the premium spot for starting race #2 was the committee boat end. Vincitore, Kayue 52 and Negra battled for the preferred spot and all came up short. The slightly more conservative start down the line towards the pin end had Patches, Destroyer and Bandido 52 flying off the line with clean starts holding long starboard tacks with the slight right shift on. Vincitore did not wait long to get clear from the tangle with K52 and tack to the right to get clear air. Boat speed became difficult on Destroyer, as we tried some different trims techniques with the wind building. The problem was the upper battens were accidentally installed backwards. The battens being in backwards made the top 20%-25% of the main impossible to trim as the sail flattened out when the wind speed increased to over 11 knots. Our boat on boat speed was out the door with this setting and was slowly sending us to the back of the 52 fleet. At buoy#1 Bandido 52 rounded 1st, but was closely followed by Vincitore (who made a great recovery), then Patches, Kayue 52, Destroyer and Negra. All the boats stayed on starboard jibe making a nice long train of 52'ers racing for the jibe point to buoy#2!
Once again Vincitore moved into the lead, passing B52 leaving very tight racing between the other 3 TP52's battling for every boat length! The only way to pass one of the other boats was if one made a boat or sail handling error. For Destroyer this was really needed with our lack of upwind speed with the funky main trimming. Luckily for Destroyer, Patches had some spinnaker trouble letting Destroyer to slip by on the way to buoy#4. Thank you Patches! When the spinnaker mess was cleared up, Patches came on like a freight train as they approached the leeward buoy and needed to drop the spinnaker. Luckily for Destroyer, the Patches spinnaker went in the water and slowed Patches slightly. Thanks again Patches!
At the upwind finish Vincitore was first across followed by B52, K52, Destroyer, Patches and Negra. Good race Vincitore!
Start-El Pres-Boca/Ocean Buoy-Roq-El Pres-Finish
Wind Direction 235-270
Wind Speed 9.0-11.0 knots
Jib Choice: leg 2= #1, leg 4=#2
Spin choice: leg 1* & 3*= A2
Spinnaker start...get it up, accelerate and look for the right puff to jibe to the beach! Class A got off to a good start leaving Patches slow on the start grid with a spinnaker that would not un-band and fill with wind. Destroyer kept a good position and jibed to the beach first and rolled over the top of K52 while accelerating perfectly with the staysail pulling in the 11 knot puff. Destroyer stayed in the puff and positioned down and in front of Vincitore and B52, who jibed to the beach a couple of minutes later. Destroyer was racing with the new Ullman Sails offshore main (battens properly installed) and had noticed a change in speed next to the other boats. Destroyer was able to keep and hold speed which was our downfall in race#2 from Saturday.
Vincitore was just to windward and behind Destroyer when a 20 degree left shift blasted he two lead boats. This was “check mate” for Destroyer against Vincitore for buoy#1. Destroyer changed course with the new wind direction and sailed into El Presidente with a nice lead on the other class A boats.
No lead is big enough to hold back Vincitore, especially as the wind increases. Look out, here comes Vincitore!
Heading into the Boca Chica, Vincitore, Destroyer and Patches played the middle-right while B52 played the far left and K52 played the far right. In the end Vincitore lead Destroyer, K52, Patches and B52 up the channel with the back four boats in a lite duty tacking duty. Good for Vincitore and the other boats, bad for Destroyer who was loosing a little after each tack! Destroyer covered with K 52 out to the ocean side of the exit and course to the ocean buoy which had clearly more wind and current relief allowing Destroyer to hold off the charging K52, B52 and Patches.
Vincitore had about a 20 seconds (on corrected time) on Destroyer at the buoy as they set their big blue A1.5 spinnaker. Destroyer had a clean spinnaker set and the race was on to El Presidente. Spinnaker, staysail and main pulling with crew hiking, the Destroyer team pushed for every tenth of knot of speed to close the gab with Vincitore.
The downwind leg from Roqueta to El Presidente ended up being a one sided reach which did not allow for much tactics or passing opportunity. Vincitore’s classic defense sailing keep them between the competition and the next buoy.
Sailing up the last leg to the finish is no time to relax, Destroyer crew trimmed sails in every puff and hiked the boat down to keep the optimum speed in case Vincitore had a bad tack or eased up, every second counts. It appeared for a small amount of time, Destroyer was holding and maybe catching Vincitore for bit!? For Patches, they did not get the chance to push hard to hold off K52, shortly after trimming the sails in tight for the upwind leg, the webbings on the practice main let loose and the main came down to the deck with no way of re-hoisting the sail. Race was over for Patches. Destroyer improved on some tacks coming up to the finish, but Vincitore proved too fast and won the race by approximately 44 seconds on corrected time for a three race win streak for the weekend!
April Take Aways:
1. Get to the start / race area early to practice some time and distance practice runs in at the committee boat or pin end. This is what really made Dennis Conner a great skipper at the start of the race, he knew where and how to cross the line at full speed exactly as the starting flag went up! note: Destroyer would of had a better start in race #1 if we had practiced where the layline was for approaching the startline and fought harder for that angle into the startline!
2. With time on time racing, every second counts! Keep focused and racing hard all the way around the race course. Don't take a flyer after a bad start (like Destroyer did in race #1) or a bad mark rounding and expect good results. Luckily, we kept with 90+% of our game plan and were patient to make small gains without lots of risks at each buoy and segment of the race. By the end of the race (last 5-8 minutes) we went from 4th to 2nd in class by sticking to our plan and making small gains!
3. Keeping good focus and energy is a must on the race course. This is real hard to maintain in the heat and sun in Acapulco. Keep drinking fluids all during the day. If you are drinking water or gatorade because you feel thirsty, its too late! Keep your drink in a line bag or near you while racing. After each tack / jibe / mark rounding, take a drink and stay hydrated. Sitting under the big mylar sails is like sitting under big mirrors with the sun reflecting on you all day, it will drain your energy and your performance with out you even knowing it!
1) Vincitore 2) Destroyer 3) Kayue 52
1) Gladiator 2) Nite Mare 3) Hurakan II
1) Veloce II 2) Windhacker 3) Nitissima