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Looking Back: The Epic 2021 Cabo Race

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  • Looking Back: The Epic 2021 Cabo Race

    Story and photos : Len Bose

    The warmth I felt on my bald head indicates that spring has arrived along with the swarming beehive under my neighbor’s eve, which reminds me of the activity on the harbor when it appears things are returning back to normal.

    The word “epic” best describes this year’s Newport to Cabo San Lucas hosted by the Newport Harbor Yacht Club, which took place March 19-25. The race started in 1971 and ran through 1991; there was a 10-year break and it restarted in 2001. Two things have always attracted me to this race. First, you are sailing downwind within the first six hours of the race and two, and the odds are more than 60 percent that the month of March will provide a windy race. This year, we had a windy race that propelled Horizon to the finish line in three days and three hours, which placed us 2nd in class and 4th overall, sailing under the Balboa Yacht Club burgee. Dave Clark aboard his Santa Cruz 70 Grand Illusion, Newport Harbor Yacht Club, won his class and took 2nd overall. Craig Reynolds, Balboa Yacht Club, sailing on Bolt a Nelson Marek 68, finished 2nd in his class and 8th overall. Compadres an Andrews 77 from the Balboa Yacht Club sailed to a 3rd in class.

    This had to have been the most consistent breeze I’ve seen in this race which leads to a new course record of 1 day and 22 hours set by Roy Disney aboard his new Volvo 70 Pyewacket 70. That’s an average of more than 20 knots over an 800-mile course – that’s pretty fast for seven dwarfs. Just kidding, the crew consisted of 13 sailing giants with one of the crew Ken Read, who had just flown in from New Zealand after commentating the America’s Cup over the last four months on NBC. I wish I would have seen Read on the docks for his comments.

    For us aboard Horizon, the race had moments when our skills were tested on late mornings, when the moon had set, we were still two hours before sunrise when it’s pitch black and you just came on watch. Your eyes are watering up from the breeze across the deck and you are trying to figure out what’s going on all around you. How windy is it, and how high are the wind gusts? Which sail do we have up and are all the lines clear that control the sails? A quick review with the off-going watch captain on the instructions from the navigator and are there any other boats around us? Then BAM, you’re in the game. One morning I went through the above procedure and took the spinnaker sheet then clipped into the jack lines (we wear a life jacket/harness that has a tether that attaches to a safety strap that runs down both sides of the boat that’s called a jack line). So, there I am trying to clear my tearing eyes and adjust them to the pitch-black surroundings, while looking at the sailing instruments gathering information on the wind and the course that we should be driving to keep the boat from crashing. It’s always intimidating at these moments when the wind is blowing over 25 knots with the thought crossing my mind if I can handle my turn at the helm.

    Just then, on this dark morning, I couldn’t see past the bow of the boat when a huge wave pounds into the side that drops at least 20 gallons of water over my head. No one else on watch gets wet, but I am spitting saltwater up as if I had just been dropped into a dunk tank. Okay, okay…game on, and I bitched and moaned for a good 10 minutes, as I felt the water start to work through my gear, and felt the squish of water in my wool socks. We enter another wave, and I get thrown into the cockpit landing on my knees still trying to trim the spinnaker hoping we were not going to crash. Just then the helmsman asked if I am ready to drive. I stand back up, untangle my tether, and move as fast as a 60-year-old can behind the wheel. Now I can’t move as fast as I once did in 1983 aboard Amante, the first time I sailed in a Cabo race, but after the first wave and cutting back to balance the boat out, I uttered a big sigh, then felt like I owned this. I am the king! I never had that confidence in 1983 with my skill level at the helm. To tell you the truth, that’s what keeps me coming back for more – the personal challenge one has with the sea with the understanding that one can be drenched and knocked down to their knees at one moment then feel at the top of their game the next.

    Most every boat had their moments to challenge their skills with two boats receiving challenges from below the water. Doug Baker’s Kernan 75 Peligroso hit a whale at more than 20 knots and took all the fairing off the keel. The team had to drop out of the race and haul the boat to Ensenada in order to inspect the damages. Manouch Moshayedi aboard Rio 100 had a similar problem. If I heard the story right, they lost one of their two rudders when they ran into a shark, then had to drop out of the race.

    I have to give a huge shout out to the principal race officer Dwight Belden and Race Chairman John Curci for again putting on an epic race in very difficult times. The awards presentation was fun again – when is free food and an open bar not fun? A WELL DONE must be given to the NHYC team!

    Sea ya.

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