July 18 race report

Another day, and another series of surprises that continue to impact the rankings in this 20th edition of the Pacific Cup. Seemingly with every check-in, the rankings get shuffled, the pursuing boats make gains and the fleets continue to compress. While a handful of boats looked dominant in their divisions as of yesterday's report, Wednesday morning shows that every single fleet in this race is still firmly up for grabs. With much of the fleet past halfway and into a somewhat atypically narrow band of moderate northeasterly tradewinds, the fleet is quite literally being herded to the barn. The major navigational decisions have been made and the rest of the race is poised to be a dead downwind drag race to Kaneohe; the boats that can run deep the best and begin surfing the earliest should make gains in the closing stages of this race, while many boats that jumped out to early leads are now forced to look into their rear view mirrors and try to hold onto whatever cushion they may have built up. 

Now in second place in the premier BMW of San Rafael E division is the Riptide 41 Blue, the radical Paul Bieker design which is a larger, more evolved cousin of the Riptide 35 which first dominated it's division in the Pacific Cup 20 years ago, going 1-2 in class and beating many 50 footers over the line. The aptly named blue-colored rocketship sailing with two-time Olympic medalist Jonathan McKee and some rockstar skiff sailors onboard suffered somewhat in the early stages of the race, but is now ripping along at 12 knots average speed, just over a knot quicker than her much larger divisional rival and leader Pyewacket. Seemingly in the blink of an eye, Blue  has worked her way into second place in division and looks poised to continue her upward march.

***A note to our readers - Like a few other boats, Pyewacket and Blue are not eligible for 'overall' Pacific Cup honors. They are using new specialty reaching sails sometimes called "tweeners."  These sails are recently approved under ORR but not permitted under PHRF, which is being used to score the Pac Cup overall. When using multiple ratings systems, as we do to provide broad competition between divisions, these kinds of strategic choices can arise. This will get attention as we plan the 2020 edition of the race with that hindsight. We applaud both Pyewacket and Blue for reporting their sails, for their Corinthian spirit in handling this challenging rule, and for sailing such stellar races thus far!***

At the front of the E fleet on the water, and now third in division and first overall (we know it's confusing) is the Mills 68 Prospector who continues to rip along at warp speed and threaten to be first over the finish line. Fostering much good will with the media team, Prospector bowman Matthew Landry sent in some gorgeous drone footage last night, the first we've seen from any boat in the fleet. With a top-tier crew and a fantastic overall platform to race to Hawaii, Prospector continues to cook along at around 14-15 knots, running great angles towards Kaneohe. If Prospector can indeed be first to finish and win the overall, it would be another nice feather in the cap of navigator Artie Means, who served in the same capacity for first-to-finish and course-record setter Mighty Merloe in last year's Transpac race. Their route thus far has simply been a thing of beauty.

Right when it looked like the Farr 52 Zamazaan may threaten to run away with the Pasha Hawaii D division, Chris Kramer's Columbia Carbon 32 Six Brothers has come screaming up from behind and begun to rapidly close the gap. Sailing with a trio of 19 year olds aboard, including Chris' son Colin, Six Brothers suffered in the early stages of the race due to her lack of waterline length in comparison to her divisional rivals. In these later running stages of the race however, the little speedster is now benefitting from her light weight, powered-up sail plan and slippery hull form to rise through the ranks and have a very real shot at winning the D division. Six Brothers has just recently displaced J World's Hula Girl in the rankings while the Melges 32 Rufless is poised to be the next boat to do so, with the little Melges also suffering at the start and lighting up in the downwind conditions. 

The Alaska Airlines C division is now beginning to see a major development in the fact that the Evelyn 32-2 Poke and Destroy has steadily eroded Sweet Okole's lead for second place and has now pulled even with the famed Farr 36. Poised to overhaul Okole in the rankings some time today, the Seattle based yacht owned by Ballard Sails' co-owner Alex Simanis has been making the same speeds and miles made good as division leader Zaff, and threatens to begin working away at Zaff's lead. As the race moves into the closing stages, Poke and Destroy should continue to make gains on Zaff, who we assume may be hindered by their fixed center-line bowsprit while Poke and Destroy squares the pole back and excels in the deep running angles of the second half of this race.

