July 21 race report

Saturday sees more than just great racing in this 20th edition of the 2018 Pacific Cup. It also brings celebration, embrace of loved ones, relaxation and a reprieve from the elements. The first two boats, A Fond le Girafon and Prospector finished Friday while Bacon Berger and Wolfpack arrived over night, and as of this writing we are preparing to welcome in the fleet’s first sled, Runaway in the next hour or so. Meanwhile, the vast majority of the racers are still out there on the course and entering the final and most critical sections of their race. 

Two division leaders are coming in hot and should be finishing in the middle of this afternoon, both securing resounding victories over tough competition. First up is Roy Pat Disney’s Andrews 68 Pyewacket, who is currently blazing a path towards Kaneohe at close to 15 knots in breeze that doesn’t look like it’s going to let up, making for a quick finish for these soon-to-be BMW of San Rafael E division champions. Coming back year after year after year in both the Transpac and the Pac Cup, Pyewacket is a truly admirable program. Constantly optimizing their Alan Andrews designed sled, the boat is always in immaculate condition and crewed by the best of the best. With a 5-time Olympic medallist, a trio of Volvo studs and some of the top pros on the west coast, many of whom have been sailing together for decades, Pyewacket is a class act and represents a beautiful expression of the Disney family’s passion for yachting. Second place in the E fleet has been scooped up the Shelter Island Transatlantic Partners’ Mark Mills designed 68’ mini-maxi Prospector, who finished up just before sunset on Friday to evening to be the second boat into Kaneohe and to secure the fastest elapsed time in the race, at 7 days 6 hours and 50 minutes. Due to the differences across the rating systems and pre-race sail inventory decisions, Pyewacket is again not eligible for overall corrected time honors, and so with a second in division finish, Prospector remains on top for overall Pacific Cup honors. As of this writing, Hector Velarde’s Andrews 70 Runaway is steaming into the finish to secure third in division, though first sled over the line. 

The fleet’s only other Friday finisher was Charles Devanneaux’ Beneteau Figaro 3 A Fond le Girafon, who finished just after 1 pm local time to become the first boat over the finish line. The two Frenchman, including co-skipper Matthieu Damerval, sailed into Kaneohe with an elapsed time of 11 days 4 hours 24 minutes. Having led the first wave of starters from the get-go, the all new foil-assisted monohull blazed a fast path to Kaneohe to make history in this great race. On the 20th edition of the Pac Cup, the first ‘foiling’ boat in the race’s history led wire-to-wire and was first over the line. It may not mean much in the overall rankings, owing to the boat’s ‘experimental’ rating, but when looking back at this year’s race, A Fond le Girafon surely won’t be forgotten anytime soon. Sailing to raise funds and awareness for the ALS disease, skipper Charles Devanneaux has now completed four Pacific Cups, and we look forward to greeting him upon arrival of his fifth. Bravo boys! Superbe!

Coming in over night was the top two boats in the DH2/ Mount Gay Rum division with Wolfpack and Bacon Berger both arriving around 4 am and 1 am respectively. When Bill and Melinda Erkelens sailed their Donovan 30 Wolfpack into Kaneohe for their third and perhaps final time, they did it again as champions. Though they fe.l way back in the rankings for much of the race, their long-term strategy of investing in the south paid off massive dividends at the end as they came in with stronger pressure and steadily climbed the leaderboard and took control of the division. To win however, they had to beat the wicked up little Antrim 27 Bacon Berger, who sailed lights out all the way across the Pacific to claim a close second place in division finish, and third boat over the finish line. For Kaneohe Yacht Club Commodore and co-skipper Frederic Berg and fellow member and skipper Mike Bacon, this will be a great moment at the club above all other great moments at the club. Sailing all the way up to the Bulkhead in the middle of the night, the pair were greeted by a great crowd of family and friends for some well deserved mai tais. Lester Robertson’s Moore 24 Foamy still remains solid in third place with well over a day to left to finish. 

When the first boat in this year’s highly anticipated DH1/ Pau Maui Vodka division surfs into Kaneohe, it won’t be the boat that many originally expected. Don’t call it an upset however, Express 27 fleet insiders have been predicting Andy Goodman and Julia Paxton on Loose Cannon to be very tough to beat, with many indicating that they were indeed the smart money choice. This writer will admit to thinking Motorcycle Irene was nearly unbeatable, especially when they had a massive boat speed advantage in the early sections of this race. Friendly family rival Loose Cannon proved to be more than a match for the perennial Express fleet champions however, and we can’t wait to welcome them in after a phenomenal race! We look forward to greeting both boats late tonight and hearing in their own words how the race transpired. Second placed Irene has a solid cushion over Fired Up!, Alternate Reality and YETI, who are all in a near dead heat to claim the final podium position. 

The Alaska Airlines C division is still very hotly contested, where the leaderboard has seen a massive re-shuffling in the past twenty-four hours. Phil Wampold’s J/92 Zaff and Dean Treadway’s Farr 36 Sweet Okole have taken advantage of their northerly position, relative to their competition, to to make gains as the breeze went soft. The division’s most southerly boat, Poke and Destroy has slowed down south, and as the breeze settles back in, the northerly boats may benefit from a better angle into the islands. Still, the top three are correcting out to within two hours and forty minutes of one another and with three extremely well sailed boats that each excel in a variety of different conditions, the highly anticipated C division looks set to come down to the wire. 

