Twenty-four more hours into this 20th edition of the Pacific Cup and we have continued to gain clarity on how much of the fleet may end up once all is said and done. With several boats beginning to line up their final approaches to the Hawaiian Islands, Charles Devanneaux and co-skipper Matthieu Damnerval look to have re-staked their claim to being the first boat over the finish line. After much uncertainty due to temporarily slowing down in light winds while the fleet's fastest boat came screaming up from behind, the two Frenchman on the revolutionary new Beneteau Figaro 3 now look set to finish what they started and be the first boat into Kaneohe. Just behind them, plenty of other storylines continue to play themselves out. Prospector may not be the first boat into the barn, but with the fleet's scratch boat still making 15 knots and now under 500 miles out, she should be in late Friday or early Saturday and remain in pole position to claim the Pacific Cup overall victory. Behind the Mark Mills designed mini-maxi, Hector Velarde's Andrews 70 Runaway has now just barely moved into second overall in the Pac Cup rankings, having displaced the leading Express 27, Loose Cannon, overnight.
While Prospector and Runaway have moved into podium positions in the overall rankings, it's still Roy Pat Disney's Andrews 68 Pyewacket which sits atop the race's premier BMW of San Rafael E division, though that lead is no longer insurmountable as Michael Schoendorf's Riptide 41 Blue has made massive inroads into Pyewacket's corrected time lead and now sits just eight and a half hours back on corrected time; not ultra-close but not out of striking distance either. With both boats having multi-time Olympic medallists aboard and stacked deep with talent, this is a fascinating race between two very well sailed boats. Prospector remains third in division with Runaway in fourth.
Working back down through the fleet, we see that the Pasha Hawaii D division has even further compressed and for the first time since departing San Francisco, we may soon have a new leader. After jumping out to a resounding lead in the very early stages of the race and then maintaining for much of it, Gregory Mullins' Farr 52 Zamazaan, stocked with several of San Francisco's top professional sailors, is now relegated to play defense against the pair of ultra-quick 32-footers that look destined to shake up the rankings in D division. Once past the light upwind and sheets-cracked reaching stages of this Pacific Cup, Chris Kramer's Six Brothers and Rufus Sjoberg's Rufless have been on a steady rise up through the ranks, and with both boats reveling in the off-the-breeze surfing conditions that define the latter stages of the Pacific Cup, are now attempting to take ownership of the D division's top spot. As of this morning, Six Brothers and Rufless were just 4 hours and 7 hours behind Zamazaan on corrected time, after both displacing J World's Hula Girl, and knocking this division's defending champion off the podium and into fourth place. With the D fleet boats passing the halfway point yesterday, there should still be plenty of race track left for the Columbia Carbon 32 Six Brothers and Melges 32 Rufless to burn past Zamazaan, though we don't know which order they'll be in when they do it. Rufless and her crew certainly know the way to Hawaii, but Six Brothers won't be easy to pass, with the oftentimes under-appreciated Tim Kernan design having proven itself to be an absolute weapon in the ocean.
Alaska Airlines C division was predicted to be a barn-burner from the get-go, and it has exceeded even our wildest expectations. Phil Wampold's J/92 Zaff, full of young Melges sailing Canadians, has sailed an absolutely incredible race thus far, but as we have been long anticipating, she is beginning to have a hard time handling her competition in the dead-downwind running stages of the Pacific Cup. Morale is certainly high on Alex Simanis' Evelyn 32-2 Poke and Destroy, with the Seattle based crew beginning to look unstoppable in their quest to move atop the leaderboard in one of this year's most competitive divisions. The team is having the time of their life as they continually chip away at Zaff's lead after doing the same to Sweet Okole earlier this week. Poke and Destroy is now more than seven and a half hours clear of Okole, and less than three and a half hours behind Zaff on corrected, and moving very well under their A2 spinnaker in 12-15 knots of breeze. After bailing the media guy out with a much needed and last minute ride to the train station on the first day of starts, we're happy to have the chance to shower Poke and Destroy with triumphant superlatives.