One of the most exciting races in the fleet is that of the one-design Express 27's who have turned out six boats for the Pau Maui Vodka/ DH1 division. Loose Cannon has opened up about a five hour lead on corrected time while Motorcycle Irene has moved into second place, though just an hour and a half separate second through fourth place with Alternate Reality and Fired Up! still in contention for the final podium spot, if not the divisional win. While the boats are all Express 27's, sail inventories, rudders and other slight modifications see the boats sailing with minor differences in their handicaps. With just under 700 miles to go, these four boats are in an absolute dog fight to see who can reach Kaneohe first and/ or correct out on top. The other doublehanded division, the DH2/ Mount Gay Rum division also continues to be hotly contested and still very much up for grabs. Moore 24 Foamy continues to lead, though the Donovan 30 Wolfpack, Santa Cruz 27 Zipper and Antrim 27 Bacon Berger are all still in it to win it with plenty of race track left. As with many of the close battles in this race, they will likely come down to the wire and be decided based on who finishes in the stronger mid-day tradewind breezes or at night when the winds typically go lighter closer to shore. Incredibly, many of these small, ultra-light double-handed boats are running very high in the overall Pacific Cup rankings with Loose Cannon in second overall, Foamy in third and Motorcycle Irene in fifth. 

Something that could not have been predicted a handful of days ago, the Coral Reef Sailing Apparel A division sees all four boats in a dead heat on Wednesday morning. As Green Buffalo got hung out to dry up north and slowed, fellow Cal 40 Highlander began working the south while Bombora tried to do the same and Eliana kept rumbling along to close the gap on what had previously been a large deficit. The two Cal 40's were tied dead even this morning and are set to cross paths later this afternoon. Green Buffalo has consistently had a speed advantage compared to Highlander whenever the boats are in the same patch of water, and so we fully expect Green Buffalo to once again take command of this division, though it's certainly lining up to be a very close race all the way to the finish. Currently in last place in division, the Express 27 Bombora is just 1 hour and 4 minutes behind Green Buffalo and Highlander on corrected time, though could easily make up that deficit with half a day of good surfing conditions. Look for the red ultralight to make big moves on the leaderboard as the fleet makes their final approach to the islands where the tradewinds typically get compressed and intensify in strength. 

After leading the Weems & Plath B division for days, the Farr 1220 The Fugitive has slipped all the way to fifth place in division overnight, yet sits just over five hours off the lead this morning further illustrating just how close and unpredictable many of the races in this year's Pac Cup are. With relative newcomers, wily old race veterans and everything in between on a big fleet of racer/ cruisers, B division will almost certainly be decided in the closing stages of the race. At the moment, the J35 Shearwater holds a one and a half hour lead over the Davidson 44 Imagine, which is navigated by 22-time Hawaii race veteran Paul Kamen and almost surely has a few tricks up their sleeve. 

For the first time since leaving San Francsico, the Kolea cruising division has a new leader in the Hanse 505 Anais. With sistership Outremer getting stuck in the same hole as many other leaders up north for a few days, Anais has finally overhauled Outremer and pulled out to a narrow 4-hour lead. Outremer is coming in hot on a port pole and looks set to cross behind Anais who is currently on starboard. With a Vendée Globe superstar onboard in Tanguy de Lamotte, watch for Outremer to eke every tenth of a knot of boat speed out of their steed in an effort to chase down the new division leaders. Impressively, the Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 40.3 Bear Boat is currently rounding out the podium over many larger, and in theory, faster boats.

This race has proven to be as unpredictable as it is long. Whatever the rankings say today, you can almost bet money that they'll be changed tomorrow, that's just the way this race been since the start. Stay tuned as boats begin making their final approaches to the Hawaiian Islands, with the first boats expected into Kaneohe in about two days. 

-Ronnie Simson

Pac Cup Media 2018

Quotes from the competitors - 

Artie Means, navigator, Mills 68 Prospector

Sorry for the lack of news, been a tricky/busy race onboard the Prospector.

It’s never like this, right?

We definitely had some doubt from the newbies about the legendary downwind conditions to Hawaii, but with the A2 finally up, the race is starting to look more normal – finally!

We spent the first 2+ days in our light jib, cracked upwind in 6-11 knots, trying stay out of the upper low that was playing havoc with the normal SF summer winds. We got off quite well, getting far south and missing the glass-off that ate up the wednesday/thursday starters; although still very slow progress towards the barn.

Even when we got to crack off past the low, we only had 10-12 knots for the ‘blast reach’ where we normally have 20+! But the poor guys up north were becalmed…..

So, now well into day 4 for us, we are still 900 miles out. Foulies are hung up, warm (stinky) gear is packed up, board shorts are out and the A2 is up. Great running conditions, 15 knots TWS, 15 knots BSP and laying down some real mileage towards Kaneohe.

