With a smoky start and moments of screaming speed, several sailors with Juneau connections completed a 750-mile sailboat rally last month off the coast of Baja California.
Wade Rogers of Juneau, former Juneau residents Chris and Heather Stockard and Anchorage resident Anna Walker sailed from San Diego, Calif., to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, with 124 other boats in the 10th Baja Ha-Ha Cruisers' Rally. The quartet sailed aboard the Stockards' 43-foot boat Legacy.
The boats - some racing for time, others tagging along for fun - left San Diego under a pall of smoke from forest fires on Oct. 27, and completed three legs to finish in Cabo San Lucas about 11 days later.
On the second leg the Legacy encountered 15- to 20-knot winds and 8-foot seas. The boat approached 10-knot speeds on a wild run to the finish line, where a beach party with other entrants beckoned.
"It's a race that combines excellent boating skills and excellent fun," Rogers said. "It's a great chance to meet like-minded people. ... It was a lot of fun, but a lot of hard work. For three days, you're sailing for 24 hours."
Rogers said the rally also stressed safety and usage of the latest in marine technology.
After leaving San Diego, the first leg went to the small town of Turtle Bay. After a layover, the boats headed out on the windy second leg to unsettled Santa Maria Bay. After a second layover, the last and shortest leg took the racers to Cabo San Lucas. At each stop, crews went ashore in skiffs and dinghies to eat, drink and party with other entrants.
At the end of the rally, there was an awards party which - in addition to recognizing the fastest boats - also included fun awards like "most anchors lost."
The Legacy took second in a class of 15 boats.
The Stockards - Chris is a former state trooper, and Heather used to work for the state Department of Environmental Conservation - retired to live aboard the Legacy, which is moored at La Paz, Mexico. They were active in the Juneau Yacht Club, which is how they met Rogers.
Rogers works for the state Department of Labor and Workforce Development, as well as doing broadcast work for KINY/KSUP radio, while Walker works in Anchorage with the state Department of Transportation.
Rogers said he enjoyed the trip in part because Chris Stockard is very knowledgeable on the water, and willing to pass along tips.
"I always learn something," Rogers said of sailing with the Stockards. "I never walk away empty-handed."
The Baja Ha-Ha is the world's second-largest long-distance sailboat rally. For more information, visit the race Web site at www.baja-haha.com. For more information about the Juneau Yacht Club and a link to read more about the Legacy, visit www.juneauyachtclub.org.