Sunday, March 13, 2011

Banderas Bay Regatta

We joined the crew of Tivoli for the XIX Regata Internacional (Banderas Bay Regatta). Tivoli is a Beneteau 42s7 that embarked from San Francisco Bay late last year on an extended cruise that will take it south to the Panama Canal, across the Caribbean and eventually to Denmark. Loaded down with cruising gear, the boat was quite a bit heavier than its sistership, Cirque, which won class A for the third time running in this event.
The course for race 1, sailed on Thursday, March 10th, started a mile or so off Nuevo Vallarta, and included a 2.5 mile beat to a weather mark, then a long port tack leg out to Punta de Mita followed by a long run back to the finish. There were few opportunities to pass on this race and it was basically all about boatspeed and waterline length. The wind was light and Tivoli was heavy so we never had a chance to make any moves, and Cirque walked away the win. At the end of the day we were 7th out of 9 in class A. It was a good learning experience though and we used the lessons learned to revise our sail trim, move more weight out of the stern and prepare for a better result in race 2.

Unfortunately race 2 was canceled due to the earthquake in Japan and resulting tsunami, which reached Bahia Banderas about 1330 on Friday. Veterans of the tsunami that hit us last year in Long Beach, we decided to ride this one out in deep water. When the first surge arrived we were safely five miles out where the bay is over 250 feet deep. The water level in the bay rose and fell as much as four feet a dozen times or so during the afternoon, knocking out a couple of docks in La Cruz and causing the local authorities to close all the ports in the bay. Throughout this time the Honcho, along with at least 200 other boats rode these surges in perfect safety, never really feeling anything out of the ordinary.

Around 1800 the local port captain in La Cruz declared that the channel entrance was being reopened and boats were free to enter the harbor. By this time the Honcho was anchored outside, prepared to spend the night there, but when the channel was reopened we decided to head into our old slip on gangway 11. Eager to see what was going on in the harbor, we got the anchor up and headed for the entrance only to have another surge roll through, causing the port captain to close the channel once again. So back we went to the anchorage where we spent the night at anchor in the company of at least a hundred other boats. Throughout the night we were turned around now and then by stronger than normal currents as the tides continued to surge.

The next morning the current in the harbor entrance was still running strong, but we were able to get the Honcho secured back in her slip and head back to Nuevo Vallarta and the regatta. Our gangway was without water or power, and as I mentioned, a couple of the docks at the end of the gangway had broken loose and were floating upside down, lashed to the gangway to prevent them from drifting away. But other than that, the harbor survived the tsunami in good shape.

Race two consisted of three laps around windward-leeward buoys, with a wing mark thrown in after the first weather mark. With the wind up to about 15 knots we had reasonably good boatspeed and were able to hang with the bigger boats in our class. Though we were rated the second slowest boat in our class, we sailed a very good race. Expecting the wind to shift right as the day wore on, we got a good start at the committee boat end of the line and were looking to protect our position on the right side of the course. But it didn't take long for the faster boats to start passing us and we had to take a couple of tacks to stay in clear air and found ourselves bounced to the left more than I wanted to be. Fortunately the right shift never appeared and we rounded the weather mark in 5th place and set a spinnaker for the reach to the wing mark. At the wing mark we executed a flawless jibe and passed another boat that didn't. Throughout the race our crew work and boat handling were excellent, and we made up time at every mark.

The wind remained a steady 14-16 knots. We had done well on the left side on the first beat so I took a chance on the left side again and we continued to make up time on the  boats ahead of us. The third leg was a repeat of the second and when the results were tallied, Tivoli came in second, beating all but Cirque. With the regatta shortened to just two races, Cirque won the event and we ended up fourth in class. I was especially pleased because our crew had never sailed together before, and none except the owners had ever raced a 42s7 before. It was a great example of a crew coming together, learning the new boat quickly and recovering well from a tough first day. I'm confident that if we had been able to do a third race, we would have had a spot at the trophy table. Anyway, we had a great time and are looking forward to getting together again for Antigua Race Week next year.
For complete results go to:
For photos of all the action:

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