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Changes come to Newport-Ensenada race

April 18, 2013|By Lauren Williams
  • Sailing crews are side by side moments after crossing the starting line in last year's Newport to Ensenada race.
Sailing crews are side by side moments after crossing… (DON LEACH )

Nearly 200 boats are expected to set out for Mexico in this year's Newport to Ensenada race, but following the deaths of four sailors aboard the Aegean last year — the first deaths in the race's history — there will be a few changes.

Vessels in the cruising class now cannot use autopilot while motoring, either day or night, according to the race's press officer, Rich Roberts.

"They don't know for sure [that's what happened], but they want to close that one possibility," he said.

What exactly happened to the Aegean, a 37-foot Hunter 376, remains contested, but what is known is that the boat dropped off the radar about 1:30 a.m. April 28, 2012, and the four sailors were later discovered dead.

Other changes include a rule that sailors monitor VHF Radio Channel 16 at all times, and a requirement that two sailors must be on deck at all times, according to Chuck Iverson, commodore of the Newport Ocean Sailing Assn.

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This year's race is scheduled to begin April 26, but festivities for the decades-old regatta start at noon Sunday with a launch party at ExplorOcean at the Balboa Fun Zone that will include a chalk festival, art exhibits, beer garden and children's boat building.

The send-off party is slated to take place between 6 and 11 p.m. Thursday at the Harborside Restaurant, 400 Main St. This year's overall racing class winner with a corrected time will be awarded a two-year Lexus lease.

The winner of the cruising class on corrected time will receive a four-day, three-night stay at the Hotel Coral and Marina in Ensenada.

The 125-mile race began in 1947, drawing Humphrey Bogart, Walter Cronkite and other celebrities. The 1998 finish from Stars and Stripes, a 60-foot catamaran owned by the late Steve Fossett, set the multihull record by finishing the race in six hours, 46 minutes, and 40 seconds — the only boat to finish before sundown on the same day the race started.

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