Bill Gibbs's Afterburner had the race's fastest corrected time. Image copyright Rich Roberts
by Rich Roberts
The Lexus Newport to Ensenada Yacht Race has a new force to deal with. Through 66 years the 126-nautical mile race from Newport Beach to Mexico's Baja California peninsula has been mostly a Southern California fraternity of friends and family.
Now comes Tom Akin, a St. Francis Yacht Club member from Sausalito in northern California, who had sailed several before this one but none since 1987, until he slipped back into the scene this year with a boat named Meanie to win the Maxi class for serious ocean racers.
The new bright blue Reichel/Pugh 52 was somewhat overlooked among the 203 entries in 16 classes, all but 18 of which reached Ensenada---a positive tally attributed to the wind holding strong well past the border until entering Todos Santos Bay---but Akin seems back to stay.
"I had to take time off to raise two children," he said.
That chore long past, he has returned in force with a solid crew building a resume of success with a win in the 2006 Pacific Cup from San Francisco to Hawaii and a close second overall in the 2009 Transpacific Yacht Race on the TP52 Flash, with another San Francisco sailor named Paul Cayard on board.
Tom Akin (l.) and his Meanie crew won the 11-boat Maxi class. Image copyright Rich Roberts
Meanie was not the first Maxi to finish---that was Bob Lane's Medicine Man less than 10 minutes ahead---but the Andrews 63 from Long Beach that won the major President of USA Trophy last year owed him six seconds a mile in corrected handicap time, which gave Meanie a final clocking of 15 hours and 29 seconds to the rival's 15:02:14.
"They were really a class act," Akin said of Lane and his team. "When we finished they applauded and cheered us, knowing we had just enough time on them."
It was a satisfying effort considering that "we had the worst start in the fleet," Akin said. "We got pushed up into irons [head to wind] at the line and couldn't move. We finally left two minutes after everybody else."
From there, with a northwest wind building near the coast, it was a tactical matter.
"Our plan was to stay within five miles of shore," Akin said. "We knew it was going to be a little quiet inside the bay, so we waited and jibed with Medicine Man in 17 knots [of wind], and then all of a sudden it died two miles out."
Medicine Man went left looking for an edge, while Meanie went right until it could tack and reach directly to the finish---just close enough behind MM.
Meanie's crew: navigator Skip McCormick, tactician Jeffrey Thorpe, bowman Hogan Beatie, trimmers Paul Allen and Ben Mercer, pumps Casey Fitzgerald, Eric Hohmann and Larry Swift, main Tom Lidgard and backstays Grover Wilson.
Earlier, Howard Enloe's Loe Real, a Jenn 60 trimaran, became the only boat besides the late Steve Fossett's 60-foot Stars & Stripes catamaran in 1998 to finish before sundown, just after 7 p.m. Friday - missing Fossett's record of 6 hours 46 minutes 30 seconds by 17 minutes 21 seconds with a clocking of 7:03:51.
But about 43 minutes later Bill Gibbs' 52-foot catamaran Afterburner with its happier handicap - Loe Real owed it about an hour and 40 minutes - finished with plenty of time to spare to claim the race's biggest prize: the President of USA Trophy for best corrected time overall, including multi- and monohulls.
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Afterburner's crew: Donald Meifert, Kevin Schallert, Franciscus Overbeek and Mark McNulty.
Later Friday night Tom Holthus' Bad Pak, an STP 65, designed by Reichel/Pugh, was the first monohull for the second consecutive year, finishing under a brilliant full moon just before 11 p.m. in 10 hours 58 minutes 30 seconds - but 20 minutes 40 seconds shy of Doug Baker's mark of 10:37:50 on Magnitude 80 in 2009.
Lisa Doliva (center right) and her Dana Point YC team on Izablue were the fastest all-woman crew. Image copyright Rich Roberts
(Best corrected handicap time)
MAXI (11 boats)---Meanie (RP52), Tom Akin, St. Francis YC, 11:46:44 elapsed time, 15:00:29 corrected time.
ORCA (6)---Afterburner (52-foot catamaran), Bill Gibbs, Pierpont Bay YC, 7:47:11 ET, 13:08:01 CT.
PHRF-A (25)---Horizon (SCZ50M), Jack Taylor, Dana Point YC, 15:18:54 ET, 15:31:24 CT.
PHRF-B (21)---Abacus (Flying Tiger), Timothy Chin, Silver Gate YC, 17:20:58 ET, 15:53:28 CT.
PHRF-C (19)---Avanti (JNNU54DS), Jim LaBarge, California YC, 19:41:48 ET, 17:11:48 CT.
PHRF-D (14)---Day Tripper II (Hunter 40), Andy Horning, Seal Beach YC, 20:48:12 ET, 17:15:42 CT.
PHRF-E (12)---Sea Maiden (Ericson 35-3), Carolyn/Sandra Sherman, Southwestern YC, 20:39:14 ET, 16:29:14 CT.
PHRF-F (7)---Hematoma (Hunter 34), Scott Kramer, Alamitos Bay YC, 22:46:26 ET, 17:46:26 CT.
PHRF-G (10)---Wiwo Ole II (Chyle 36), Daniel Hodge, Dana Point YC, 22:58:49 ET, 16:18:49 CT.
J/120 (9)---J Almighty, Michael Hatch, San Diego YC, 18:00:23 ET, 16:45:23 CT.
CRUZ SPINNAKER A (12)---Tara (Catalina 36T), Nik Froehlich, Newport Harbor YC, 23:08:13 ET, 18:01:58 CT.
CRUZ SPINNAKER B (9)---Inquisitor (ESP37), Larry Sharpless, Seal Beach YC, 22:00:32 ET, 16:35:32 CT.
CRUZ GENERAL A (5)---Stella Maris (Hylas 46), Tom Madden, Bahia Corinthian YC, 19:23:34 ET, 17:56:58 CT.
CRUZ GENERAL B (19)---Enchanted Lady (Robts55K), Andy Sibert, Seal Beach YC, 19:52:06 ET, 17:19:32 CT.
CRUZ NON-SPINNAKER A (9)---Blind Date (Morgan 38-3), 23:27:19 ET, 18:27:19 CT.
CRUZ NON-SPINNAKER B (15)---California Dreamer (Catalina 30T), John Baranger, Dana Point YC, 23:22:58 ET, 16:57:33 CT.
First 10 finishers
1. Loe Real (ORCA; Jenn 60 trimaran), Howard Enloe, Silver Gate YC, 7 hours, 3 minutes, 51 seconds (corrected handicap time 14:10:56).
2. Afterburner (ORCA; 52' catamaran), Bill Gibbs, Pierpont Bay YC, 7:47:11 (CT 13:08:01).
3. Go Cart (ORCA), Chris Slagerman, California YC, 10:00:50 (CT 13:54:10).
4. Bad Pak (Maxi), Tom Holthus, San Diego YC, 10:58:30 (CT 13:54:10).
5. Medicine Man (Andrews 63), Long Beach YC, 11:35:59 (CT 15:02:14).
6. Meanie (Maxi), Tom Akin, YC unlisted, 11:46:44 (CT 15:00:29).
7. OEX (Maxi), John Sangmeister, New York YC, 12:57:09 (CT 16:17:09).
8. Alchemy (Maxi), Per Peterson, Oceanside YC, 13:03:37 (CT 16:01:37).
9. Retro (Maxi), Doug Baker/David Team, Long Beach/Newport Harbor YCs, 13:36:55 (CT 16:25:40).
10. Taxi Dancer (Maxi), Tom Parker, Santa Barbara YC, 13:37:00 (CT 16:32:00).