Karl Haflinger's J/35 Shearwater remains atop the big Weems & Plath B division, which still has more than half the race to sail. Since being the slower division to start on arguably the slowest day of starts, this Pacific Cup is proving to be the race where the fun just won't stop as B division's backmarkers are now in a race against the clock if they are even to make it into Kaneohe before the awards. Wyatt Jones' Davidson 44 Imagine isn't far off the pace, just four hours back as of this writing, while The Fugitive, Alessandra and Free also remain well in contention.
Coral Reef Sailing Apparel A division is once again led by race stalwart Jim Quanci and his classic Cal 40 Green Buffalo. After compressing and consolidating for days with Bob Horton's Highlander, the two Cal 40's briefly engaged in a match race yesterday, which predictably went in favor of veteran skipper Quanci and crew. Again displaying how close this A division is, recent division leader Highlander has moved from first place to last place, as there's virtually nothing in it on corrected time, with second through fourth virtually tied. As anticipated, Rebecca Hinden's Express 27 Bombora is again beginning to make moves up the leaderboard in the closing stages, and we would suspect the little red ultralight to pull away from Morgan 382 Eliana and Highlander. With close to 600 miles left to sail for the A fleet boats, there's still plenty of time for one good day of surfing - or even a prolonged squall - to help eat up the two and a half hour deficit to division leader Green Buffalo.
The fleet's two doublehanded divisions continue to excite with both divisions still up for grabs after a number of lead changes. Loose Cannon remains atop Pau Maui Vodka/ DH1 (and in third overall) with a lead of nearly five hours over Motorcycle Irene, though Irene has begun her late race charge and now sits firmly in second place with nearly 500 miles left to sail for the Express 27s. Irene co-skipper and professional sailor Will Paxton has been a part of countless divisional and overall winning efforts in both the Pac Cup and the Transpac, and can never be counted out in a Hawaii race. While we lauded Motorcycle Irene as heavy pre-race favorites, and were vindicated in that prediction in the early reaching stages of this race, Loose Cannon, Alternate Reality and Fired Up! have all proven that the level of competition in this fleet is incredibly high, even higher than we thought, and all of the crews deserve a heck of a lot of credit for sailing absolutely phenomenal races.
Mount Gay Rum/ DH2 has finally seen pre-race favorite and two-time defending division champion Wolfpack, piloted by husband/ wife duo Bill and Melinda Erkelens make their move and assume the lead over Lester Robertson's Moore 24 Foamy. Both crews have been racing to Hawaii longer than much of their competition has been alive, and it shows. Playing the south hard since day one, we all watched as they faded deep down the rankings early on with the J/105 Abstract looking good up north. As is usually the case however, the northerly boats faded and on cue, these ultra-experienced race veterans cashed in their chips to make late race moves to the top of the leaderboard. Separated by less than an hour on corrected time as of this writing, Wolfpack has under 400 miles left to sail, while Foamy is about a day further back. Frederic Berg and Mikey Bacon have been playing the middle ground on the Antrim 27 Bacon Berger for nearly the entire race and still have an outside shot at winning the division, and currently fill the final podium position in this hard-fought race.
The quickest cruisers in the Kolea cruising division are now under 500 miles from Kaneohe, and it is beginning to look more and more like Matt Solhjem's Hanse 505 Anais is going to pull of the upset and take down sistership Outremer; a result of Outremer's northerly routing and parking it up in the big wind hole that claimed many of the first wave of starter's top boats including Green Buffalo, Abstract and A Fond le Girafon. Paul Koenig's Jeannuea Sun Odyssey 40.3 Bear Boat rounds out the podium with the first arrivals scheduled to be get in over the weekend.
The media team will be based at Kaneohe Yacht Club from tonight, awaiting the fleet's first boats, which should start trickling in as early as Friday afternoon.
