If any 2016 Pacific Cup racers have kids, it’s unlikely they’ll name them Darby. The position of the Pacific High made for a fast passage for boats on the front of the fleet, but Darby wreaked havoc on the routing plans of boats at the middle to end of the fleet. When consultations with weather experts Rick Sheema, the Weather Guy, and Commander’s Weather led to a notice to racers about Darby, Pac Cup officials lifted the ban on using outside paid weather routing and provided up-to-date weather information to the fleet as they received it.
For the Jeanneau 40.3, Bear Boat, the decision to heed recommendations from the weather experts to not go within 200 miles of Hawaii to avoid Darby was an easy one. “We’re in the Cruising Division and our first goal is safety,” said Bear Boat navigator Rodney Witel. “We held back for two full days.” Witel positioned the boat so it was set up for a beam reach as soon as the warning was lifted. And being in the cruising division, they used their time wisely: swimming, fishing and playing the ukulele. “We had fun. We were fine,” said skipper Paul Koenig.
The decision as to whether adjust course wasn’t always that straightforward. On some boats, navigators had to reassure nervous crew that they should stay the course and get in ahead of the storm – and that, no, you didn’t need to reef and reduce sail area downwind in those conditions. On other boats, diversions were made that weren’t wholly embraced by the crew. “You get 35 knots inside the Bay,” grumbled one, who asked not to be named.
And then there were boats who tried to divert – until they found they were already too close. On Wauquiez Centurion 42, Chance, Fred Paxton, who was doing his first Pac Cup, said they heeded the advice to divert for four or five hours until they realized it would take too long to get to the area considered safe. “We just couldn’t go back 400 miles,” said Paxton. They continued on, finishing on Sunday, July 24 at 7:51 a.m. The boat made a dawn approach to Kaneohe Bay. It was gray and dark when the crew spotted the escort boat with a dolphin flag. “It was everything I imagined our Hawaii race to be,” Paxton said. “Seeing that dolphin flag we knew we were there.”