Newport to Ensenada: Not Just Another Race
The time was 1947. The Newport Ocean Sailing Association (NOSA) had just been founded, and members of the new club were coming up with ideas of how they could promote the sport of ocean racing, seamanship and the development of sailing activities, while supporting junior programs and sponsorship of accomplished amateurs. That led to the inaugural Governor’s Cup race on April 23, 1948, hosted by the Newport Harbor Yacht Club, with 117 boats paying $22.50 to participate in the 125-mile nautical contest.
Since then, some of the most recognizable names in the sailing world have been etched into the side of the race’s coveted trophies. Among them: Dennis Conner, who with his crew claimed top honors seven times from 1989-1996 on the 60-foot America’s Cup catamaran Stars and Stripes, and adventurer Steve Fossett, who in 1998 captained Stars and Stripes to Ensenada in an amazing time of 6:46:40 — a record that remains intact. Actor James Arness (Marshall Matt Dillon on the TV show “Gunsmoke”) even has his name on the Alice Purcell trophy, with his 58-foot catamaran Sea Smoke emerging as fastest in the west in 1968.
Fast-forward to today, and the event now known as the Newport to Ensenada International Yacht Race — or “N2E” — is now entering its 69th year as one of the West Coast’s premier regattas and a grand event shared by the sailing community and residents alike. All of the action starts April 17 with plenty of race week activities, and then spectators will gather at the Balboa Pier to see the 125-mile overnight race depart April 22 at 11 a.m. before making its way to the ending point north of the city harbor of Ensenada, Baja California. The presentation of the trophies takes place at the Hotel Coral & Marina April 24.
More than 225 sailboats are expected to start and one may win 40 or more trophies in several categories and numerous classes for monohulls, multihulls, cruisers and non-traditional boats. Some vessels to be on the lookout for? H.L. Enloe’s Mighty Merloe (a 60-foot trimaran and the fastest boat entered, which will attempt to chase the course record); Bill Gibb’s new Schionning 1400 “Wahoo”; and, leading the Maxi class, Roy Disney’s “Pyewacket” and 2015 Transpac winner Ed McDowell’s “Grand Illusion.”
Be sure to attend the Kick-Off Party for the race April 17, from noon to 4 p.m., at the Balboa Yacht Club in Corona del Mar. Happenings at this year’s fest include a race boat display, the unveiling of the official race painting (the “Spirit of N2E” by local artist and sailor Carole Boller, depicting countless boats with a subtle illusion of the American and Mexican flags), steel drum music, NOSA merchandise, and food and beverages. But that’s not all … other fun race-week activities include a Skippers Luncheon at Newport Harbor Yacht Club April 20 at 1:30 p.m., with keynote speakers from Ullman Sails sharing their racing stories and offering tips on how to win the race; VIP Reception for boat owners April 20, from 6-9 p.m., at Balboa Bay Resort, featuring live and silent auctions to benefit Ensenada-based Centro de Atencion Especializada para Autistas; and Pre Race Party for Skippers and Crew April 21, from 6-10 p.m., at the American Legion Yacht Club, with live music, dancing, and food and beverages.
The N2E has indeed come a long way baby, along the way embracing innovations in sailing and the support of all California racing, youth sailing programs and local yacht clubs as well. Speaking of the variety of area yacht clubs, “You don’t even need a boat to join,” says Laurie Morrison of NOSA. “They really are a big and diversified part of the community.” Ship ahoy!
Photo Credit: Leslie Richter www.rockskipper.com