Forecast is for the trades to hold, so maybe a more normal race for the last half.

Very interesting race up ahead between the Monday starters with a huge split between the northerly French contingent and Wolfpack, Bacon Berger, Anais on the south road. My bets are on the south (also our line), but very interesting to watch with such a massive split.

As for our fleet, its a really tricky one. We have a significant lead, nice south position, but correcting out on the magical ORR sleds, especially Benny Mitchell, Tom Addis, and the dream team on the Pyewacket may be a difficult mission. Hopefully as we nose into the trades we can bump our lead out a bit more.

With 900 miles to the finish and 380 miles behind the lead boat from the Monday fleet (we started Friday), the real race is on to see who gets the first Mai Tai at KYC!

Wayne Zittel, skipper, Santa Cruz 50 (turbo) J World's Hula Girl

Day six of the 2018 Pacific Cup aboard Hula Girl.  

Or, more precisely, night six.  It's pretty close to midnight California time. Not really sure what time zone we are in.  We are about 1200 miles West of San Diego.  It has been pretty dark the past couple of nights. There is a thin moon early on, and then stars that will play thru the could cover every now and then.  A couple of times, the skies cleared to reveal the full tapestry of the Milky Way, teasing us briefly, then the clouds would return.  

Spinnaker up now, scooting along nicely in 10-15 knots of breeze.  Pretty much ideal sailing conditions all day long: windy enough to have some fun, but mild enough to keep from being too edgy. It's ideal for getting a feel for how the long, slender hull reacts in the pacific swells.  Just how it feels as the spinnaker just starts to power up, then with a slight turn you push the bow down, the stern lifts on a swell, and you just like that you are surfing.  Some 1100 miles to go to Hawaii, so we should get pretty good at this! It's an absolute hoot, a 52 foot surfboard and swells lined up all the way to the Aleutians.  

The racing is good.  We are still in second place, but are feeling some pressure from the small untralights in our fleet as they are really nimble and can light it up in these conditions.  We are well out in front of them, but we owe them a LOT of time on handicap and it's proving tough to make that on a daily basis.  We had some solid tactical moves early in the race which gave us a good lead, but they are nipping at it, so we'll have to see what happens...  nothing we can do up here except keep on pushing!  

As for the crew, everyone has really settled  into life onboard. And it's a fun bunch.  Jimmy is driving at the moment. with Mike trimming and Dave grinding.  Russ' alarm just went off (that's one loud alarm) and he's up and getting ready to go on watch.  Brian is zonked out. keeping iot a mystery for the time being...  how many shoes does he *really* own? I'm rest;less and can't sleep so I'm geeking out and running routes for the Melges 32 (and guestimating on the Columbia) to see if there is any way we can hold them off.  

Regardless of the outcome, we are in for some seriously fun sailing over the coming days...,. tomorrow we pass the halfway point and will be father from land than you can get anywhere else on the planet!),  Then the drag race to Oahu continues!

Ok, that's if for now. More soon!

Wayne and team Hula Girl.

Ian Matthew, navigator, Cal 40 Highlander - 

“We are not alone!

This morning I was on watch from 2:00am to 6:00am and I had to be wakened up at 7:45am in order to send our position report to Race HQ.  It seems strange we have to do this as they know exactly where we are because of the transponders each boat has.  They say it's to make sure there is actually life on board the boat and we are not just automatically drifting towards Hawaii with dead souls on board.  It's a very short cryptic message something like this: "3921 14232 Highlander Send wind!" where 3921 is our latitude, 14232 is our longitude, Highlander is the boat name and that can be followed by any message we want to send - it could get published, so we have to be careful!  This is sent every day at 8:00am PDT Shortly after sending our position report, the radio crackles into life - it is our fellow competitors Bombaro calling to give us a morning greeting and saying it's nice to be sailing alongside.  And in fact they were - about 8 miles north on the horizon but clearly visible.  We have been sailing like that all day and it looks like we are sailing at about the same speed.

When the radio crackled into life, we didn't know our standings.  Shortly later we received them and we have regained our 2nd place in our division.  We have also made a substantial cut in the lead that Green Buffalo had over us.  Now it looks like the decision to cut south was made at the right time - it was painful, but now we are in better wind.  Green Buffalo had to come south and come south a long way - there was no wind ahead of him that far south.  We are eagerly looking forward to tomorrow's position report to see where we stand against Green Buffalo.  And, No, you cannot tell us; that is outside assistance and we are not allowed to receive any except for emergency situations.

