The Banderas Bay Regatta

Posted:  April 30, 2024
👁 967   4

Avocet sailing out to the course PC: Nic or Shane

After a few weeks anchored in La Cruz de Huanacaxtle, Chris felt the itch to do something new and exciting, prompting him to sign Avocet up for the 31st annual Banderas Bay Regatta. From its inception, the three-day Banderas Bay Regatta was created by cruisers, for cruisers attracting sailors of all kinds to the enchanting Banderas Bay, Mexico to enjoy its pleasant climate and consistent March winds.

Unlike our Victory 21 raceboat, Geronimo, that we spend our summers racing on Huntington Lake California, we have only raced Avocet once before and despite doing very well, we haven’t done it since. Being the vessel we live aboard and cruise, it can be tough to push her, especially once I start to hear all of our possessions aggressively shifting below. However, this regatta was special and an opportunity to get out on the water and have some fun with our friends which is what sailing is all about, isn’t it? With that said, I was adamant we take on more crew so I could focus on stowing whatever items were shaken out of place, tending to our ships cat Cleo, and snapping lot’s of photos while Chris did what he has always dreamed of doing – finding Avocet’s limits. 

After asking around, Chris managed to elicit the help of our friends Reid (SV I’Mua) and Ethan (SV Eyoni) as well as bring on a new-friend Jeff (SV Hiva Oa) who was eager to crew as long as there was no yelling involved, just fun. 

Day 1 

“Class four you are now in sequence”

The tropical sun beat down on my body and found relief in every puff of wind. Perhaps each breath that grazed my cheek and filled our sails was a promise of more to come or a personal “good luck” kiss from Zephyrus himself as Avocet made her way to the regatta start line. We tacked back and forth between fellow cruising boats, attempting to hold the best position even though this was a pursuit start, and we were the first boat to go since we had the heaviest PHRF rating. Although we are only 41 feet, the race committee urged us to sail with the 45 foot and above class which was intimidating, but happened to be much more exciting. 

“Three…two…one…” 

At the sound of the horn, our crew trimmed the sheets and put their game faces on. Avocet’s bow charged over the start line as she made her way to the first mark, with the vessel Talion, a Gulfstar 50, closely on our stern. Despite being our pursuit start and being first over the line, we only held that position for a few minutes until we were passed by a handful of legitimate race boats. At the first mark, our friends aboard Alegria, a beautiful Gulfstar 50 TM, were on our tail but we managed to outpoint them up wind and shook them off for the time being. Avocet bit in, holding strong as we made our way to the windward marks. Our crew, who we lured onto the boat with the promise of no-stress-just-fun-racing, started to get the taste of winning as Avocet proved she was a worthy contestant and much more than just a liveaboard cruiser. It was a thrilling race, coming down to a photo finish with the stunning race boat Wings, which, fortunately, wasn’t in our class but still provided a memorable ending. Chris wore the biggest shit-eating grin on his face, followed with “my dad would have loved this”. 

It was a leisurely sail home with our crew as we celebrated with cold drinks and a “cheers” to a job well done. That evening we discovered that we placed third in our class out of six boats, furthering our desire to prove to everyone that Avocet is not just a big ol’ slow boat – she is a racer in disguise. 

Day 2 

On day two of the regatta Chris and I woke up feeling motivated. After a little work and coffee we pulled our hook and picked up our bright eyed and bushy tailed crew from the La Cruz marina then made our way to the start line.

Unlike day one, the remaining two races would be “regular” starts, meaning we shared the box behind the line with the six other vessels, and at the sound of the horn would all be fighting to cross over it first. Chris remained calm and collected behind the helm while our crew anticipated his call to tack, gybe, trim or ease. I stood braced in our companion way, keeping an eye on the time and snapping photos of the action doing my best to stay out of the way. Even though I was not directly contributing to Avocet’s movement, I noticed the familiar feeling of adrenaline flowing through my veins, my heart felt like it would pound out of my chest as we listened to the race committee count down over the VHF from 10…9…8…7… At the sound of the horn, we were off and first over the line alongside Talion. 

