Nearly 500 Boats to Participate in the 60th Annual Lexus Newport to Ensenada International Yacht Race

By Connie Ellig

“Magnitude 80” and other boats vie for positions near the start line of last year’s Newport to Ensenada International Yacht Race. (Photo by David Hopps.)

On April 23, 1948, a total of 117 boats paid $22.50 each to compete in the first 125-nautical-mile race from Newport Beach, California to Ensenada, Mexico. With winds estimated at 25–35 knots, only 65 boats finished the race, known as The Governor’s Cup. The event was organized by the Newport Ocean Sailing Association (NOSA) and hosted by the Newport Harbor Yacht Club.

That was 60 years ago. Since then that small, just-for-fun race for sailors coming out of World War II has been renamed the Newport to Ensenada Yacht Race and it has become the largest international yacht race in the world. With an emphasis on camaraderie as well as competition, the event entices a variety of sailors, from famous yachtsmen to fun-seeking novices to celebrities from around the world. Past competitors include personalities like Walter Cronkite, actors Buddy Ebsen and Humphrey Bogart, comedienne Vicki Lawrence, movie producer Milton Bren and Pulitzer Prize winning cartoonist Paul Conrad as well as world-class skippers like Dennis Conner, Bill Ficker, Dave Ullman and Roy Disney. The annual event now attracts more than 3,500 sailors plus “ground crews” of over 1,500 who travel to Ensenada for the fun and festivities.

More than 500 boats are expected to compete in the 60th Annual Lexus Newport to Ensenada International Yacht Race scheduled for April 27-29, 2007. Some of sailboat racing’s finest are poised for a speedy showdown. Doug Baker’s “Magnitude 80” from Long Beach, which finished second in last year’s Newport to Ensenada event, not only won the February 2007 Marina del Rey to Puerto Vallarta Race, but also set a new course record. Jim Madden’s “Stark Raving Mad III” from Newport Beach is all set to continue its West Coast debut after an impressive first-to-finish in the March 2007 Newport Beach to Cabo San Lucas Race. Another fast contender is “Peligroso,” the monohull owned by Mike Campbell of Long Beach, which took overall honors in the 2005 Newport to Ensenada Race.

Australia, Japan and Mexico will be represented in the race. Nearly a half dozen entries from Ensenada are preparing to compete, stated Honorary Staff Commodore Carlos Avila of Ensenada, Mexico.

On Friday, April 27, the 2007 Lexus Newport to Ensenada Yacht Race will commence on two separate starting lines located west of the Newport Harbor jetty. Two classes at a time will start at ten-minute intervals beginning at 12:00 p.m. and ending at 1:50 p.m. The race start is broken into 23 classes including ORCA, MAXI, SPRIT, PHRF, Ancient Mariner and Cruising classes. The sight of more than 500 sailboats heading south just off the coast is magnificent, and nearly 5,000 people are expected to watch this classic Southern California tradition. The best locations to view this impressive sight are the bluffs above Corona del Mar State Beach, from the Balboa Pier or directly from the water on a boat.

During a good, fast race with favorable winds, the lead boats usually finish in ten hours and the rest of the fleet within 24 hours. Although the official finish time limit is 11 a.m. on Sunday, the goal of most participants is to reach Ensenada at least by sundown on Saturday to meet up with friends for dinner at a local restaurant or an evening of partying in the nightclubs and cantinas. At 2 p.m. on Sunday, skippers and their crews will gather at Ensenada’s Hotel Bahía for the always-exciting award presentations. There is no prize money but there are nearly four dozen trophies, numerous trophy mugs (and a trophy for the yacht club that wins the most mugs), and even a highly coveted spittoon for the boat with the worst corrected time!

Against the skyline of Newport Beach, yachts prepare for the start of the race to Ensenada. (Photo by Connie Ellig.)

Once again the official title sponsor for the race is Lexus, a name synonymous with fine quality luxury vehicles. One of the event’s new presenting sponsors is Porto Hussong, the 16-acre oceanfront hotel and condominium resort being built in Ensenada which, when completed, will feature a state-of-the-art mega yacht facility and marina that will accommodate up to 290 pleasure boats. Additional 2007 race sponsors and supporters include Mount Gay Rum, The Balboa Bay Club & Resort, Dockside Media, Vessel Assist, The City of Newport Beach, Bahia Corinthian Yacht Club, Balboa Yacht Club, and Newport Harbor Yacht Club.

For more information, photos and race result archives of the Lexus Newport to Ensenada International Yacht Race, visit the official web site of the Newport Ocean Sailing Association (NOSA) at 

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