Banderas Bay racing
02 March 2010 | La Cruz de Huanacaxtle
From our vantage point in the anchorage we have an excellent view of the start and finish line for some of the racing that is happening right now in Banderas Bay. For those of you not following the sailing scene here in lovely tropical Mexico you can read about the excitement at http://nauticalextravaganza.com/
My first involvement with sailmaking was working for Banks Sails in Tampa, Florida in the mid 1990's. At that point of my life I lived, ate, and breathed sailboat racing. After moving back to the west coast and getting my airline career going I drifted away from racing. My ex-wife Kathy and I lived aboard a 39 footer and my interests shifted more to cruising. Besides, Kathy was not a big fan of "racing the house", which was understandable. Being here in warm water where the required attire for racing is minimal, I find myself thinking it would be pretty damn fun to get back into the game. Unfortunately I have a case of tennis elbow which is limiting my sailing. Dr. Dennis Brittan, an American chiropractor with a practice in Bucerias, has been helping a great deal with treatment. All of that aside, I am enjoying the rush of energy and excitement brought to our marina by a fleet of racers, some high tech maxis, and other more mundane racer-cruisers.
Some time ago our good friend Jamie Gifford of S/V Totem penned an article for 48 North describing the benefits of racing for the cruising crowd. As with everything I have read from Jamie, his analysis was spot on. I second his opinion that more cruisers need to get out and race their boats or crew for someone who is racing. Racing in close quarters requires good boat handling and proper sail trim is rewarded with better boat speed. Although cruisers may not be as obsessed with speed like their racing brethren, passage times will improve and autopilot wear will decrease with good trim and sail balance.
Some events I have seen this week have prompted me to offer another view of the connection between racers and cruisers. Racers have a lot to learn from the cruising community. While visiting with our friends on a neighboring boat in the anchorage, one of the racers ran hard aground in the channel leading to the Riviera Nayarit Marina here in La Cruz. We jumped into a dinghy to see if we could be of assistance. There was no surprise on our part that the yacht had grounded. The tide was a negative 1.0 and the racer draws 11 feet. What really surprised me was that noone on the boat knew the state of the tide. The crew was hanging on the end of the boom trying to induce heel and reduce draft while a panga strained trying to pull the boat clear. The yacht was well stuck and I could only imagine the scrapes and other mostly cosmetic damage happening to the keel. I suggested to the skipper that he simply wait for the tide to rise and float him off gently. I also offered to help set an anchor to keep things stable until the boat was floating. They chose to continue having the panga try to pull them clear which was a rather slow and tortuous process. I did not have a watch on but I am pretty sure that it was well over an hour before the boat was maneuvering on her own accord. Undoubtedly the rising tide had played a larger role than the high output outboard on the panga. With a rising tide and no waves to speak of I think my plan would have resulted in less damage and strain on the graceful racer. I also noted the engine running during the episode. Many diesels will have compromised lubrication and engine wear if run while the boat is considerably heeled.
Many of the racers have wisely chosen to anchor rather than enter the marina. It complicates their routine a bit as they have to rely on pangas to shuttle the crew, sails needing repair, and supplies back and forth to the marina. Worse yet, their spot at the bar may already be taken by a slower but shallower draft boat that simply docked. Being out here in the anchorage allows them to not worry about the state of the tide. For some of the crews anchoring is obviously not a familiar routine. We watched one racer spend a great deal of time attempting to anchor before finally setting the hook successfully. In fairness to the racers the boats are not set up at all for anchoring. Unlike cruising boats which carry substantial anchors and rodes, which for us are heavy chain, the racing crowd favors lightweight aluminum anchors and a mostly rope rode. The anchor has to be carried up from a storage spot that is low and near amidships, typically the bilge or a locker under a settee. A boat anchored with a rope rode will swing differently than those of us anchored with chain. The racers have courteously anchored a safe distance away from the cruisers from what we've seen. I noticed one large race boat that leaves navigation lights on at night in addition to their masthead anchor light. It is confusing as the boat appears to be underway but understandable since their masthead anchor light is so high that it is unlikely to be noticed. My recommendation would be some cheap solar garden lights hung from a lifeline rather than running the navigation lights. The regulations governing anchor lights are a bit non-specific, calling for an all around white light to be displayed from a "position where it may be best seen." That is a consideration for us cruisers as well. Is the masthead really the best place for an anchor light? In a crowded anchorage like La Cruz we run the masthead anchor light and a Davis Mini-Mega Amp light strung above the main boom. In addition to making the boat more visible to a passing panga, it gives us a better target when heading home at night.