Pac Cup Media 2018
Quotes from the competitors -
Evelyn 32-2 Poke and Destroy - Alex Simanis, skipper -
Good morning. Yesterday brought us our halfway party. We got plenty of wonderful treats and trinkets. A special shout out to everyone who contributed to our halfway party.
Mid-way through our party a big 25 to 30 knot breeze came. We had a blast for a few hours. Later, as the wind subsided, we decided to jibe to port to consolidate with the rhumb line. Seemed like a good move.
The P&D crew settled in for a beautiful starlit evening with a nice sliver of moon and 19 to 25 knots of wind. From midnight to 7 am was very, very wet, at times very windy and at times lacking wind. It was a very tough early morning with all four of us on deck for this as we did kite peels and sail transitions.
The breeze is back to our usual 12 to 15 knots and we are rolling along with the rock solid A2 we have named Sunshine. Bitchin’ workhorse of a sail. Now we had our morning breakfast treat of biscuits and gravy and trying to get things dried out.
We made a good move yesterday – the boat is moving well.
Cal 40 HIghlander -
Last night we enjoyed some crazy sailing. As the sun set, we continued on our route with no changes planned. The wind was a pleasant 10 knots and the skies were clear. We looked for squalls and none were to be found at first. But as the night progressed, so the latent humidity started to produce squalls. At first they were relatively easy, a decrease in wind with a change in direction, then a punch with a 30 degree wind shift. As the night continued, so the punches became stronger. Down below, the boat would shudder as the punch slammed. You would get pitched across the bunk and the boat would creak and bang as it accelerated quickly. And so this continued through the night.
At dawn, the wind had shifted and we were no longer making our preferred course to Kaneohe. So, we called a gybe, all hands, and turned the boat to point south. The winds were nice and we moved along in about 12 knots of wind. At about 9:00am the radio crackled into life and it was again Bombora calling to Green Buffalo. Obviously they could see Green Buffalo, but no response came back. We looked at our chartplotter and there she was, about 10 miles abeam of us, directly abeam, but over the horizon. We could see them electronically, (Green Buffalo has his ships transponder , AIS, running which we pick up on our chartplotter). we were running side by side just out of sight of each other. Then an hour later we received the standings report and so it was, Green Buffalo and Highlander were tied for first in our division.
I spent quite some time studying the wind forecasts (Gribs) to see what our strategy should be. The software wants us to gybe back onto starboard and head west for a couple of days before gybing over to port for the final leg down to Kaneohe. Green Buffalo must see that too but is continuing on port southwards alongside. We are diverging and soon his AIS signal disappears from the screen and we are once again alone. I don't like the option to gybe immediately, the weather forecast is so unstable that that choice gives us no options should it change, so we continue on port. We'll gybe over later today.
Analyzing the standings report it looks like Bombora is going to take the northern route to the finish, Eliana is going down the middle while Green Buffalo and Highlander will continue to search the fastest route to the finish. The fact that we are together at this stage of the race is remarkable and we are pleased with how we have done so far. But all could change! This is not a typical year as far as the weather is concerned.
On the boat we have had a relaxing afternoon, eating, driving and napping. The skies are a rich blue and the seas are a gorgeous deep blue. Not much wildlife has been spotted. We do have a petrel that seems to be following us. It appears from nowhere and circles the boat a few times and then flies away - probably to check other boats for tasty scraps. (None coming from this boat - all is going into our stomachs!) We have seen a few flying fish and we found a dead squid on the deck but nothing else. Perhaps we will be visited by dolphins as we get closer to Hawaii.
We are 700 miles from the finish and our projects are to finish on Monday afternoon. Let's see how that goes. The grib files are showing very fluky winds ahead.
That's life aboard Highlander. Thank you for all your comments, they are gratefully received. Rene' has been doing a sterling job passing them on to us.
Best wishes from the crew of Highlander.