Pacific Cup: Small Boat, Long Race

Published on July 7th, 2014

Dan Nitake is perhaps familiar with people’s reactions, at this point. When he tells others he’ll be racing from San Francisco to Hawaii in a Moore 24 keelboat, he often gets the response one might expect.

Sometimes, even, from the other competitors in the race – the ones whose boats are nearly three to four times larger.

“Well, they think we’re nuts,” Nitake, 58, said with a laugh. “And, to some degree, they’re right.”

The sailing inexperienced – and the seasick and the impatient and the claustrophobic, even – need not apply. The Santa Cruz (CA) skipper Nitake and his navigator Tony English will be one of 55 sailing teams competing for the Pacific Cup beginning Monday – but just one of two in a Moore 24, a 24-footer that is so small it’s not, at least on Nitake’s vessel Absinthe, equipped with a proper toilet.

Gilles Combrisson and Karl Robrock of Northern California will compete aboard Snafu, the other Moore 24 entered in the event’s two-sailor Iwi Doublehanded Division, which includes several Santa Cruz 27s.

“It’s crazy to jump into it this way,” said Robrock, 35, who has been racing Moore 24s for six years but hasn’t before competed in the Pacific Cup. “But, what the hell, everyone has to start somewhere.”

The eight-boat doublehanded division, which includes Nitake and English will embark from San Francisco for the Kaneohe Yacht Club in Oahu on Monday. Sailing a distance of 2,070 nautical miles – or roughly the driving distance between San Francisco and Indianapolis – is expected to take some 13 days in a Moore 24.

“To do it on such a small boat, it’s nutty, I will admit,” Nitake said. “I kid around when I tell people this is on my bucket list. But, in reality, I just love being off shore, and the Moore 24 is the bucket list part of it.

“I’ve always wanted to do it on a little boat. I’ve already done it on a bigger boat.”

The Pacific Cup has run every two years since 1980, and Nitake completed the journey for the first time while aboard an Olson 29 in 1994. He did it again in 2000 aboard a J/105 – a 35-foot vessel that Nitake said was the “Four Seasons” when compared to smaller boats like the Moore 24.

But there is an allure with the Moore 24, Nitake said, that is unmatched. He compared the boat, which was designed by Santa Cruz’s George Olson in 1972, to an Austin-Healey or Mini Cooper – not particularly fast but with tremendous handling.

“It’s a big surf board,” said Combrisson, 43, who noted the lightweight vessel’s agility even in open-sea conditions. Combrisson often races Moore 24s in the Santa Cruz area, and he can’t get enough.

Its light build doesn’t provide much momentum while sailing upwind, but downwind, “it’s like a rocket.”

“We’re all addicted to that, the speed and the feeling you get when going down a wave,” Combrisson said. “This race prolongs that.” – Santa Cruz Sentinel, read on

The 2070-mile Pacific Cup has staggered starts on July 6 through July 11 for the nine divisions. Since 1980, the race has been sailed from San Francisco Bay to Hawaii every other year, and since 1988 the finish has been at Kaneohe Yacht Club on Oahu. The Pacific Cup is organized by Pacific Cup Yacht Club in association with Richmond Yacht Club. Event website:

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