Sunday, March 9, 2008

MEXORC, it's, it's . . .

So tell us, John MacLaurin, is the MEXORC back?

"It's back."

And I believe the man, because I was there.

The 7-day series that wrapped over the weekend in Nuevo Vallarta was a rescue mission for a Mexican racing tradition of thirty-some years, a tradition that was hanging by a thread after a rough-edged series two years ago. As co-chair Mike Danielson put it, "We couldn't just do a facelift. MEXORC had to be new."

Ernesto Amtmann, who "built" the series decades ago, was called upon by the Mexican Sailing Federation (five months ago) to redefine the game for 2008 as regatta chairman. Amtmann said, "John MacLaurin is a bulldog. He's always racing, always in there, and he is an important example because he came here this year to give MEXORC one last chance."

He's not sorry. MacLaurin's red Pendragon (at left) won some races but couldn't break the top three overall in the final tally. The housekeeping: Twenty-one boats raced (I'm expecting more next time, 2010, given the renewed credibility), and top-three placings went, in order, to Bill Turpin's 77-foot Akela (Southern California), Jim Gregory's 50-foot Morpheus (Northern California), and Amtmann's 43-foot IOR classic Bandido (Acapulco).

The first mission for 2008 was to get beyond the handicapping issues that dragged things down in '06. Switching from PH to ORR accomplished that. And, mission number two, Ernesto wanted the parties to be memorable. I guess that's why the awards ceremony included the state orchestra of Nayarit. The trophy staging at your last regatta looked pretty much like this, didn't it?

Danielson, feeling the vibe, declared, "This is our new starting point."

Here's Turpin and the Akela crew accepting their award. Are we excited, Hogan?

A big part of what went wrong with MEXORC in the recent past was ratings. Under Performance Handicap numbers, the race committee felt compelled to adjust ratings to compensate for boats with location-specific ratings. That is, light-air ratings from Acapulco or San Diego do not translate directly to performance in the 14-18 knot winds of Bahia de Banderas. But with committee-determined adjustments you cross into the can't-win netherworld of reassigned ratings and unhappy losers who are sure that's why they lost. I gather that '06 was even more complicated than that, but I wasn't around, so I shouldn't write about that. Blood under the bridge, anyhow.

ORR as I understand it is aimed more at point-to-point races with enough history to enable some second-guessing of the math, but it definitely brought a good chunk of the fleet to the finish line together in the pursuit race. And ORR is a rating rule forever under development (Dan Nowlan was on the scene from US Sailing).

Ah, Bahia de Banderas

This is one sweet place to sail. In season, there's a steady diet of warm wind in the teens and warm waters teeming with dolphin and whales. It's a mecca for cruisers, and of the many cruiser shindigs, the Banderas Bay Regatta also just wrapped up. It was perhaps a bit much to have both events running at the same time (plus a day of match racing in old AC boats), but it sounded like a good idea at the time. Resources, resources. Myself, I was able to hop around and spend some days on MEXORC raceboats and other days on Banderas Bay Regatta cruiser boats out for their low-key racing.

I spent time with Richard Spindler and Doña de Mallorca aboard the catamaran, Profligate, for starters, and ran into old friends Cherie and Greg (met'em on a different foray into Mexico). Cherie wanted to share the sunburn lines, or maybe that's too much information . . .

Feel the love? I also got out on the water aboard a Jenneau 43 Deck Salon (this is a cruisers' regatta, remember) along with Bartz Schneider and crew from the Express 37, Expeditious, that he keeps on San Francisco Bay. Yes, we were laughing . . .

Given one more race day, I could have joined Jim Coggan and crew aboard the solid winner, Auspice, but I guess it's true that you can't do it all. But from the Jenneau, Tomatillo, (skipper Jim calls it, "The only boat in the regatta named after a vegetable") I had this view of the catamaran start . . .


We've moved on from the day when every web site offered a list of "interesting links," but I got a few minutes of amusement out of, if only to note that the opposite side of the globe from my outpost in California is a patch of water southeast of Cape Town that could truly define the word lonely." I have a few friends who have been through there, but I'm not going—Kimball