July 20 race report

As of this writing, Charles Devanneaux's revolutionary, hydrofoil-equipped Beneteau Figaro 3 A Fond le Girafon is just 50 miles from the finish line in Kaneohe and is destined to become the first finisher in the 2018 Pacific Cup! Though Devanneaux and co-skipper Matthieu Damerval are not racing for any official awards given their 'experimental' rating, they have sailed a phenomenal race and will leave their own special mark on the Pacific Cup. One hundred miles behind A Fond le Girafon, the fleet's scratch boat, Prospector, is also lining up a day time arrival on Friday, cruising at a steady 14-15 knots and still sitting pretty atop the leaderboard as your provisional 2018 Pacific Cup winner. While the finishers are approaching the finish and preparing to taste their first sip of a very hard earned Mai Tai, many in the fleet are licking their wounds and merely trying to get to the finish as gear breakage and carnage is beginning to rear it's ugly head in this long and grueling ocean race.

Behind these leading two boats, Antrim 27 Bacon Berger and Donovan 30 Wolfpack are steaming into the finish, now less than a day out, to decide a prolonged battle for supremacy in the Mount Gay Rum/ DH2 division. Wolfpack has a three hour lead on corrected time, while Bacon Berger has only recently displaced the Moore 24 Foamy for second on the leaderboard. Foamy is currently only an hour and a half behind Bacon Berger on corrected time with more than two days left to sail. For Bill and Melinda Erkelens on Wolfpack, the Vestas/ 11th Hour team boss and his wife look to make it three wins in a row in this division, while Frederic Berg (the KYC commodore) and Mikey Bacon are sailing towards their home club in style, awaiting a hero's welcome that is normally only the stuff of dreams.

Like the DH2 division, the Pau Maui Vodka/ DH1 division is coming down to the wire, though Andy Goodman's Express 27 Loose Cannon has simply been unstoppable since reaching the top position on the leaderboard. Sailing with co-skipper Julia Paxton, the two are in a drag race with Motorcycle Irene, yet aren't giving up an inch and maintaining a scant four-hour lead on corrected time. While they may be rivals on the race course, pushing each other to limits previously never explored, they are in reality one large family. For Loose Cannon co-skipper Julia Paxton and Irene co-skipper Will Paxton, both cousins and rockstar sailors from Richmond Yacht Club, this battle has more than just a trophy riding on it; we're talking future bragging rights here! Fired up and Yeti are fighting for the final podium position. 

Team Poke and Destroy has continued their assault on the leaderboard in the Alaska Airlines C division, now moving past the J/92 Zaff for first place. As of this writing, Alex Simanis' Evelyn 32-2 has just a four minute lead on corrected, though has been making gains of a few hours a day on Zaff in the light-to-moderate dead downwind conditions that the fleet is sailing in. With a boat that excels across a wide range of conditions and a crew that has been sailing her well and really dialing in the offshore sail inventory, we are not surprised at all to see Poke and Destroy, a Seattle-based entry doing as well as they are. They have sailed a fantastic race so far in this supremely competitive division. Likewise, Zaff, another out of town boat is not surprisingly nearly tied for the lead, though beginning to fade. When we learned of the background of these young, hardcore Melges sailing Canadians on the little 30-foot sportboat, we knew they would bring a lot to the table. If you have not yet seen it, CBS' Don Ford did a story on the Zaff crew, and you can see it hereSweet Okole and Aloha are just four and eight hours off the lead, respectively. The Archambault Mirthmaker reports that their spinnaker pole track has ripped off of the mast, which will certainly hinder them for the duration of the race. They can still fly some assymetrical spinnakers, but won't be able to square back and run deep as they previously had been. As with many boats in the fleet, breakages, both big and little are becoming a huge reality. 

Sitting more solidly atop the Coral Reef Sailing Apparel A division is Jim Quanci on the Cal 40 Green Buffalo, who looks to be legging out a bit on his closest pursuer, Rebecca Hinden's Express 27 Bombora. With conditions going light across much of the race course, the conditions would favor the bigger, longer Cal 40. As of this morning, Buffalo was three hours clear of Bombora, who was likewise three hours clear of Morgan 382 Eliana and Highlander. Bob Horton's Cal 40 Highlander had been battling for the lead in this division, even briefly running at the head of the fleet just a couple of days ago. They're now slipping back at a very fast rate as they report damage to their boom, at 0315 in the morning, and that they will be making their way to the finish under headsails. We don't want to be too speculative, but given the hour and the damage, an accidental gybe seems the likely culprit. We will eagerly anticipate their next blog, which we will post up here. Note the Highlander blog we post below this article was written before the boom-breaking incident.

