Saturday was a brisk, breezy day for sailing, and we were lucky enough to spend the afternoon sailing with Nick Raggio aboard his beautifully maintained, light-blue S&S 47 Alpha. We’ll bring you more on this boat later, but while out sailing, we caught some shots of others out blasting through the Bay on a spectacular afternoon.
We may have been complaining about the drought, but the flip side is that it’s been a great winter for sailing. So while on Sunday we got some of the rain we’ve been hoping for, if you made it out for a sail on Saturday, you once again saw the Bay at its best.
Springtime, when flowers bloom, young hearts look for love — and tropical cruisers start thinking about what to do with their boats. For many, it’s time to bid adios to mañana-land and head home before hurricane season starts on June 1. Some owners are flush enough to put boats onto trucks or specially designed ships for the trip home, but most boats do it on their own bottoms via a delightful exercise called the Baja Bash. Sometimes they’re delivered by a professional captain and crew, but for many cruisers already pinching pennies, even this is too expensive and they opt to do it on their own to save money.
I’m a delivery captain based in San Diego. Over the past 33 years, I have traveled up and down the Baja Peninsula dozens of times, by every possible route, at all times of the year, and on just about every type of sailboat that’s ever been made. And I can confirm that everything you’ve heard about the Bash can be true. It can be brutal. It can break boats. It can hurt people. It can be cold, wet, rough, windy and damned uncomfortable — and go on days or even weeks longer than you’d ever thought.
It can also be quite fun and really lovely. It can reconnect you with yourself, and reacquaint you with really sailing your boat. Especially if you do it right. Most people don’t. We’ll get to that in a minute.
First, for the sake of clarity, a ‘traditional’ Baja Bash is the leg from Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, to San Diego, USA, a run of approximately 750 miles.
There are essentially two variations on the theme. The main one, advanced by magazines, Baja guides and many other delivery skippers, is putting the pedal to the metal and motoring a mostly straight-line course against wind and waves. If you do it this way, you will definitely ‘bash and crash,’ put unnecessary hours and fuel usage on the engine, and possibly blow out (stretch) the leech of the mainsail by the time you make San Diego by strapping it in hard to ease the rolling. Plus, if you are close to the beach, the sea is less comfortable due to wave refraction; you have to be super-vigilant that you don’t run over kelp, pots, or other boats, or suffer any breakdowns or problems with a looming rocky lee shore. When it’s over, and you, the boat and every piece of clothing you own are sopping wet, you’ll be another believer that it’s awful.
The other option is sometimes called the ‘Clipper route,’ so named for the square riggers that came up the coast engineless by sailing halfway to Hawaii first. Of course, they could barely sail above a beam reach. Modern boats don’t have to go that far.
Though either of these methods will get you there, and I’ve done multiple variations of both, most people choose to ‘straightline’ Bash. But just because many people do it the way they’ve always done it doesn’t mean it’s the best way. I’m here to tell you of another method that I have been using for several decades now that has worked out very well. I call it the Outside Route, a variant of the Clipper. To understand it, you first have to wrap your head around a couple of misperceptions.
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The Baja Ha-Ha’s Grand Poobah keeps coming up with great photos of Ha-Ha’s past and sent us the shots below. And if you’ve ever done a ‘big’ provisioning run, you’ll have an idea of what it was like for the crew below to stock up on food for their sail into Mexico.
The Baja Ha-Ha celebrates cruising everywhere in Mexico … including the big Costco run in San Diego before heading across the border.
Provisioning for 14 crew for 10 days may sound as though it was a chore, but doing it with dear friends always made it a blast. With so many crew throwing ‘last minute’ items into the carts, we always had enough food to last us through the season. But it was worth it. We miss it sooooo much.
To anyone and everyone who ever did any of the 25 Ha-Ha shopping runs with us on Big O, Gitana, or Profligate, we miss you and love you. And we include those wonderful ones, such as the great Johnny Portfolio, who are no longer with us.
If you’re keen to join the fun, the Baja Ha-Ha Rally Committee is confident that, with upcoming COVID-19 vaccines and other health measures worldwide, the Baja Ha-Ha Rally will return in 2021. Signups will begin in May and the start is planned for November 1, 2021. Keep an eye out for updates!
The 36th America’s Cup presented by Prada has elicited a full range of emotions over the last several days. Emirates Team New Zealand (ETNZ) has broken free of the deadlocked series with Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli to take a potentially commanding 5-3 lead in the best-of-13 event, with the first team to 7 points making off with yachting’s most cherished trophy.
