This year’s Newport to Ensenada race was a strange one, weather-wise. Some forecasts were predicting gusts in the 30-40kt range off the San Diego coast sometime during the night. That’s record-breaking weather for the big 60-to-70 foot trimarans; it’s also boat-breaking weather. We were all a little anxious, expecting a wet and wild ride for the race.
The all-San Francisco crew (Jared Brockway, Dave Berntsen, Rick Waltonsmith, Danna Pomykal, Thierry de Froidmont) met at the boat in Ventura and we set off for Newport the day before the race. It was a long day (~90 miles), but we had beautiful weather all the way down. Lots of dolphin sightings too.
Race day started out breezy. A couple of the boats had already taken a reef, and we did too not long after the start. Soon after taking the reef and settling into a groove, it became apparent that something was not right. The leeward rigging was very slack and the crossbeams were flexing at the joints. Dave went forward to check, and sure enough, one of the four 5/16″ cable stays that give the boat its rigidity had broken. We retired from the race and headed back to Newport for repairs.
It was disappointing to have the race end so soon, but also a relief. If something was going to break, it was better to have it happen now than in the dark crossing the Coronado Islands in big wind. We weren’t the only casualty—last year’s race winner Afterburner had a breakage too and joined us for a lay day in Newport for repairs.
Newport was not a bad place to spend the day.
With all new synthetic high-tech stays to replace the original cabling, we were ready to go the next morning. The low pressure system that caused the nasty weather for the race had cleared up, and we had an extra day before needing to be back in Ventura. Feeling no reason to rush, we planned to overnight in Avalon before heading back up to Ventura. It was a bad decision in hindsight.
The sail to Avalon was beautiful and quick. On the way out of the harbor, we could see the newly-arriving warm front pushing the low-pressure system down the coast behind us. A welcome sight.
The harbor at Avalon. Always pretty.
The wind had reversed by the time we arrived at Avalon, and reversed again by the time we left. This warm front was turning out to be more than a return to the normal Southern California weather. The forecast was quickly changing, now showing strong Santa Ana winds coming from inland—and yet we still had the normal onshore breeze leaving Avalon.
The headwind and seas strengthened to the point that we decided to take shelter in Malibu’s Paradise Cove for the night rather than continue to Ventura. The Santa Ana wind arrived in the evening, reversing the wind direction and blowing hot and heavy offshore, continuing through the night. That was good for our trip up the coast because it meant the end of the headwinds. The warm, dry breeze from abeam was great but its extreme variability was nerve-wracking.
This is from the weather station at Leo Carrillo Beach, which we crossed a little after 9:00a. The wind would go from near-nothing to gale force within in a minute as we crossed mountain canyons. The most difficult was this “river of blood” at Port Hueneme. Something about the curvature of the mountains creates a massive offshore flow here during the Santa Anas. Normally the red fingers on the color-coded wind map would extend for a mile or so beneath the mountain canyons and then wither away, but this one took us several miles offshore before we escaped it.
Once we got to Channel Islands Harbor in Oxnard, the offshore wind calmed down and we sailed the last five or six miles to Ventura with flat seas and a gentle onshore breeze. Amazing that we saw this range of conditions in the span of about five hours along the usually-placid SoCal coast.
Apologies to the crew for the changes to the float plan, but glad that we had some great sailing nonetheless..and some good weather stories to share.