Byline: Shane Scott
SAN DIEGO — For those who don’t know about the Baja Ha-Ha, it might sound like one big party. For those who cruise it annually, they know what it’s really about: fun, safety and sailing.
This year is the 20th anniversary of the annual rally for boats 27 feet or larger that are designed for open-ocean sailing. It is expected to attract about 150 boats to cruise from San Diego to Bahia Santa Maria, Mexico.
The event will kick off with a Halloween costume party and barbecue at 1 p.m. Oct. 27 in the West Marine parking lot at 1250 Rosecrans St., co-hosted by West Marine and Mexico Tourism.
The actual rally is scheduled to start with a boat parade at America’s Cup Harbor, passing the southwest corner of Shelter Island and the fireboat at 10 a.m. Oct. 28. The starting gun for Leg 1 will sound at 11 a.m., with boats starting off Coronado Roads. Many crews are assembled of family members and old friends, but some crews meet in other ways.
“A lot of my crew I recruit from women I meet on match.com,” said regular cruising entrant Bill Lilly. Lilly, who met his girlfriend on the site, often hosts an all-female crew for the cruising rally.
“We always have a great time and meet new friends,” Lilly said. My girlfriend is very supportive of my all-girl crews, because it’s a safe way for them to have this kind of adventure,” Lilly said.
Because Baja Ha-Ha is scheduled to begin near Halloween, each year’s kick-off always presents a costume contest.
This year Lilly and his crew will be dressed with a country western theme. “Last year was Aloha-ha, this year will be Yeeha-ha,” Lilly said. He’ll be dressed as a sheriff, while his crewmembers will each go as Annie Oakley.
Baja Ha-Ha participants will cruise down to Shelter Island for the first stop and a social mixer, followed by a stop at Turtle Bay for a beach potluck. Finally, they will wind up in Cabo San Lucas. A live band, Cabo Wabo, will perform for the participants at the final beach party.
Despite this being a mostly non-competitive event, it still is a race, of sorts. Each class of boats — of about 12 teams each — competes for the best finishing time, but results are based around how much they actually sail.
“The key to doing well in the Ha-Ha is how much you sail over using your engine,” Lilly said. The race is based on honor code, with participants giving their final time and statistics for how much they used their engines to officials, upon reaching Cabo San Lucas.
“I’ve gotten first in our class” in previous events, Lilly said. “There’s no money involved though. If you win, you get a green T-shirt.”
For more information on this year’s Baja Ha-Ha, visit baja-haha.com.