Originally created in 1953 by Commodore Ken Baker in partnership with the Club de Yates de Acapulco, this race was sailed from San Diego to Acapulco; a 1430 nautical mile course that yachts of the era took up to 14 days to complete.
Part of the early popularity of the Acapulco Race was to lure the returning American racers to the incredibly scenic cruising waters and ports of the emerging Mexican Rivera between Acapulco and Cabo San Lucas. In 1976, with people’s leisure time shrinking and because the latter third of the race was often sailed in lighter winds, the race finish was shortened to Las Hadas, some 300 miles to the north. At this time, our Club de Yates de Acapulco friends thought it would be great to take advantage of our presence in their waters and start a regional weeklong event of day racing combining the fleets of the Mexican Rivera with our Southern Californian participants. The Mexican Ocean Racing Circuit, or MEXORC as it has become known, has since flourished and always follows the finish of the SDYC race. It is the crown jewel of Mexican regattas and is a key enhancement to today’s Vallarta Race.
In 1998, SDYC was asked by a group of Vallarta yachtsmen if we’d consider finishing our race in their waters and the finish was moved to beautiful Banderas Bay. As good fortune would have it, this inaugural race was the fastest up to 1998, with Roy Disney’s Pyewacket sailing the 1000 NM course in 3 days 21 hrs 55m and 36 sec. Also that year, world adventurer Steve Fossett with his crew on the Open 60 trimaran Lakota, completed the same distance in 2 days 14 hrs 20 mins and 17 secs, a 16 knot average! In 2004, SDYC was approached by the new ownership at Las Hadas about having our race return to their location. This race was also marked by good winds and record-breaking runs, Richard Compton’s Alchemy winning the race in less than four days.
In 2006 the race returned to Vallarta and 2 boats have dominated the last 4 races: Dennis Pennell’s Blue Blazes from SDYC in 2006 and 2012 and Peligroso skippered by Dale Williams of LBYC/StFYC in 2008, and skippered by SDYC’s Lorenzo Berho in 2010. The course elapsed time record for monohulls from San Diego to Puerto Vallarta was also broken in 2010 by Bill Turpin’s R/P77 Akela finishing in 3 days 8 hrs 52 minutes and 01 second.
In 2012 the Puerto Vallarta race accepted entries from multi-hulls for the first time and that first entry was H.L. Enloe’s 60-foot trimaran Loe Real sped down the course setting a benchmark time of 4 days 01 hours and 55 min for the fastest multi-hull time. Fast forward to 2014 and the multi-hulls now had two entries with Enloe coming back with a bigger and faster trimaran the ORMA60 Mighty Merloe (ex Groupama) and Tom Siebel’s Mod 70 trimaran Orion. Both boats made fast work of the race course with Orion recording the fastest multi-hull time at 2 days 08 hours and 55 minutes.
In 2016 Manouch Moshayedi’s Rio100, a 100’ super maxi, set the monohull course record with a time of 3 days 05 hours and 41 minutes, which eclipsed Bill Turpin’s 2010 record on Akela.
The popularity and draw of the present Vallarta Race comes from many things: the challenging course, great competition, reliable spring winds, a full moon for the race and a finish in the warm waters of Banderas Bay.