Recent circumnavigators Peter and Margie Benzinger were two of the many volunteers who helped at this year's record-breaking WesMex International Small Boat Regatta. In their case, they offered their time, and thier boat, as one of the two committee boats for the event. Here's their story:
WesMex 2017 – A Visitor’s Perspective
By Peter Benziger, Captain, S/V Peregrina
Racing sailboats is a fantastic way for young people to gain valuable life skills. As a boy growing up on Long Island Sound, 60 years ago, I learned to sail racing “Bluejays” and “Lightnings” at the Noroton Yacht Club in Connecticut.
So, it was only natural that my wife, Margie, and I jumped at the opportunity to volunteer Peregrina, our Tayana 47, as a committee boat in the 2017 WesMex Small Boat Regatta earlier this month. The event was organized by the Vallarta Yacht Club. This is the 12th year the club has hosted the event.
Over 240 boats participated – competing in five types of one-design sailboats: Optimists, Lasers,420’s, Hobie Cats and Windsurfers.
During the event, we met some fantastic kids and their supportive families and coaches. I was really impressed by the participants and began to think about some of the benefits of racing sailboats for young people.
Getting ready to race requires lots of responsibility and preparation. Every morning, the kids would be working on their boats; cleaning, checking the knots, adjusting tension, repairing damage.
Kids also learn the importance of safety. This young girl is putting some extra air in the flotation bladders which keep her boat afloat in the event she capsizes.
The kids in the WesMex regatta came from all over Mexico. It was wonderful to see them introducing themselves and making new friends. In a three day regatta, there is no time to be a wallflower. Even in the midst of serious racing, the kids had a sense of fun!
RULES AND STRATEGY
Once you know the Racing Rules, they will help you formulate a strategy. Strategy is probably the most important aspect of winning races. Sailing fast is just not enough. Variables such as wind, current, waves and tides must be factored into your game plan. Kids have to take all these items into consideration; implement a strategy and then, constantly, modify their tactics as the variables change.
One of the most challenging parts of the race is the Start. Timing is everything. Racers must quickly evaluate a number of conditions affecting their position and implement a series of tactical moves to place themselves in front of the fleet.
The kids have to watch out not to “foul” another boat, not to cross the line too early, to show restraint when needed and to anticipate how long it will take to arrive moving fast when the staring horn sounds. There is a lot of stress on the starting line and the kids must learn to manage it. Below, you see how close the Laser Class lines up at the start of their race.
We tried to get in three races each day whenever possible. Thus, the kids were in the boats 5-6 hours a day and WOW did they get tired! Below is a young competitor who finished getting his boat into the parking lot just in time before falling asleep on the stern.
WINNING & LOSING
The hardest part of sailing is learning how to win and, much more frequently, how to lose. Usually, there are only trophies for 1st, 2nd and 3rd place so the vast majority of participants go home with only the knowledge that they did better, or worse, than hoped for. But, for the winners, there were smiles and cheers all around!
And, for a select few, this regatta had international implications. At the end of the awards ceremony, a Race Committee delegate came up to the stage and called the names of five boys and girls who had qualified to participate in the 2017 Optimist World Championships in Thailand!
What an awesome future is in store for these incredible young sailors! What a fabulous experience for two “old salts” like ourselves to be a part of it all! Thanks to Vallarta Yacht Club and WesMex 2017 from Margie and Peter aboard S/V Peregrina.
Been out on beautiful Banderas Bay this season? Just about everyone who goes out says one thing: The Whales Are Back! After a season of warmer waters that attracted very few whales, this season the whales have returned in numbers larger than we've seen in quite a while.
During last week's Vallarta Cup race, markset crew Larry and Yoshie Butts and Jim Corsini were treated to a close encounter while waiting for boats to round the weather mark. Two whales surfaced very near their boat, and proceeded to give them a show. Yoshie captured it all on video.
Whale watching is one of the many reasons for getting off the dock and checking out this beautiful bay. Keep in mind that you need to give the wildlife some space - licensed whale watch organizations are allowed no closer than 100 meters, and unlicensed boats no closer than 300 meters. If a whale comes up near you unnannounced, as they did with our mark crew, just say calm and slowly move away. NOAA recommends that if your engine is off, as it was with our crew, tap the side of your boat to let them know you are around.
There are plenty of reasons to enjoy this wonderful bay we live on - the wind, the wildlife and the beautiful scenery. Get out there and check it out!
