March 3, 2010


Cirque and Horizon rumble down Banderas Bay during yesterday’s 25-miler to Las Caletas.

©2010 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Today’s a lay day at the ’10 Nextel Regatta Copa México, and to be perfectly honest, we’re ready for a little break. After Sunday’s shoreline-hugging tour of Banderas Bay, and Monday’s pair of double windward/leeward, eight-plus-mile buoy races, it was time for a destination race.

Owner Mark Jones sending Flash down the Bay with the help of (from left) Jay Crum, Quantum SF’s Jeff Thorpe, Paul Allen and Chris Deaver.

© Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Aboard Mark Jones and Mark Howe’s Bay Area-based TP 52 Flash, we were sitting in third for the regatta entering into yesterday’s 25-miler. A pursuit race — a format well-known to anyone who races on the Bay — that started just a little upcoast from Paradise Village Marina, went out to a buoy set at the mouth of the Bay on a 10-mile beat and finished at Las Caletas — Vallarta Adventures’ remote, accessible-by-boat-only destination on the southern shore of Banderas Bay.

The pursuit race format of yesterday’s race meant that boats as diverse as the Texas-based Melges 32 Mojo with the red kite, and Akela with the white and blue kite, finished within minutes of each other.

© Latitude 38 Media, LLC

We couldn’t have asked for more beneficial conditions for Flash, and were already passing much of the combined fleet halfway down the run, hooked into the 16- to 20-knots of afternoon sea breeze. After what seemed like too little sailing time — runs go quickly when you’re making something like 14-knots of VMG down the course — we squeaked into Las Caletas in a weakening breeze just a minute or two clear of the fleet to get back into contention for the regatta.

A view of the main bar at Las Caletas, the destination of yesterday’s race.

© Latitude 38 Media, LLC

The race however, was just a prelude to the evening’s social program. After a dip in the bathtub-like water, we settled in for drinks and a meal at the sprawling, Robinson Crusoe-esque complex of rustic palapas and footpaths. Next up was the daily awards presentation and indigenous-themed show at the Mayan-style outdoor ampitheater.

The Mexican Navy’s entry Caudillo had sat on one of the few moorings in front of Las Caletas just fine for a few hours after the race. Then someone noticed the boat was dragging. A sailor swam out toward the race committee boat, moored just off the beach, and the boat’s captain jumped in the tender, picked him up and did a nick-of-time, bow-to-bow transfer as the boat drifted out of sight of the crowd. When Caudillo’s bow finally poked clear of the promontory in the foreground, the crowd went wild.

© Latitude 38 Media, LLC

How good was the party? Well, Delta Ditch Run czar Bob Doscher, from Stockton SC — sailing this week on Bill Turpin’s Santa Cruz-based R/P 77 Akela — told us it put every other party to shame. And that’s a high compliment coming from a guy whose club puts on one of Northern California’s best regatta parties.

The gals of the Vallarta Women’s Sailing Team mistook Flash offside trimmer Dan Malpas for Mexican singer Cristian Castro, mobbing him for a photo.

© Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Leading the way in the party fun were definitely the Mexican teams, whose boats come primarily from Acapulco and Banderas Bay. Whether it was spontaneously breaking into chants, or songs, or hilarious party tricks like breaking out the charcoal moustaches, these guys and gals — of which there are quite a few compared to most stateside regattas — just plain know how to have fun.

Flash bowman Kevin Sullivan looks on as his counterpart on the Vallarta Women’s Sailing team gets a charcoal moustache from a Jeito crewmember.

©2010 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Unfortunately it all had to end at some point. But while we thought it would be a 45-minute ferry ride back to town — small crews had taken most of the race boats back to Marina Riviera Nayarit already — we were pleasantly surprised when the boatride turned into an all-hands on deck dance party!

The ride home aboard Vallarta Adventures ferry was just another venue for the party.

© Latitude 38 Media, LLC

By this point, we were done, but we know quite a few people made it to a foam party in town! But who know’s, maybe tonight . . .? One thing is for sure, ’10 Nextel Regatta Copa México is exceeding all our expectations.

Calling All Panama Puddle Jumpers

As regular readers know, the annual migration from the West Coast of the Americas to French Polynesia is growing into one of the largest cruising rallies on the planet. As we write this, the tally of registered boats about to make this 3,000-mile nonstop passage is up to 191 boats.

If you find youself in the anchorages of French Polynesia this summer, you’ll probably see similar burgees flying on dozens of cruising yachts. But you can only get one by attending a Latitude 38 Kickoff Party.

©2010 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

We used to include only boats heading west from Mexico, but when more and more boats passing through Panama asked to be included, we said, "Why not? The more the merrier." So, with that in mind, we’ll be taking a quickie trip to Panama next week at the invitation of the Balboa YC, to put on the first-ever Panama Puddle Jumpers’ Kickoff Party, with the help of a Tahitian co-host who represents Tahiti Tourism and several other pro-cruiser partners.

