Ensenada Races – For Bicycles and Sailboats

Yacht at Hotel Coreal & Marina

We taste a life of luxury aboard a true Yacht.

Cyclist's memorial near Ensenada

The roads around Ensenada can be lethal for cyclists.

Frog-painted rock

A frog marks our passage uphill.

The

The "free road" twists through

the mountains.

Racing cyclist

Cyclists race down the mountain.

Bike racers descend

There was no front pack, just little groups of

three and four riders.

Cyclists sweep around a grand descent

I try my best Graham Watson

style shot.

Female bicyclist

This ride caters to sleek racers...

Male bicyclist in a ballerina tutu

...a man wearing a tutu...

Wonder Woman cyclist

...Wonder Woman...

Cyclist in a wrestling mask

...a masked man...

Kid in a Burley trailer

...a little kid gets a wild ride...

Cyclist does tricks coming down the long descent

...an older kid does tricks...

Newport-Ensenada Sailboat Race

The Newport-Ensenada Race arrives on a perfect sunny day.

One of the top raceboats, It's OK

It's OK is a pure racing machine.

One of the top raceboats, It's OK The crew of It's OK

The crew of It's OK congratulates each other on a job

well done.

It's OK - racing sailboat built for speed

Built for speed, It's OK looks fast even tied up at the dock.

Taxi Dancer, another race boat built for speed

Taxi Dancer is a thoroughbred from another era.

Taxi Dancer racing sailboat

100% carbon fiber, this boat dreams only of winning.

Crew of It's OK looks out over Hotel Coral & Marina

The crew of It's OK takes top spot.

Waiting for the Newport-Ensenada sailboat race

Out on the bay we wait for the boats to arrive.

Newport-Ensenada racing sailboats arrive Newport-Ensenada sailboat race Newport to Ensenada International Yacht Race Newport to Ensenada International Yacht Race Newport to Ensenada Yacht Race Newport to Ensenada International Race Newport to Ensenada International Sailboat Race

Elixir en-route to a great finish.

Newport to Ensenada International Yacht Race

A steady stream of boats arrived in the marina.

Joining a crew aboard

We find ourselves caught up in the cockpit parties on the docks.

controlled chaos below decks on a raceboat

Behind the scenes on a go-fast boat.

Mexican SAR swimmers train at Hotel Coral & Marina

The Mexican SAR swimmers take the

mayhem at the docks in stride.

Local dogs Bandita and Cha Cha want to join the party

Bandita and Cha Cha are in a party mood too.

Newport to Ensenada Yacht Race

What a glorious day for a race.

Rosarito-Ensenada & Newport-Ensenada Races

Mid-Late April, 2010 - Adding a new twist to our Ensenada

lives, a boat arrived flying the Australian flag.  Intrigued, we

made a bee-line for it.  The owners and their full-time captain

warmly welcomed us aboard, and we were soon relaxing in a

sumptuous main salon whose "wow" factor easily surpassed

any land-based living room I have seen.  We learned that they

had just purchased the boat in San Diego (complete with

broker horror stories like those of most California boat buyers

we've met.  How shocking that brokers making hundreds of

thousands of dollars on a deal will cheat their customers).

They were headed to points south in Mexico before visiting the South

Pacific en route to Australia.  Gazing down on the marina through

almost 360 degrees of enormous windows (a very different perspective

than on Groovy), I realized that in a small marina everyone loves to

show off their boat, no matter the size, and friendships blossom in

moments.  The vast disparity of income levels that too often separates

could-be friends on land isn't a barrier when you are camping -- in

whatever style -- on the water.

One of the big events in

Ensenada every year is

the Rosarito-Ensenada

bicycle ride, and we had

looked forward to it since we got here.  Boasting thousands of participants, the

ride wanders for 50+ miles up and down the hilly free (non-toll) road on the coast.

Rather than fight the logistics of this one-way ride, we opted to ride the last few

miles backwards and join the cyclists as they passed through.

Our goal was to stop and take photos of the

leaders as they began the final descent into

town.  The climb up this last hill was

exhilarating as we rose higher and higher

above the twisting road.  I staked out a spot at

the top of the hill while Mark rode a little

further to get some more exercise.  When the

leaders filtered past, one at a time, lead out by

police cars, I clicked a few shots, waiting for

the main pack to arrive.

But the typical race pack never arrived.  I did

my best to emulate the great cycling

photographer Graham Watson, catching the

spurts of three and four riders as they flew by

the wildflowers at 40 mph.

After a while I wondered when Mark would return down the

hill, but I kept snapping photos, figuring he'd

show up sooner or later.

Sleek racers were enjoying the steep climbs and

descents of this ride at race pace, while many

recreational riders dressed up in crazy outfits.

There was a guy in a ballet tutu, Wonder

Woman, some fellows in full face masks, Darth

Vadar, families, kids in trailers and a few bikers

doing tricks.  In no time I realized I had been

taking photos for well over an hour.

Not sure what had happened to Mark, I grabbed my

bike to start looking for him and found the rear tire was

flat.  Rats.  Heaving a sigh, I took out my spare -- and

found it had a huge tear near the valve stem.  What the

heck?!  I wanted to patch my flat, but couldn't find the

pin-hole leak, so I started walking the 12 miles towards

the finish.

Yikes, would this turn into a four hour walk?

Lots of people asked if I needed help, but I

knew (with evaporating certainty) that Mark

would be along any minute.  Finally a trio of

Mexican racers who were deep into a flat

fixing session waved me over.  We found

and patched the hole just as Sponge Bob

Square Pants rode by (where was my

camera?), and we were on our way, cruising

down the hills to the bottom all together.

