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Ensenada race shrinking

Problem is economy, violence and competing event, race spokesman says.

March 05, 2009|By Joseph Serna

In any other year, Steve Ellsworth said his family would make the drive down to Ensenada to meet him at the finish line.

But this isn’t any other year, and with Mexico’s current string of drug war-related violence, his, and many other sailors’ families, aren’t taking any chances.

As the oft-claimed “World’s Largest International Yacht Race” approaches, the hundreds of sailors who compete in the annual event are making other arrangements for their family to join them south of the border.

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“Everybody’s concerned about all the violence and all that going on down there,” said race spokesman Rich Roberts. “It’s just the idea of crossing the border. You feel like suddenly you’re in a very dangerous place.”

Just how dangerous is up for debate, but no one is suggesting you’re in imminent danger the moment you’re in Mexico. A travel alert issued by the State Department in February urged citizens to take “common-sense precautions such as visiting only legitimate business and tourist areas during daylight hours.”

Violence in Mexico has jumped up in recent years as drug cartels battle each other and the Mexican government tries to crackdown on the drug trade.

Roberts said there are fewer boats registered this year for several reasons.

“The race is being attacked from three sides,” he said.

There’s the economy, security concerns passing through Tijuana (a developing hot spot of violence), and another race looking to siphon some of their regulars, Roberts said.

Sailors wishing to stay out of Mexican waters can now check out “The Border Run” race from Newport Harbor to San Diego on April 24, the same day as the Newport to Ensenada race and starting just an hour earlier. The Border Run was created by XS Racing.

Ellsworth, commodore of the South Shore Yacht Club, said he’ll participate in the XS Racing event.

But those loyal to the Ensenada race, and there are hundreds of them, still have other options.

Organizers have arranged for charter buses to take families down to Ensenada for the post-race celebrations and Carnival Cruise Lines can motor people down to Ensenada the morning the race ends, Roberts said.

The event is celebrating its 62nd year.


Reporter JOSEPH SERNA may be reached at (714) 966-4619 or at joseph.serna@latimes.com.

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