Like a picturesque postcard Friday off the Balboa Pier, the beautiful large sailboats in 65th annual Newport to Ensenada Yacht Race got off to quick starts.
A class started every 10 minutes at two flights, with 213 boats in 16 total classes. Overall, the starts of the races lasted 1 hour, 40 minutes, with several yachting fans and other curious onlookers breaking out their binoculars to watch the sailboats, which ranged from 28 to 70 feet.
The boat that crossed the starting line the fastest among Maxi-class boats in the 125-mile race to the coastal town 72 miles south of Tijuana was the Medicine Man, with Robert Lane of the Long Beach Yacht Club as its skipper. Right on that boat's aft was Taxi Dancer, which was last year's fastest starter.
"It was an excellent race," said Chuck Iverson, commodore of the Newport Ocean Sailing Assn., organizer of the race. "We had a few parties this past week leading up to this race. It's wonderful.
"What's different is they're finishing at the Hotel [Coral and Marina], which is a half-mile north of Ensenada. You can see the finish line from every room of the hotel."
Press officer Rich Roberts, who was on a small boat near the starting line, said the wind was somewhere between 6 and 7 knots by noon and 4 knots at the start of the races featuring cruisers at 11 a.m. The boats plan on arriving at the finish line about 7 a.m. Saturday, depending on wind and other weather conditions.
According to the Weather Channel's website Friday afternoon, the forecast from 1 to 7 a.m. Saturday was for temperatures in the mid-50s, winds at 2 miles per hour and 0% precipitation.
Roberts said the finish at the Hotel Coral was better for the crew and the fans.
"This moves it to the north side of the bay, where it's clearer air," Roberts said. "It used to finish along the south side of the bay, where it shields the wind."
Paranoia was the first boat to cross the starting line among Performance Handicap Racing Fleets "A" class. Precepts took hold of the PHRF "C" class.
Lexus, the sponsor, is giving the winner a two-year lease on a 2013 Lexus GS 350 sedan.
Among the knowledgeable fans on the edge of the pier was Chuck Cover, who in 2008 was the skipper of Dare Go that competed in the Newport to Ensenada race.
"The hardest part is knowing where the wind is," Cover said. "It dies down on you pretty fast. Racing at night is OK."