The third race in the Vallarta Cup Series started in the clear skies and light winds that we have come to expect in Banderas Bay during January. Nine competitors came to the starting area. New addition Bart Goodell in his Santa Cruz 27 ‘Vitesse’ joined favorites Olas Lindas, Wings, Bright Star and Rush Faville’s ‘Shiva’.
The race committee called a multi-lap windward/leeward course, including a weather mark approximately 2.5 miles from the start, a reach mark, and a leeward mark near the starting line. Racing started around 12:40 after technical issues on committee boat S/V Cadenza caused an interruption and subsequent restart in 8kts of wind from the southwest.
Initial racing in Class A was extremely close, with Olas Lindas, Bright Star and Wings dropping spinnakers and rounding the leeward mark within feet of each other. Olas Lindas was first around the mark and used her lighter weight to accelerate upwind well ahead of Wings and Bright Star on their second trip to the weather mark. Kinta Ane struggled with her spinnaker take-down, wrapping the sail on her headstay, forcing the boat to head off-course for several minutes to sort it out. Showing a true competitive spirit, Merle, Allison and their crew of kid-naturalists headed right back into the race after their mishap, anxious to continue with racing, and whale watching.
While winds built mid-race to over 10 knots, pressure at the end of the race reduced considerably. The race committee called for a shortened course for Class B boats (Shiva, Vitesse, Harmatan and Poco Loco Dos), finishing them after a single lap of the windward/leeward course. Class A continued for a second lap, with Olas Lindas first over the finish line by 9 minutes, followed by Wings, Bright Star, Alarife and Kinta Ane. After handicap corrections, a mere 15 seconds separated Wings and Olas Lindas, with Wings narrowly getting the bullet for the second week in a row.
In Class B, Shiva continued her string of first place finishes, followed by Vitesse, Harnitan and Poco Loco Dos.
Beautiful Banderas Bay didn’t disappoint in showing off her wildlife on Saturday. Kinta Ane reported 24 whale sightings, bringing her total whale sightings for the event to over 40. The mark crew on Nanacita also reported a close encounter, with two whales surfacing just a few yards from their boat at the weather mark. Even the race committee was treated with a show of a whale in the middle of the starting line.
Also of note during the Saturday event: For his hurculean efforts in setting and retrieving marks for the Vallarta Cup, new VYC member Jim Corsini was officially made of member of the VYC Brotherhood of International Mark Boat Operators (BIMBO). Jim was awarded his official VYC BIMBO shirt, and told to go out and set more marks. Congratulations Jim!
VYC is a great club with diverse membership. Reasons for joining are as diverse as our membership.
Here is one member's letter on why he joined. What are your reasons?
Grateful to Be a Member From Bill Noonan
You know, I’ve been thinking. About Vallarta Yacht Club, to be exact. Cynthia and I have been members since we first arrived on our boat, Crème Brûlée, in 2004. At that time we were happy to find a comfortable, cool place to come, meet new people, relax with a cold beer, and just hang out. And we were really ready to have a place where we felt like we belonged, far away from our home in the Pacific Northwest.
Over that time, the Club has changed, and so have we. The patio tripled in size to become one of the most desirable and pleasant places we know of to spend time, the restaurant fare has improved dramatically, the furniture and décor has been continually upgraded, and the Club has developed an international reputation for being a World Class yacht racing venue. This Club just keeps getting better. And us? We’re 13 years older, we sold the boat, and we’re staying in a condo. What has not changed is how perfect the Club has always been for us.
It’s funny how you can go through life not paying much attention to your many blessings. In this, our thirteenth season in Paradise, we suddenly realized how special Vallarta Yacht Club has been in our lives. The Banderas Bay area has lots to offer in the way of interesting and fun things to do, great restaurants and bars, great shops and markets, endless choices for entertainment, and of course the incomparable Mexican culture. All that in a ridiculously pleasant climate on a beautiful bay surrounded by incredible beaches, with some of most amazing sunsets imaginable. That’s what brought us here in the first place, and what makes us stay around.
But we started to think about the one very special place in this tropical paradise that we have been so lucky to call our own. When we walk through the doors of the Club, we are not only greeted by familiar faces, a pleasant lounge, bar, restaurant and patio; we know we are in OUR place. We are free to listen to music, check our email, read a book, watch the boat traffic, play a game, have a drink, snack or meal, or just hang out quietly by ourselves or with friends. Sure, we have lots of options to go to restaurants that might have better menu selections, faster service, prettier décor, or better location. But we can’t just go there and be – knowing that we are in OUR space. We know that OUR place will always be filled with people who share common interests and values. Some we have known for years. But we also feel comfortable introducing ourselves to other members and guests that we haven’t seen before, knowing they will become new friends. And then there’s the Club’s staff. They only seem to care about whether we are happy, not whether we are buying something. No pressure. Good feeling. Wow.
