Newport Ensenada Yacht Race

John Shulze’s boat Linstar will participate in the 2016 Newport to Ensenada International Yacht Race, which begins Friday. Sailors will leave from the Balboa Pier for the 125-nautical-mile journey south to Ensenada, Mexico.

LATIMES Sailors from near and far travel to Newport Beach to participate in the 69-year-old Newport to Ensenada International Yacht Race.

But few come as far as John Shulze.

For six years, the 67-year-old has made the 8,800-mile journey from his home in Singapore to Newport Harbor to participate in the annual race, which starts Friday. Sailing in the overnight contest is a tradition that he began a decade ago while living in Orange County. Moving wasn’t going to keep him from competing.

“It’s just a fun race,” he said. “There’s a lot of really great competition, and I get to sail with all my good friends. We usually do pretty well too.”

Last year, Shulze finished the race in his Santa Cruz 50 sailboat, Horizon, in 21 hours and 44 minutes and sailed away with four trophies.

Horizon and his other craft, Linstar, a J109 sailboat, will be among hundreds of vessels setting sail from the Balboa Pier and then heading 125 nautical miles south to Ensenada, Mexico.

Some participants, like Shulze, race to get across the finish line in Ensenada well before their competition, while others just hope to cruise into Mexico in time for dinner, tequila and parties.

“We’re serious about the race,” Shulze said. “Everything has to be well-planned and prepared beforehand. It’s really a team effort. No man can do it alone.”

N2E, as it is known to the faithful, will wrap up with an awards ceremony in Ensenada before the boats sail back Sunday or, for those who want to party a little longer, Monday.

While many locals compete year after year, the race has encountered troubled waters in the past decade with a decline in participation. However, organizers are trying to turn the tide and are seeing an uptick.

In the race’s heyday in the early 1980s, more than 600 sailboats would hit the course.

But a variety of factors, including the economic recession in 2008-09, drug crime in Mexico and the deadly accident that claimed the lives of four sailors in 2012, took a toll, said race spokesman Peter Bretschger.

Bretschger said the race’s downsizing also can be chalked up to the fast pace of life in the 21st century.

“Life was a little bit slower back then,” he said of the race’s peak years.

Participation hit an all-time low in 2014, when only 168 signed up. In 2015, about 200 turned out.

In an attempt to draw more participants, organizers set up a short course this year for boats leaving from San Diego on Friday afternoon. It’s intended for those who can’t make it in time for the launch in Newport Beach.

“We’ve been working hard to rebuild it, to breathe new life in the tradition,” Bretschger said.

The numbers have inched up. This year, 211 sailors signed up to make the journey, with roughly 30 participating for the first time.

Chris Hemans, sailing out of the Balboa Yacht Club, is getting back in after a years-long absence caused in part by the high cost of insuring boats heading into Mexico.

But he’s competing this week with his daughter on a Rogers 46 Varuna, rekindling his memory of what he terms “a nice race down the coast.”

Hannah Fry, hannah.fry@latimes.com

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One Comment

  1. Juan del Norte
    Posted April 22, 2016 at 10:41 | Permalink | Reply

    This was always my fantasy race back in my sailing days on Johnston Island….

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