Racing has taken place, or not, on every available racetrack except the fan-friendly inner harbor ‘stadium sailing’ Course C. It stood vacant for the first couple of race days due to lockdown concerns, then over the weekend, due to weather concerns. The turbocharged foiling version of this America’s Cup has in reality, given us very few moments of thrilling action.
Race Day 5 on Course E
What has been exciting are the starts, then, shortly thereafter, the first lee-bow tack maneuvers, which had resulted in the only passing attempts until yesterday. But Sunday’s action was different in every which way imaginable.
It was an ‘A’ of a heyday and an ‘E’ for the racecourse. The patch of water known as the “back paddock” failed to deliver the light 7-11 knots predicted, turning the critical race for our sport’s most majestic prize into a showcase of horrors.
On Sunday, a record number of spectator boats flooded the course as Kiwis showed up in force to support the event with all their fervent passion. Race Day 5 turned into a thrilling roller coaster ride for the home team and a horror show for the Italians.
As witnessed in the ACWS in December and the first few races in January’s round robins, when the winds took the day off or provided at least enough pressure to start the race, the action thereafter swiftly deteriorated into a maddening attempt to connect the dots and stay on your foils, praying to the wind gods that you didn’t sail into a patch of the racecourse where the breeze had taken a holiday.
That is what happened in Race 8. It turned into one of the most astonishing races in America’s Cup history. The Italians had taken the lead with a brilliant start, forcing the Kiwis to the unfavored right side of the course, and stretched it out with their bigger jib as the breeze got lighter.
As technical gremlins bedeviled Luna Rossa on the first downwind leg, ETNZ made up significant ground, but then jibed in bad air and dropped off their foils. The Italians then seemingly sailed away from Te Rehutai, which was stuck like a floating duck, and a much-needed victory was in hand as they extended to a massive 4-minute, 8-second lead heading back upwind in the third leg.
Disaster struck Luna Rossa as they tacked high and, in the soft conditions approaching the top gate, dropped off their foils, struggling for what seemed to be a lifetime to build speed in the patchy conditions.
Italy finally rounded the gate in displacement mode, creeping around at a measly 6 knots as they sailed out of bounds and off the course, seemingly into the sunset, receiving multiple penalties in what was a flailing attempt to pop up onto their foils.
Meanwhile the Kiwis had life again and were in hot pursuit. They foiled past the hapless Luna Rossa AC75 to turn a 4-minute deficit into an astonishing 4-minute, 27-second lead. Then, when it couldn’t get any worse for the Italians, the race committee shortened the course to five legs in an attempt to fit the race into the dictates of the TV broadcast parameters.
Really? Welcome to the modern America’s Cup!
ETNZ ruled the day, crossing the finish line to win comfortably by 3 minutes, 55 seconds. It was a bitter pill for the Luna Rossa team to swallow when they had seemed to be headed for a critical race win.
“We were out in front, but it was never in the bag,” said co-helmsman Jimmy Spithill. “We came to the top of the course, it went light, we fell off the foils and were stuck for some time. It started to go lighter and lighter, and we couldn’t get through the tack. That’s the way it goes. We saw the same thing with those guys. That is just the way it rolls — onwards and upwards.
“We know we can get races; we’ve been in tough situations before. The guys will keep their heads up, come out firing tomorrow.”
“Every race is big. Pretty pleased with the way we’re learning,” said ETNZ helmsman Peter Burling. “We managed to keep digging deep and give ourselves an opportunity on the second beat, which was great to finally get a pass, and to keep extending was pleasing as well. We got the last right shift of the breeze, that favored right turn at the bottom and early tack. Massive left phase at that stage, then got a right-hander.”
“We lost two points today. However, we proved that we can hold our own and in the start we fought hard,” said Pietro Sibello, Luna Rossa’s mainsail trimmer. “They seemed to have an edge on us in these conditions, especially in the first race. In the second we had another nice start, and here again we fought back. Unfortunately, we made a mistake in the second upwind and fell off the foils when tacking in a really light wind that just died on us, which is when they passed and took the point home. Tomorrow is another day. Our intention is to go out and keep on fighting until the very end.”
“We made a costly error jibing behind them, but we just stuck at it,” said Kiwi flight controller Blair Tuke. “We were on the wrong-sized jib, and all the boys went right to the end there. A huge effort from the team. We knew there was a chance they could come off the foils, and we just kept on going.”
So, don’t fret yet. It is not quite over. Tune in tonight at 8 p.m. PDT [time corrected from 11 p.m.] — an hour later on our clocks due to daylight saving time — and hope we get a thrilling conclusion to what has become an insane version of the fight for the Auld Mug!
Today is the last day to get your classified ad into the April edition of Latitude 38.