2013 Newport Harbor Yacht Club Island Race‏

With a great iceboating season coming to an end, I ventured out west with the Sin Duda crew to race the Newport Harbor YC Island Race. This race takes us from Long Beach, California, outside of Catalina and San Clemente Islands, finishing in San Diego, California -140 miles.
All predictions had a fast and windy race and Sin Duda, a Santa Cruz 52, was ready for it. A early morning delivery from Newport to LA was rainy, but with flat seas. Starting in Long Beach harbor, about 50 boats headed out to the northern most gate in the harbor. We cleared Angles gate and headed towards Catalina in good position with our fleet. A beat all afternoon in a beautiful setting California sun was just what the doctor ordered.

Short tacking up the northern shore of Catalina with the 70's, coming within 100 yards of the steep rock walls, was pretty spectacular. We did have a local navigator, so the nerves stayed calm, but still, tacking within sight of the grass.
Rounding the north tip around 5:30 PM, we were able to ease sails and quickly build speed. As expected, the wind built and the seas grew. Jib reaching well into the teens was fun and by 8:00 PM the wind had clocked enough to set the A5 kite. The 15-16 knot boat speed quickly grew and 20 was the norm. Wave height was also building with an estimate of 12-14 feet. With no moon, the ocean was black, only our bow and stern lights giving any idea of the size of the waves.

Top speed for our trip was 24 knots, same time we saw the wind hit 30. One or the other was the limit for the tack ring as it blew out the A5 and the kite needed to come down. Up with a jib top and we kept speed in the high teens.
As we reached our next waypoint at San Clemente, we eased some more and set a 1.5 runner, speed grew back into the 20's. We cleared the island and jibed towards San Diego. As soon as the pole was made and kite loaded up, the pole snapped in two. Back up with the jib top. We must have stressed the pole with the A5 earlier but hadn't seen the damage. We were able to patch the pole with a sleeve and had the 1.5 runner back up in about an hour.

We finished in San Diego about 3:30 AM and made the mad dash to the club to dry off.

We finished 2nd for the the race but soon heard of other boats having problems. Several boats withdrew due to conditions and two boats lost rudders, both 30 footers. One was near San Clemente and called the Coast Guard and fellow racers, doing just the right thing. The Coast Guard responded but was asked to stand down as the owner called a tow service to rescue the boat. The owner had many years of racing and this was a new boat. This turned bad as the tow service was unable to respond due to conditions. The boat ended up breaking apart in the surf with the loss of one crew.
We all have taken chances, prepared the best we can, trained for the worst and always say "it can't happen to me", but it does happen to us. We lost a fellow racer, and we may not know why the crew wasn't picked off the disabled boat on the first call. The Coast Guard was called back and did an outstanding job pulling the six crew from the surf. The second boat had parts ordered and the Coast Guard delivering them so they could safely return to port.

Our crew had a lovely crew dinner back in Newport and a long debrief about the race. This was the tune-up for the 800 mile Newport to Cabo race at the end of the month. We need some sail, spin pole, and hydraulic work and the boat's ready. The crew was performing great, communication and response to emergency was clear and quick.

I am looking forward to the Cabo race, may be some more big winds and waves. The one comment that came out of this race was "Good thing it was dark, if we were racing in the daylight, we'd be scared Sh@#less".

Story by John Stanley