So this year, more than ever before, we find ourselves feeling very lucky – and proud – to call ourselves members of the Vallarta Yacht Club, truly our home away from home. The Club has been, and still is, a special highlight in our lives.
Want to join us? VYC's half-price initiation offer continues to the end of January.
Want to tell us why you joined VYC? Comment below.
The second race in Vallarta Cup 2017 gave competitors a full tour of the bay, with the race committee on S/V Cadenza calling for a course that took the fleet from a start in Nuevo Vallarta, 2 miles offshore, then to La Cruz, back again all the way to Puerto Vallarta, then back to Nuevo Vallarta for the finish. The fleet started in a light 6 knot wind, anticipating a northerly to develop later in the afternoon to help them finish the 19 mile course. With overcast skies, the breezes didn’t fill in from the north as expected, and competitors raised their spinnakers for an off wind reach to the La Cruz turning mark.
Series leader Olas Lindas led the fleet around the La Cruz mark, reaching to Puerto Vallarta a breeze that seemed to refuse to fill in. Consistent leader Wings struggled with the La Cruz mark rounding, touching the buoy, requiring not only a penalty 360 turn, but also a successful rounding of the mark, causing the yacht to lose several minutes.
Class B leader Shiva gave all boats a run for their money, again maintaining speed with the leaders throughout the course.
During the last hour of the race, winds turned southerly and built, giving all competitors a great off wind reach to the finish. Olas Lindas continued to lead the pack throughout the race, but faltered at the last weather mark, unsuccessfully attempting a spinnaker peel at the final turning mark, and losing several minutes before her turn down to the line.
In the final result, Olas Lindas led Wings by a full 7 minutes, but lost to Wings in corrected time. In Class B, Shiva consolidated her lead in Class B with another bullet.
Our junior naturalists aboard Kinda Anae didn’t disappoint: 9 whales were spotted during the race, as well as several dolphins and even a turtle!
New competitors this week were new VYC member Dan Kelsey’s “Harmattan” and past participant Ben Mewes’ “Georgia”. As Georgia finished, Ben and his crew were treated to a trumpet rendition of Georgia on My Mind by S/V Cadenza owner Jay.
Saturday, January 21 will be the next in this four-race series, capped off by our traditional "Cheeseburgers in Paradise" after-race party at the VYC clubhouse. Boats can sign up for any or all races in the Vallarta Cup Series. Sign-up is here.
¡Feliz Año Nuevo a todos! If you were among the fortunate 100 members attending the VYC New Year’s Evening dinner party, you know we all shared a fantastic time to welcome the New Year. Cocktails began at 8:00 pm and the live band started promptly at 8:15. Within 30 seconds, the dance floor filled with enthusiastic revelers. And, stayed full until 9:00 when the band laid their instruments aside and the Club’s wait staff quickly brought out two of the three course dinner. After a splendid “surf and turf “bit of nourishment, the band returned, chairs were emptied and the dance floor once again erupted; and stayed so right up to the final countdown to midnight. I also observed that the number of members having Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve dinner was twice that of previous year!
As I noted in last October’s Commodore’s Corner, our Club being recognized by the Mexican government as a “Sports Association” entitles us to various tax breaks. One of which is the exemption from any income tax. Obviously, this is rather meaningless to VYC on an annual basis, but, because Mexico tax law requires full tax reporting on a monthly basis which would seriously negatively effect our cash flow during the high season.
The other significant tax benefit is the exemption for IVA taxation on Dues and Donations. Although we are not a designated “Donatario” that can offer a personal tax deduction, we now do exempt our members from IVA tax on dues and donation payments, I am sure you remember that from January 1st of 2016 a 16% tax was applied to all dues and donations (as well as all purchases for goods and services). And, we were required to file these “end user” funds with our tax returns. Beginning in August we acted upon legal and accounting advise that we were no longer subject to IVA taxation on dues and donations. However, we decided to continue applying the 16% IVA as a precaution that the SAT (Mexican IRS) might disagree with our exemption. At the end of January, 2017 we will have had six months of tax filings without any comment from the SAT. Much more on this and other subject matter will be presented at this year’s Annual General Meeting.
I would be remiss if I didn’t warn you to be prepared to have loads of fun both Ashore and on the water during the remainder of the high season. Catch it all on the Club’s website. And, make sure you are receiving the Vallarta Yacht Club Bay Calendar every week reminding us of what is ahead for the next two weeks.