Banderas Bay Regatta start line

Talion, SeaQuester, and Pendragon

Avocet and AlegriaDespite the competitive start, we started to lose spaces to the much faster vessels such as Gladiator, a Beneteau 461, which took first place the day prior and would end up with another bullet on day two…which is why it was so gratifying to place second right behind them. After spending a majority of the race on the sterns of Talion and Alegria, Chris and our crew were becoming comfortable with the idea of placing fifth but thanks to interpreting the course wrong (we thought we had to keep a mark to our starboard) we ended up riding the wind all the way around the final windward mark near La Cruz where the other competitors lost everything in their sails. 

Avocet continued to pull away from the other vessels that had spent the day passing us, and finished strong. We sailed/motored back to La Cruz where the other competitors were still completely becalmed. After dropping off our crew and re-anchoring, we heard on channel 72 (the race committee channel) that they were about to start pulling the marks when the racers in our class chimed in that they were still competing! Our friend Nick, aboard Talion, later shared that they didn’t finish until two hours after we crossed the line. What a day!

That evening we had dinner with Max and Karen and officially decided to become #TeamLustyOnLand, representing the “family name”. On our way back to the boat, we stopped by the bar to collect Lusty on Land shirts for our crew so we could all match like the other well-put-together teams. 

Day 3

“It’s like sailing your couch”!  We had just temporarily pulled into a slip to retrieve our crew, and when the man aboard his islander 30 saw our racing numbers he was shocked to discover we were racing, and even more shocked to hear that our “couch” of a sailboat was currently in third place. Avocet’s unassuming image is what makes her such a good boat – she’s comfortable, but as mentioned prior, also a racer in disguise. Unlike our stellar start the day before, Chris was a bit more conservative on the start line letting the other boats fight it out – after all, it’s our home that we were racing! Despite being a bit behind the pack, our stellar spinnaker set gained us some spaces, keeping us at the front of the pack the entire race. 

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“Race committee, race committee, this is Alegria protesting Talion” was the first of many calls to the race committee we heard that day, but the least concerning call of all. If only the rest of the issues on the course were as simple as not leaving room at the mark! Unfortunately, there was one big collision between Wings, a Serendipity 43, and Laissez les bon Temps Rouler (LLBTR), a Santa Cruz 52,  leaving LLBTR with a decent sized hole in their aft quarter while the vessel Olas Lindas, a Varianta 44, washed up on shore with a blown spinnaker. We continued to listen to the chatter on the VHF throughout the race, and heard that all vessels and their crews were brought to safety even if a handful had to withdraw from the race. 

By the end of it, we had fallen a tad behind but still had the PHRF rating on our side finishing just on the heels of Alegria and Talion. Chris was all smiles as our crew cheered at the sound of the horn from the committee boat. “Thank you race committee!” Chris yelled – a habit he acquired at a young age racing our Geronimo with his late father, who would have been immensely proud to see the race his youngest son had just competed in. That evening after we had dropped off our crew, re-anchored, and cleaned up we attended the regatta gala in Nuevo Vallarta where we got to celebrate our second place win with our crew, sponsors and fellow competitors.

It was an open buffet, so naturally we filled our plates and stacked them vertically with food like the salty sailors we are – we never pass up on a “free” meal or offer of libation! When they announced Avocet (incorrectly, but who’s paying attention) we got a tear in our eye thinking about not only how proud we were of our boat and crew, but how proud Chris’s dad would have been and Avocet’s previous owners who loved her arguably as much, if not more, than we do. With our trophy at our table, we danced the night away in the sand.

It was a great regatta, and we can’t wait to do it again next year! Massive thank you to our crew for the fun and to Max and Karen for always being in our corner. We love you all! 

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Fair winds,

Marissa, Chris and Cleo

 




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