The sailing today is again in beautiful sunny conditions.  We are heading on very close to a dead run with the spinnaker flying.  The wind is about 10-12 knots and we are making about 7 knots towards Hawaii.  The weather forecast I am receiving shows similar conditions for the next three days - comfortable sailing!  Wish we had more wind, can't wait to taste that Mai Tai at Kaneohe YC!  Looks like that won't be until Monday.

Conditions on board are good - we are fully settled into our routine, 4 hours on followed by 6 hours off (except for me), followed by 4 hours on, followed by 6 hours off,....  In the 6 hours I have off, I update our chart positions, get the weather analysis and wind maps, compute our course to Hawaii, try to guess what our competition is doing (easy right now with Bombaro - we can see them.)  Once all this is done, I set the course for us to follow for the next 24 hours, but checking every time I come off watch and then again just before I go back on watch.

We have plenty of food and water so we are not going hungry.  Tonight it is my turn to cook.  I have put a meatloaf and two tians (vegetable dishes) in the oven for dinner tonight.  Thank you Rene'.  So better start dinner.

All is well on Highlander - best wishes to you all from The Highlander crew.

Andy Kurtz, skipper, Columbia 57 Angelique -

Hi from Angelique

We today we still didn't have any sun... feels like we are in Seattle gloomy and overcast except its not cold... 

had some excitement with the big asymmetrical kite, the winds are still to shifty for us to hold a reasonable course and fly it, but we tried anyway and wound up wrapping it around the head-stay about 500 times... fortunately with good teamwork we were able to get it off the head stay and  back on deck without damaging anything except our collective pride. The sock that came with this spinnaker is total junk... I'm going to see if I can return it as the first time we have used the sail the hoop in the end of the sock broke and as a result it was nearly impossible to use... in fact we are canning that spinnaker until for the race. Moving onto chute # 2 tomorrow, if we can position ourselves a bit better for a spinnaker run overnight tonight. 

Unfortunately we did do some damage to my cap rail during a jibe,I had lead the preventer in a less than desirable path and when we jibed the preventer line put too much pressure on a stanchion and that cracked the cap rail, so i have a bit of a repair job there. the other bummer thing that happened is that the wifi extender antenna blew off... I don't know when or how it could have but its gone today... 

other than that everyone is happy and having a great sail. We all still think we could pass a boat or possibly two based on what we have been plotting and guessing that they will be doing...  although our present course isn't really helping with that.. going due south looking for better wind and a better wind angle.

Aloha for n ow...

Andy.

Alex Simanis, skipper, Evelyn 32-2 Poke and Destroy

We spent the night in an odd squall line. The breeze flipped from 7 to 22 knots and veered 60+ degrees.  We opted for the A4 spinnaker as we saw a bunch of cloud activity as we were getting ready for night time. It was a good call.  The A4 is full-sized, but fairly flat in the head making it handle transitions in wind velocity and direction well. 

The boat is screaming along at easily 8 to 10 knots all the time. Really making tracks.  We expect to reach the halfway point of the race tomorrow afternoon.  The crew is happy and jovial.   

Been getting a bunch of squid on deck overnight.  Nick got one to the face last night!  This will be our last day of prepared food.  Into freeze dried food tomorrow.  

Cheers from the crew as we have been able to manage our batteries.  Our solar panel will not fully charge the batteries, so we are playing games with them.  We get instruments all night, and turn everything off for a while during the day.  The Velocitek compass is solar powered and works like a dream.  We just won’t know what our top speed has been.  We saw 14.2 knots once.

Hannah Droesbeke, Jeanneau Sun Fast 3200 Dare Dare

Hello from Dare Dare!

A few days without news from us as we were busy playing hide and seek with the initial low pressure weirdness. For a couple of days now, we are finally sailing under spinnaker, in good winds, and the boat is happy to be surfing at last.

This is the first Pacific Cup for all of us onboard, and we are having a blast. No foie gras (yet) nor amazing red wines here, as our big French brothers are having in the front, but we are putting all our hearts and skills in our freeze dried meals. Of course, a few cheeses and cured meats for our daily « happy hour », when the whole Dare Dare family gets together and chats about the latest news (soccer for a while, and bets on what Outremer had for dinner).

Yesterday was shower day, everyone got two extra baby wipes to do a full body reboot, how lucky!