Rufus Sjoberg and his misfit crew on Rufless are beginning to firmly solidify their place in the record books. When the Reichel/ Pugh design firm was contracted to design the Melges 32 sportboat, Category 1 ocean races were pretty far down the design brief. This dedicated one-design buoy racer has been refined and massaged by renowned Bay Area boat builder and part-time Volvo Ocean Race shore crew and pro sailor Rufus Sjoberg, over a period of years now. Raising havoc on the local San Francisco offshore racing scene, we’ve been waiting for years to see Rufless fully live up to her potential in the Pac Cup. After the nuking conditions of 2016, a more tamed down approach with a smaller sail plan and a slightly slower handicap look to have paid off in 2018. Also, the comparatively lighter conditions likely played into their hands. Greg Mullins’ Farr 52 Zamazaan remains in second place, though now five hours back with J World’s Hula Girl beginning to breathe down their necks. Look for Hula Girl to make gains on second place, while Chris Kramer’s Columbia 32 Six Brothers looks to have slipped back in potentially lighter air south of the fleet. 

Coral Reef Sailing Apparel A division is beginning to sort itself out with Jim Quanci’s Cal 40 Green Buffalo well atop the leaderboard and Rebecca Hinden’s Express 27 Bombora about four hours back on corrected time and looking like a shoe-in for second place as these top two boats are just 30-36 hours out from the finish. Behind them, the Morgan 382 Eliana and the Cal 40 Highlander are duking it out, though Highlander is going ultra low and slow to the finish, as a result of their broken boom. Weems and Plath B division still sees Karl Haflinger’s J/35 Shearwater atop the fleet with The Fugitive, Alessandra, Free and Imagine duking it out for the final two podium spots. The cruisers begin to line up their approaches with Matt Solhjem’s Hanse 505 Anaïs leading the charge as sistership Outremer is about 10 hours back. 

The media team is on the ground, working hard to bring more coverage to your browser with drone video of the finishes, dock arrivals, on-dock interviews and more. Be sure to check out our Facebook and Instagram feeds for all of the content, and you can see yesterday’s full video recap here

Aloha,

Ronnie Simpson

Pac Cup Media 2018

Words from the competitors - 

J World’s Hula Girl - Santa Cruz 50 Mod - Wayne Zittel, skipper

Hula Girl checking in.  

So we are some eight days into the 2018 Pacific Cup.  We have about 500 miles to go, which should be a touch over two days.  After the super slow first couple of days getting away from the California coast (due to an atypical low that developed right in the middle of our racecourse), we've got moving and subsequently have had moderate breeze for most of the crossing....  lots of stuff in the 12-14 knot range. Enough to keep us moving, but not enough to really fire up the Hula in th Girl.  It did get a bit light and sloppy for a while this afternoon, and heaven help you if you get caught in a 'glue pot' behind a squall, that's a real show stopper for a couple hours.

So the first couple of boats have finished earlier today, and the onslaught of small boats (the early starters) should hit tomorrow and Sunday.  We are leading our division towards the finish comfortably....  BUT getting to Hawaii first is not enough, we have to 'make time' because of our handicap.  So we continue to push and race, trying to put enough miles between our Hula Girl and the rest of the fleet.  RIght now, we think we are looking pretty good for a third place, with a possible shot at second. There is still a lot of racecourse left, and we are feeling fast. Speaking as a coach, it really is gratifying to see how much everyone has improved. Early on, we usually expect to see performance in the range of 80% of polar/potential.  Getting this above 90% is a challenge...  and I'm happy to report that we were consistently sailing at 95% earlier today. Pretty sweet for a team that for the most part had not sailed together before last week.  So I have revised my expectations and....  100%, here we come!

So our speed is good and I like our positioning on the racecourse relative to the competition. Our biggest problem?  The crew in the cockpit just keeps cracking up. telling stories and having too much fun.  They are distracted, and it's annoying.  I'm off watch and was trying to sleep but they just kept yucking it up until I had to go out there and yell at them and tell them to get serious.  Absolutely kidding here, of course, and in all actuality, it is very cool how much fun everyone is having.  Seriously wouldn't matter at this point if we were the last boat to Hawaii (no Jimmy, we can NOT continue on to Tahiti), in fact I think everyone would welcome the extra sailing days!

Life onboard good.  Had dinner a bit ago, watching the sun slip toward the horizon at the moment, expecting a pretty sweet sunset.  The 'sunroof' is open and we are airing out the boat a bit, and yesterday was a big shower day for the crew so we are actually pretty civilized.  Jimmy 'Peterbuilt' is crashed out, 'Mac Truck' Mike J. just powered some gatorade in the galley then hit his bunk. Bryan is driving, Dave trimming, Russ grinding.  It's all good.  I'm going to hit send here and get up there to take some pictures...  it's an amazing evening.  This Pacific place is all right by me.

Ok, more soon....

Wayne Zittel and Team Hula Girl