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October 9, 2013

50th San Diego to Ensenada Race

Skipper Plenert, behind bars in Ensenada.

© Latitude 38 Media, LLC

One of the last places you ever want to find yourself is behind bars in Mexico. But that’s what happened to Katherine Plenert, owner and skipper of the San Diego-based Catalina 36 Debauchery following last week’s 50th Annual San Diego to Ensenada Race put on by the Southwestern YC. Her crime? Owning the last boat to finish the 65-mile race.

All right, we’re kidding. The playful photo of Nurse Plenert behind tiny bars was taken at Cantina Hussong’s during the height of frivolity following the race. We can’t remember having so much post race fun in years. It wasn’t the brawling, bottle-breaking, table overturning Hussong’s action of decades ago, but rather enjoying cocktails and having a fun time with new and old friends. What really seemed to get the good times rolling was the house band covering a Metallica tune on a 12-string guitar. It was about the only American song they knew.

CF Koehler of the San Diego YC hits the starting line in front of two competitors with his classic Abedking & Rasmussen 10 Meter Sally, a boat that is much older than the Little Ensenada Race.

© Kurt Roll

To Plenert and her crew’s credit, at least they finished the race. Seven of the 50 entries — including our 63-ft cat Profligate — dropped out. To say it was a light-air race would be an understatement. After the first hour, we never hit much over three knots while close-reaching with our biggest asymmetrical. It was sunny, warm and relaxing, but it wasn’t San Francisco Bay or Caribbean conditions. So a little after dark, and a little more than halfway to Ensenada, we invoked Rule 65, and motored down to a berth at Coral Hotel & Marina.

San Diego sailors are accustomed to light air, so every other boat was still on the course, although six others would later join the DNF club. First-to-finish and first in PHRF was Tom Holthus’ San Diego YC-based R/P STP65 Bad Pak, which was barely able to average six knots. Around 3 a.m. the wind finally came up — and big time: twenty-five to 35-knot dry Santana winds from the desert. It brought the last of the boats. Plenert’s Debauchery, crossed the finish line just before dawn. Well done!

Some of the strongest wind was at the starting line.

© Kurt Roll

After a day of R&R in Ensenada, there was the follow-up race, the 14-mile Todo Santos Regatta, organized by Club Nautico Baja. This is usually a great one, with a beat out to the island and spinnaker reach back home. But this year there was even less wind than during the race to Ensenada, so fighting the current to try to get around the island became an exercise in futility. We dropped out, set the chute, and were soon doing 11 knots back to the marina, by far our best speed of the weekend. So it goes.

There was no wind at the start of the Todos Santos Island Race, and not much more later on.

© Kurt Roll

We’ve done the ‘Little Ensenada Race’ two years in a row, and want to recommend it to any race-inclined folks coming down for next year’s Baja Ha-Ha. It’s a great shakedown just three weeks before the start of the Ha-Ha, and for some folks it would make sense to just stay in Ensenada and start the Ha-Ha from there. While Ensenada could certainly use some work on infrastructure — it has more cracked sidewalks than anywhere we’ve ever been — it’s authentic Mexico, so the people are wonderful and the prices are low. The seafood? Out of this world. 

Blue Marble Crew’s Bittersweet Goodbye

We’re happy to report some good news in the aftermath of the Fountaine-Pajot 46 Blue Marble‘s grounding on the remote South Pacific island of Niue last month. Well, at least semi-good news. 

The young Scandinavian crew brought the boat from St. Maarten to the central South Pacific earlier this year.

Blue Marble
© Latitude 38 Media, LLC

After being stranded on the tiny island for three weeks, the young Norwegian owner, Eriend Hovland, finally received an insurance settlement to cover the cost of the extensive salvage operation. "It all came together in one day," he wrote on his Facebook page, "the insurance paid, the wreck was sold and we got a (hitch)hike on the 40-footer Red Sky Night with our friend Felice." No doubt the crew was left with bittersweet memories as they said goodbye to Blue Marble and the friendly islanders who had taken them in. 

Hard aground on a Niue reef: the sort of image that no one wants to have in their vacation album.

Blue Marble
© Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Interestingly, we suspect that relatively few young sailors carry offshore insurance, but Hovland was wise enough to do so, and is undoubtedly elated that he did. Of course, in contrast to some boats sailed by young adventurers, his cat was new enough and nice enough to be insurable.

"We have been on Tonga for nearly a week," Hovland wrote on Friday. "It’s amazing. We have visited a psychedelic puppet show, eaten a Tongan feast and gone cave diving." He and his crew plan to hang out until next week and participate in the annual Regatta Vava’u, then hitch a ride to Australia via Fiji. Meanwhile, we expect that some enterprising islander will rebuild Blue Marble‘s badly damaged underbelly and eventually get her out sailing again. 

We can’t think of a more beautiful place to stage a yacht race than within the Vava’u Group’s lush maze of islands.