I finally arrived back at the boat to find Mark

had spent the last two hours sitting on the wall in front of the hotel scanning the

thousands of cyclists going by, looking for me.  Arrghh.  He had cruised down the hill

hours ago, flying along with the first three riders, glancing at the side of the road now

and then to see if I was there.  Not seeing me, he kept on a-goin' as fast as the hills

would let him.  Why didn't I recognize him?  Well, it's hard to distinguish much of

anything through a camera's viewfinder, especially when the targets are going 40 mph.

Why didn't he see me?  Hmmm... when descending a hill with twisty roads as fast as

possible, you gotta keep your eyes on the road.  We were both bummed and more

than a little irate, because we had missed the most important part of the event which

was downtown at the Coronado Hotel where several thousand arriving cyclists mingled,

munched, swapped stories in English and Spanish while bands filled the air with music.

Oh well.  The following week we made a point to stick close

together for the arrival of the Newport to Ensenada sailboat

race.  Once the largest international sailboat race in the world

with some 600+ boats, this year's roster was just over 200,

due to a disgruntled former racer sponsoring a rival race from

Newport to San Diego on the same weekend.  But the

festivities and energy made up for any shortfalls in enrollment.

Leaving Newport Beach, California at noon on Friday, the first boat

crossed the finish line outside our marina entrance at 2:00 a.m.

Saturday morning.  By the time we got out of bed a few hours later, two

boats were tied up at our docks, each a phenomenal racing machine

(other boats had turned around at the finish to start the long trip home).

The crew on the custom 50' boat It's OK was still on board when we wandered

down.  They happily sipped their first orange juices of the morning, diluted with

something much stronger, in celebration.  They invited us aboard, and our eyes

popped at the sight of a carbon fiber ladder going into the cabin, a carbon fiber

toilet and a no-nonsense command center at the navigation station.  There was a

galley, but the interior of the boat was essentially a mixture of sailbags and sleeping

bags, with the sailbags filling the main cabin while the sleeping bags were stuffed

around the fringes.  No question what the priorities were on this boat.

At the next dock we got a look at Taxi Dancer, another marvel of

racing machinery.  This boat was built in the 1980's and is another

carbon fiber racing thoroughbred.  As we walked back, we could

hear and see the crew from It's OK in their corner suite on the top

balcony of the hotel.  Their sunrise festivities were much deserved,

after a full night of racing.

Although the winds had been light, they had hit speeds of 12.5

knots at times.  But their boat is capable of much more.  On an

earlier run near Cabo San Lucas they had seen speeds of 24

knots.  This is just a little shy of the folks on Taxi Dancer who

reported speeds of 26 knots on their run from Santa Cruz to

Newport Beach before the race began.

We went out on Elizabeth Too, our new friends' boat, and drifted in

circles at 1 to 2 knots while a morning calm prevailed.  Eventually

some boats appeared on the horizon and we wandered among

them, engaging in a slow motion dance as they raced past us at the

pace of a great-grandpa using a walker.

Finally the wind

rose a little and

the spinnakers

came out, and

we had the color

we had been

hoping for.

Back at the marina there was

pure mayhem as 50 boats

began a steady flow through the

skinny entrance into their

assigned slips.  Exhausted but exhilarated,

most boats and crew were highly

challenged by the narrow fairways and

strong crosswinds and current in the

marina.  Dockhands and resident marina

dwellers scampered up and down the docks

for hours, taking docklines and fending off.

And then the party started.

Blessed with a fantastic sunny

day, every cockpit was brimming

with people, drinks and snacks, and

everyone hopped freely from cockpit to

cockpit, meeting new folks, checking out

each other's boats and comparing notes

on the overnight race.  Because of the

oddities of sailboat racing and the

handicaps assigned to each boat

according to its make, model and

equipment, no one knew exactly how they had placed.  However, the crew on Elixir

could barely contain their excitement when a rival they have raced against many

times didn't appear until three hours later.  The disappointment in the rival captain's

voice was palpable when he finally showed up and found out from Elixir's crew that

he had arrived three hours after they did.

Most of the boats were in by late afternoon.  With flags flying in

the rigging and most slips full, the marina began to take on the

look of a boat show.  There was a feeling of satisfaction among

the sailors that the race was finished, even if all had not gone

according to plan, and congratulations were shared all around.

Below decks on the boats told the real story of the hard work

and fast action of engaging in a race for 24 hours.

Amazingly, the

Mexican SAR (search

and recue) swimmers who train in the marina waters every weekend carried on

with their drills, even as the sailboats continued arriving.  Meanwhile, up at the

hotel, a beautiful outdoor wedding was underway.  The rich voice of the operatic

tenor who entertained the wedding guests by the pool added an air of elegance to

the wild, party atmosphere down on the the docks.

Even our neighbor's dogs Bandita

and Cha Cha got into the swing,

going from boat to boat in hopes of

scraps from the cockpit tables.

Next morning the fog rolled in and the

revelers slept in.  The mood was

subdued as the crews awoke to the task

of preparing their boats for the return

trip.  Crews carefully laid out their

space-age, hand-crafted sails, folded

them neatly and tweaked and tested the

various equipment that had acted up

during the race.  One by one the boats began to slip away.  Each faced an initial run to

San Diego to clear US Customs followed by another leg to their home port.  Upwind and

into the swells the whole way, most planned to motor home.

We tidied up Groovy too, having entertained more folks in our cockpit in two days than

we had entertained in any dwelling in years.  All the liveaboards were sad to see the

boats go, but there was a contentment, too, in returning to our regular routines in

Ensenada.

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