Bill Gibbs couldn't stop smiling when he said, "We've done this race 14 times and we've never seen the wind this good."
Max Phelps said, "It took us four hours to sail the last two miles."
Was this the same race? In the Lexus Newport to Ensenada Yacht Race it depended on what boat you were on. The fastest finished soon enough to seize the glory; the slowest suffered some agony of windless drifting, but only near the end.
At mid-day Saturday, about 180 of the 203 starters had finished. That remarkable tally was largely attributed to the wind holding strong well past the border until entering Todos Santos Bay. The 66th running of the 126-nautical mile race from Newport Beach to Mexico's Baja California peninsula teased several boats with visions of records.
Howard Enloe's Loe Real, a Jenn 60 trimaran, became the only boat besides the late Steve Fossett's 60-foot Stars & Stripes catamaran in 1998 to finish before sundown Friday, just after 7 p.m. — but missed Fossett's record of 6 hours, 46 minutes, 30 seconds by 17 minutes, 21 seconds with a clocking of 7:03:51.
Not only that, but with his minus-205 handicap, Loe Real owed Gibbs' Afterburner about an hour and 40 minutes, and the 52-foot catamaran blew in about 43 minutes later with plenty of time to spare to claim the race's biggest prize: the President of USA Trophy for best corrected time overall, including multi- and monohulls.
It's also worth a free two-year lease from the title sponsor on a 2014 Lexus IS F Sport. Anybody wanta go for a ride?
Later Friday night Tom Holthus' Bad Pak, an STP 65, designed by Reichel/Pugh, was the first monohull for the second consecutive year, finishing under a brilliant full moon just before 11 p.m. in 10 hours, 58 minutes, 30 seconds — but 20 minutes, 40 seconds shy of Doug Baker's mark of 10:37:50 on Magnitude 80 in 2009.
"Good breeze all the way," Holthus said. "We went around the [Coronado] islands with 18 to 20 knots a couple of times, then into [Todos Santos] Bay you hit the transition about three miles from the finish … the wind went to under 5 knots for awhile and switched. We had the spinnaker up and then the jib to go upwind."
The crew sensed that wasn't good.
"No one said a word," Holthus said. "We all knew the situation but no one was talking about it."
Ah, so near, so far, but someone has to win.
Gibbs said of Enloe's team, "They have a good boat and they sailed it well. They crossed us near the border and went inside the Coronados. We kept going" … and went outside?
"Actually, we went through the islands," a crew member said, revealing an uncommon strategy.
— Rich Roberts
First 10 finishers
1. Loe Real (ORCA; Jenn 60 trimaran), Howard Enloe, Silver Gate YC, 7 hours, 3 minutes, 51 seconds (corrected handicap time 14:10:56).
2. Afterburner (ORCA; 52' catamaran), Bill Gibbs, Pierpont Bay YC, 7:47:11 (CT 13:08:01).
3. Go Cart (ORCA), Chris Slagerman, California YC, 10:00:50 (CT 13:54:10).
4. Bad Pak (Maxi), Tom Holthus, San Diego YC, 10:58:30 (CT 13:54:10).
5. Medicine Man (Andrews 63), Long Beach YC, 11:35:59 (CT 15:02:14).
6. Meanie (Maxi), Tom Akin, YC unlisted, 11:46:44 (CT 15:00:29).
7. OEX (Maxi), John Sangmeister, New York YC, 12:57:09 (CT 16:17:09).
8. Alchemy (Maxi), Per Peterson, Oceanside YC, 13:03:37 (CT 16:01:37).
9. Retro (Maxi), Doug Baker/David Team, Long Beach/Newport Harbor YCs, 13:36:55 (CT 16:25:40).
10. Taxi Dancer (Maxi), Tom Parker, Santa Barbara YC, 13:37:00 (CT 16:32:00).
Full results can be found at newporttoensenada.com/race_info/results