Under brilliant sunny skies and mellow winds, about half of the Pacific Cup fleet set sail today, bound for Kaneohe Bay, Oahu. With both race committee and spectators reveling in the warm and sunny conditions, four starts were cleanly executed just off of the St. Francis Yacht Club.
The first division to cross the starting line was the Coral Reef Sailing Apparel Division A. The slowest of the regular handicap divisions, this is the smallest of the divisions in the race with just four boats entered. Pitting three heavy, 38-40 foot racer-cruisers against an ultralight Express 27, this class is likely to be heavily influenced by the prevailing conditions along the race course. As a result, it wasn’t a surprise to see Jim Quanci’s Cal 40 Green Buffalo sailing out to an early yet commanding lead in the light-to-moderate upwind conditions the fleet saw at the start. In the early stages of this race - windy and upwind to reaching - Green Buffalo is likely to sail to her rating as well or better than anything else in the fleet, thanks to veteran skipper Jim Quanci and his seasoned crew. If the current conditions hold, Green Buffalo may well be one of the early favorites to assume an overall handicap lead.
The next start is one of the most anticipated races in recent memory. One of those races that is sure to be long remembered, when the Pacific Cup celebrated its 20th edition, one of the most legendary designs in the history of the race put together a huge one-design division. With six Express 27s racing doublehanded in the DH1 Pau Maui Vodka division, not to mention Rebecca Hinden’s Bombora sailing fully crewed in Division A, the Express 27 fleet has showed up in force to help us celebrate our 20th in style. When the gun went off, 3 boats hit the line in perfect buoy-racing form while the other 3 took a slightly more conservative approach. No surprise there, but pre-race favorite Motorcycle Irene was right in the middle of the front row. Halfway up the Bay however, Irene was dumping the jib and ducking starboard tack boats. While class stalwarts and multi-time class champions Will Paxton and Zachery Anderson may be favored to pilot their ultra-trick Motorcycle Irene to a class victory, this fleet is deep with talent and if the first beat to open water was any indication, we’re in for a very close battle.
DH2 Mount Gay Rum division got off the line third and was all the spectacle that it been made up to be. In addition to another very healthy and competitive doublehanded division with quality entrants, the race saw history made when Charles Devanneaus’s all-new Beneteau Figaro 3 A Fond le Girafon crossed the starting line and became the first boat equipped with foils to ever begin a Pacific Cup. While the throngs of viewers from the shore, the race deck and other boats were focused on the distinctive orange foils emanating from A Fond le Girafon’s hull, we got the sense that the skipper was living a very special and memorable moment. Sailing in his 4th doublehanded Pac Cup, Devanneaux is sailing in this year’s race to raise money and awareness for the ALS community. Also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, Devanneaux’s former Pacific Cup co-skipper Gilles Galerne passed away from the disease, and this race is being sailed in his honor, and to raise funds and awareness for the cause.
With Devanneaux’s Beneteau being both a literal and figurative exhibition of beauty - the boat is not being scored officially as handicappers simply don’t know how to rate the boat and its revolutionary hydrofoils - she and the rest of the DH2 Mount Gay class tacked out the Bay in close formation, with pre-race favorites Bill and Melinda Erkelens staking their claim to the pre-race hype by nailing the start and jumping out to an early lead on their ultra-quick Jim Donovan designed MORC 30 footer Wolfpack. Having won the division the last two times they raced, they stand a chance to be very high in the overall rankings as well if the weather plays to their Monday start advantage. Dialed to the nines and sailed by a legendary couple, Wolfpack will be tough to beat. With such a wide array of ultralights and also a J/120 in the mix however, this is a fleet stacked with good sailors on fast boats; anything could happen and it should be a treat to watch.
The Kolea Cruising Division got off the line last and thundered away towards open water, with many of the larger performance cruising boats pacing well up the Bay. The biggest division in the race with 14 boats registered, the cruising division will not be counted in the overall scoring and results, but will instead race for their own prizes and under slightly modified rules that allow some motoring. Make no mistake though, these boats are fully ready to sail to Hawaii. With more robust boats and systems than many of the pure thoroughbred racing boats in the fleet, the cruising division has some very fast boats in it, and given the right conditions and their Monday start, a fast 50-foot cruiser could easily be the first boat into Hawaii. Interestingly enough, Vendée Globe veteran Tanguy de Lamotte recently relocated from France to Sausalito and has ended up sailing on Emmanuel Sauquet’s beautiful Hanse 505 Outremer. With a fast cruising platform, an all French crew and some pretty sporty looking sails, we expect Outremer and Hanse 505 sistership Anais to be among the first boats into Kaneohe.
Weather conditions should strengthen as the fleet moves offshore and into the night. You can follow the race on the Yellow Brick tracker, and make sure to keep an eye on our social media accounts as we are uploading content constantly.
Pac Cup 2018 media