Dave Rice 12:38 p.m., May 21
A legendary annual tradition that literally connects two prominent cities in Baja and southern California takes place again on April 27, 2012; and this year, it celebrates its 65th anniversary.
Since the original concept was born back in 1947, the Newport Beach to Ensenada Sailing Regatta has grown to become the largest maritime event of its kind. It was originally organized as an opportunity to celebrate the return of sailing enthusiasts from overseas duties during World War II by the National Association of Sailors of the Ocean, generally referred to today as NOSA. The Newport Beach Yacht Club hosted the very first race in late April of 1948, when it was known as the Governor's Cup. In that initial competition, 117 sailboats set forth on a course that ran 125 nautical miles between Newport Beach, California, and the city of Ensenada in Baja Norte.
But this year, the Newport Beach to Ensenada race is also dedicated to yet another legend, Carlos Avila Escoto; a tireless crusader and local mentor who will mark his 45th year of organizing and coordinating his end of that event south of the border.
Soon to reach his 92nd birthday, Carlos is still a man of extraordinary vigor, although his present health conditions require him to exert himself with a greater degree of discretion these days. Before relocating to Ensenada decades ago, he was extremely active in the community affairs of his hometown of La Piedad in the state of Michoacán, where he served as the city’s mayor between 1949 and 1952, as the president of its Chamber of Commerce in 1950 and 51 and also, in 1952, as president of La Piedad’s division of Cruz Roja, the Mexican Red Cross.
During his half a century of living in Ensenada, Escoto has served as tourism president of the local Chamber of Commerce, as well as president of the Convention & Visitors Bureau now known as Proturismo. He has been an active member of the Lions Club in Michoacán and Baja Norte since 1947, and served as District Governor between 1975 and 1976.
In 1953, Escoto purchased Alfredo’s Bar, which eventually became famous for hosting occasional visits by Hollywood celebrities like Bing Crosby, Clark Gable, Lee Marvin, Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe.
This is also the place where Carlos recalls having developed his love for boating and the international yachting community as a result of his many trips out on the water with actor John Wayne aboard his sailing craft, the Wild Goose. And ever since 1967, Carlos Avila Escoto has been the liaison and Mexico Coordinator of the Newport to Ensenada Yacht Race and in 2007, he was appointed the Ensenada Commodore.
Escoto is also connected with the creation of Ensenada’s internationally famous “Fiestas de la Vendimia”, which annually celebrates products from the region's world class vineyards. The premier event was originally held in 1983, and was well attended by tourists and local residents, as well as by passengers and crew members visiting the port aboard Western Cruise Lines high profile luxury vessel, the Azure Seas. As a matter of fact, the positive impression that they experienced during those festivities eventually developed into Ensenada’s popularity as a destination port amongst an ever growing number of cruise liners today.
Over the years, Carlos has enjoyed the unconditional support of his stalwart wife, Dolores, and their family of four children. They have hosted numerous famous politicians and dignitaries in their home, as well as broadcast news icon, Walter Cronkite. Today, Escoto says that one of his greatest satisfactions in life has been derived from the solid friendships that he has been able to establish with so many people from around the world.
At the poignant end of his sterling performance over so long a tenure, the time has now come to salute Carlos Avila Escoto for his masterful stewardship of the Newport to Ensenada Regatta for all of these 45 years; and to hope that the next ‘captain’ in line to take over the helm will do so with as much style and grace as has he.
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