Pac Cup fleet on the home stretch with most divisions still up for grabs.
Kane'ohe, Hawai'i, July 18, 2018 – With a large fleet of racing yachts between 24 and 70 feet long, including a record-setting cruising division, two multihulls and even the first boat equipped with lifting hydrofoils in the history the race, the 2018 Pac Cup has proven to be one for the ages. In stark contrast to the last edition of the race, which was run during a very active super el niño occurrence, the 20th edition of the Pacific Cup has marked a return to more traditional, if not benign, conditions for the biennial 2,070 nautical mile race from San Francisco to Hawai'i. With a constantly evolving weather scenario, the race has been a navigator's duel which is poised to come down to the wire in most divisions and in the overall rankings.
Standings - as of 0600 HST
As of this writing, the Pacific Cup award for best overall corrected time in the fleet is far from decided. The Cal 40 Green Buffalo held that position for much of the first half of the race, but after sailing into lighter winds north of the rhumbline, the Mills 68 Prospector has come storming up from behind, benefiting from better than expected conditions on her Friday start, to assume the top position. Virtually tied with Prospector however is the ultra-lightweight Express 27 Loose Cannon, while a handful of other boats are still in contention to take away the most prestigious award of this race.
In the Coral Reef Sailing Apparel A division, Green Buffalo looked to have things wrapped up fairly early on, but after her northerly routing put her into a patch of lighter winds, the other three boats in division, an Express 27, another Cal 40 and a Morgan 382 cruising yacht have all made massive gains and still have a realistic shot at the class win, or a podium position. As of this writing, the two Cal 40's are quite literally tied, both in terms of distance to finish and corrected time.
The Weems & Plath B division had a massive number of ten yachts entered and remains a close battle, though the Farr 1220 The Fugitive has consistently found herself atop the leaderboard and has proven quite hard to pass. Three performance cruising yachts between 44 and 50 feet remain within hours of the B fleet lead however, with nearly 1,000 miles left to sail for most of the competitors.
The Alaska Airlines C division was long anticipated as being one of the most competitive in this race, and it has surely not disappointed. The J/92 Zaff from Victoria, BC, Canada holds a narrow lead over one of the most famous and storied yachts in this race, the Farr 36 Sweet Okole. Okole has been sailing the Pacific Cup since the race's inception and after another round of modifications, the Hawaiian-built racing yacht is faster than ever and hungry for another divisional win. The battle for the final podium spot has virtually nothing in it as the Hobie 33 Aloha and the Evelyn 32-2 Poke and Destroy are match racing down the rhumbline, still within a few hours of the divisional lead.
Pasha Hawaii D division is the smaller of the two ORR fleets, and represents one of the most classic of Pacific Cup fleets. Mostly comprised of 45-52 foot thoroughbred racing yachts, two ultra-fast 32 footers are also in this division. After struggling early on due to their shorter length, they look to light up in the closing stages of this race and make their way to the podium, though the Farr 52 Zamazaan has made her return to a trans-Pacific race by dominating the fleet from the get-go.
The BMW of San Rafael E division is home to the biggest and fastest yachts in the Pacific Cup. Since unexpectedly slipping away from the coast without getting trapped in the forecast light airs, the top two boats have put in a couple of performances for the ages. The ultra-successful Andrews 68 Pyewacket, sailing with 5-time Olympic medalist Torben Grael (BRA) and a host of Volvo Ocean Race superstars aboard, has opened up a massive lead in division and should end up with the fastest corrected time in the entire race, though due to a specialty reaching sail that is legal under the Offshore Racing Rule (ORR), but not under the Performance Handicap Rating Formula (PHRF), which is the rule used to decide the overall winner, Pyewacket is ineligible to claim the overall honors. Poised to finish second in division, first over the finish line and with the fastest elapsed time in the entire race, the Mills 68 Prospector may well end up claiming the overall Pacific Cup corrected honors.
There are two doublehanded divisions this year. The Pau Maui Vodka/ DH1 division includes six nearly identical Express 27's who are racing for the first time ever as a one-design fleet. As of this writing, Loose Cannon holds the lead, but with Fired Up!, Alternate Reality and pre-race favorite Motorcycle Irene all within a few hours on corrected time, it's virtually impossible to declare a favorite this far out. The other doublehanded division, the Mount Gay Rum/ DH2 division has seen a constant shuffling of the leaderboard and as of this writing, the race's smallest boat, the Moore 24 Foamy holds the smallest of leads over the Donovan 30 Wolfpack and Santa Cruz 27 Zipper. Three other yachts are still in contention for the win, sailing just a handful of hours off the pace as of this writing with plenty of race track left. Also sailing in the DH2 division is the all-new Beneteau Figaro 3 A Fond le Girafon, the first boat to ever sail in the Pacific Cup with lifting hydrofoils. Girafon set a cracking pace early and was poised to be the first boat into Kane'ohe, but has since faded after reaching the same patch of light airs north of the rhumbline.
The largest division in the race, the Kolea Cruising division boasted 14 yachts at the start and has been led by a pair of Hanse 505 cruising yachts since the start. Perennial leader Outremer slowed significantly in the light airs persistent north of rhumbline allowing sistership Anais to make massive gains and once again make it a close race.
With just under half the race still to be sailed for most boats in fleet, there's still plenty of time to make a comeback, or throw it all away, before a finish just off of beautiful Kane'ohe Bay, O'ahu. Light to moderate trades are forecast, around 15 knots, though some light spots will exist on the race course. Once boats are within 200 or so miles of the finish, they should see an increase in pressure as the breeze generally accelerates when making final approach to the Hawai'ian Islands.