The Balboa YC, on the Pacific side of Panama, is a favorite watering hole of both expats and cruisers, especially those bound for French Polynesia.

© 2010 Frank Nitte

The event is slated for Saturday, March 6 (noon to 4 p.m.) at the Balboa YC, where we look forward to meeting as many westbound sailors as possible. Two multimedia presentations will give cruisers an overview of French Polynesia’s archipelagos, and a preview of what they can expect at this year’s Tahiti-Moorea Sailing Rendezvous, slated for June 18-20. Look for follow-up reports on both events here, and in the pages of Latitude 38.

Make Your Voice Heard

Back in January, we launched a reader survey to find out a little more about our readers and what they want to read about. Some of the results have been surprising, some are about what we expected. Here’s a sampling:

  • 67% of our readers have been sailing for more than 20 years
  • 42% belong to yacht clubs
  • 30% have crossed oceans
  • 71% have read Latitude 38 for more than 10 years
  • 43% spend up to three hours reading it
  • 91% are male
  • 39% are between 55-64 years old
  • 68% are married
  • and while 70% really like or love to read Classy Classifieds, 44% have never bought anything through them and 74% have never sold anything through them! (Did you know online ads for boats or gear under $1,000 are totally free? Isn’t it time you cleaned out your dockbox?)

If you find yourself with an extra 10 minutes you don’t know what to do with, hop on over to our reader survey. It’s a rather in-depth look at several aspects of the print magazine, our website and ‘Lectronic Latitude. Your answers will help us shape our content to fit what our readers want. And feel free to share the link with any sailing buddies who read the magazine. The survey is completely anonymous but you will have the option of including your email to be entered in a drawing for some hot Latitude 38 gear. We plan to end the survey at the end of March, so hurry for your chance to win!

Cruising With the Enemy

The Latitude 38 Medal of Freedom — in this case for ignoring the United States government’s preposterous ban on taking a U.S. boat to Cuba — is awarded to . . . well, until we can get confirmation that it’s all right to print their names, we’ll just describe them as Northern California cruisers and vets of the Ha-Ha. To our knowledge — and we may be entirely wrong about this — they are the first U.S. yachties to visit Cuba since Obama took office.

Commodore José Escrich will happily ‘host’ American cruisers at Marina Hemingway.

© 2010 Marina Hemingway

It’s been illegal to travel to Cuba for like 50 years because, according to the Treasury Department, it’s necessarily "trading with the enemy" — even if our friend, Commodore José Escrich of the Hemingway International YC (which shares a site with Marina Hemingway at, will be happy to give you a document saying that you were fully hosted while in Cuba.

Enforcement of this wacky law has depended with who has been president. During the Clinton years, which is when we took Latitude‘s Big O to Cuba for a couple of wonderful weeks, the Coast Guard "advised" us not to go, but didn’t try to stop us. And there were plenty of Americans on their boats in the Cuban marinas at that time.

When George W. Bush was President, he made it clear that Americans taking boats to Cuba would be in deep poop. So to our knowledge, all the American boats that were there cleared out of Cuba and no new ones replaced them.

During the Obama administration, lots of folks have gone to Cuba via air from other countries — and taunted the U.S. government to fine or arrest them. The Treasury Department responded by saying they had bigger fish to fry. After all, it would go completely counter to the vibe of the current administration. Does this mean that all kinds of U.S. boats will start setting sail to Cuba? We sure hope so. In fact, if we had the time, we’d glady take our Caribbean-based charter cat to Cuba and flaunt the fact that we were ‘trading with enemy’, too. (It’s that UC Berkeley education, you know.) Would you take your boat there?

Would you ‘trade with the enemy’?

© 2010 Marina Hemingway

The only downside is that cruising visits to Cuba are unlikely to exceed expectations in several respects. For example, despite something of an  ignorance-based love affair that many people have with Cuba, it’s still a totalitarian state, so there are many things you’re not free to do and places you’re not free to visit. Indeed, in the U.S. we’re pretty much allowed to do all we want except what is specifically against the law. In Cuba, on the other hand, you’re pretty much only allowed to do what the government specifically says you can do and where you can go. Big, big, big difference.

In the aftermath of Chile’s devastating magnitude-8.8 earthquake Saturday, the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Hawaii issued a tsunami warning to 53 nations and territories, prompting residents of waterside communities all along the Pacific Rim to made preparations and/or seek higher ground.
"We’re a few years out from going cruising," writes Dave Phillipp of the Emeryville-based Beneteau 373 Epiphanie, "and are thinking about getting a dog but are unsure how it’ll work on a boat.
Alchemy navigator Artie Means won the “photo of the race” contest for his end-of-the-spin-pole photo of the boat surfing toward Banderas Bay.