Weems & Plath B division sees Karl Haflinger's J/35 Shearwater beginning to leg out on the competition and build up a cushion in this light-air downwind section of the race. Davidson 44 Imagine, really sailing a fantastic race themselves, is just seven hours off the pace but has their hands full with the Farr 1220 The Fugitive and the Grand Soleil 50 Alessandra just a further two hours off the pace. This is really turning into a long race for the B division, as they got the worst start day and are now beginning to see patches of light-air that the rest of the fleet won't have. In fact, the last two to three boats are seriously in danger of missing the week of parties in Kaneohe and the awards ceremony, owing to the nature of the boats and where they fit into the start day lottery. 

Rufus Sjoberg and his assembled crew of very talented sailors aboard the Melges 32 Rufless are finally doing what we've been waiting for, and fully expecting, them to do for the last two Pac Cups; charging towards the lead of their division and even first of all Wednesday and Thursday starters (the two worst start days). A few days ago, it was the Columbia Carbon 32 Six Brothers that was beginning to lead the charge of the two 32-foot sportboats against their much larger, heavier divisional rivals. With a bit more volume in the bow, the newer Tim Kernan designed Six Brothers was surging along in the heavier conditions, where the Melges 32 is reported to begin burying the bow a lot and suffering. In these more moderate conditions however, Rufless simply looks unstoppable and is moving up the leaderboard at a rapid clip, now just 7 minutes behind Zamazaan as of this writing. In the later stages of this race, watch for both Rufless and Six Brothers to move into first and second in division and duke it out amongst themselves. Zamazaan will soon have her hands full with J World's Hula Girl, who should also excel in the light-to-moderate downwind stuff. 

Pyewacket continues to lead BMW of San Rafael E division, while Prospector has moved past the Riptide 41 Blue on the leaderboard, though second place is certainly still up for grabs. Two major developments are that the Andrews 70 Runaway has moved into second overall on the Pacific Cup leaderboard behind Prospector. Remember, Pyewacket and Blue are not eligible for overall honors due to ORR/ PHRF rule differences/ sails. This is certainly one of the major storylines of this race, and will be debriefed and written about at greater length once this race is over. The Friday start, which was originally forecast to be the worst day, turned out to be arguably the best day, and those boats surged to the top of the overall leaderboard. This unexpected missed forecast meant that Pyewacket and Blue likely made different decisions based on which sails to carry, as they had no illusions of being in contention for the overall victory. Had they known the overall was on the table, they likely wouldn't have carried their "tweener" reaching sails, legal under ORR but not under PHRF, and Pacific Cup 2018 would likely have a different overall leader. It's a challenging situation, but one which has been handled with grace, humility and corinthian spirit by both race committee and the competitors themselves. But in the future, a different solution could represent a more equitable competition for all parties involved. No one ever said running a sailboat race was easy, and this situation is one of the intricate challenges that are inherent with a race of this magnitude. 

Of note, two boom breaks in the last 24 hours: Angelique and Highlander have each reported broken booms.  Both are proceeding safely, still racing, to Hawaii. No injuries.  All good.

The pair of Hanse 505's at the head of the Kolea Cruising division continue to lead the way into Kaneohe. Anais leads Outremer by a comfortable margin with Bear Boat and Gusto the next in line. As the leaders enter the last day and a half of their race, there are stragglers littered across the course that could well be coming in after the awards ceremony in this big, diverse fleet. Note that the two multihulls both started the race late and don't seem to be in too much of a hurry to get here. With light-air beginning to settle in across different sections of the course, the fleet's back markers - already the slowest and heaviest boats out there - will be the most impacted. Fortunately, we don't think they're in any great hurry to get to Kaneohe. 

The Pac Cup media team is on the ground in Kaneohe and will be preparing to greet our first finisher, A Fond le Girafon, as soon as this article is posted. 

Aloha from Kaneohe,

-Ronnie Simpson

Pac Cup Media 2018