Pacific Cup: New and Old for 20th Edition

Published on October 23rd, 2017

by Ross Tibbits
Since the inaugural edition in 1980, the Pacific Cup has drawn from a diverse spectrum of sailors and yachts for the ocean crossing course from California to Hawaii. Seventy entrants are now eyeballing the 20th edition next year, with another chapter in the race’s storied history soon to be made.

It was that first year when Bill Lee’s 67-foot Merlin entered with her long, narrow, surf-inspired hull, reaching Hawaii in just over 10 days and winning the first-to-finish trophy. Dean Treadway’s well-known Farr designed One-Tonner Sweet Okole won her division as well. Bob Stange’s Ranger 29 Pro Tanto led division V, finishing in an agonizingly slow 17+ days.

Since that time, we’ve seen numerous yachts of many shapes and sizes, including the diminutive Moore 24 Mas! campaigned by Mark English and Ian Rogers, who won trophies for their awe-inspiring doublehanded crossing in 2016. Yet, the upcoming race arguably includes some of the most interesting entries to date.

Breaking the record to Kaneohe, Hawaii in 1994, the Wylie-designed 70-foot Rage made the crossing in 8 days, 7 hours and 13 minutes. Since that time, she’s lived up to her raison d’être and broken numerous West Coast records. Recently acquired from her original owners, Rage returns to the Pacific Cup for the first time since 2008 under her new owner, David Raney.

Wylie-designed 70-foot Rage.
© David Raney

Raney spent much of his youth around a variety of boats, large and small. But after he moved from the Bay Area to Pittsburgh in 1993, sailing became a distant memory. Realizing this gaping hole in his life, Raney decided it was time to look for another boat.

In 2015, he ran across an ad for Rage: “Pac Cup record-setter that can be sailed by a couple,” it read. Said David, “I had to see her and of course I found out that the couple was Steve and Nancy Rander.

“Walking down the dock I saw she had a tiller! In all the ads she had a wheel. In my head, I bought her at that moment. I thought ‘if you can drive a 70-foot boat with a tiller she is the one. On the test sail, she felt like a big 505.

“The entire Rage family encouraged us to do Pac Cup from the beginning. It was presented to Denise and me as the best Hawaii race, both really fun and competitive. We are thrilled to be going. Of course, Rage has a storied Pac Cup history and we hope to beat her best time. Our main goals though are a safe, fun and competitive race. Steve is going with us which will help a lot! And Nancy will be sharing the key tactics to maximize the overall fun.”

Another exciting boat to watch will be Roy Disney’s Pyewacket, an Andrews 70 that has participated in three past Pacific Cups. Roy has a real passion for the Pacific — this will be his 23rd crossing! — and he’s always in it to win.

Roy Disney’s Pyewacket<br?
© Sharon Green/Ultimate Sailing

Asked about why he’s gravitated to the Pacific Cup in recent years, he points to a number of factors, which he says, “taken collectively makes the Pac Cup a great race.” He cites, “The looseness of the race, racers and the fleet; the dramatic views and starts in San Francisco Bay, and the race to get offshore.”

The challenges include the weather and sea conditions and the 2070 nm distance to Hawaii. “Surviving that first night, the transition from fetching to reaching to running (a key in this race is to make the sail changes, reefs and un-reefs at the right times and not wait too long to get it done), and then anticipating the Trades are important aspects to the race.

“The Trades are the best part — shirtsleeve weather day and night, gorgeous sunsets and sunrises, chasing the moon path while heading west, squall lines — it’s all great stuff. Finally, who could argue with finishing in paradise? More than anything, what brings us back is that we are trying to repeat those unique sublime moments again and again. They are unique and priceless.”

Jeanneau 40.3 Bear Boat
© Leslie Richter/

Next year’s Cruising Division includes Paul Koenig’s Jeanneau 40.3, Bear Boat. This is Paul’s second Pacific Cup; he’s back again because he and his crew had such a good time in 2016. “Looking back there were some things I want to do again and some things that we didn’t do that I want to,” says Paul. “For example we hardly ever flew the spinnaker because of the conditions. So, in a way, I want the ’brochure’ experience and, hopefully, 2018 will be like that.

“A big part of our experience was the company/crew on the boat. We all got along great. I think that came through in our approach to the race and in the shared experiences we had. Since it was the first time for all of us, there was a bit of anxiety at times, but spirits remained high. We fished, we sang, we ate dinner together, we swam and had a great time.”

Paul and his crew’s experience exemplify everything that is FUN about the Pacific Cup and why each edition continues to draw new and returning sailors.

Perhaps the most interesting new entry is more a ship than a yacht, and she’s still under construction. The Matthew Turner is, in fact, a brigantine. She’s named after a Bay Area master shipbuilder of the 19th century who built 228 ships in his day, and she’s based on his design of The Galilee, built in 1891.

Brigantine Matthew Turner
© Call of the Sea

Although unlikely to win the first-to-finish trophy, her 132-feet LOA (100’ on deck), 175 tons of weight and a mainmast reaching 100 feet into the sky could get her youth-oriented crew to Hawaii relatively quickly, weather permitting. The ship’s visionary, Alan Olson, has countless ocean miles under his belt, but this will be his first race to Hawaii.

“The Pacific Cup is a great maiden voyage for Matthew Turner. Captain Matthew Turner’s vessels were designed and built to increase trade between SF and Hawaii, so there is a long tradition of his boats crossing The Pacific.

“The Lurline was a Matthew Turner-designed and -built schooner that won the first two Transpacific races in 1906 and 1908. Also, Matthew Turner built commercial brigantine-rigged ships famous for their speed and ability to carry cargo and passengers between SF and Hawaii. Captain Matson’s ship, the brigantine Lurline, made a record passage from SF to Hawaii of 8 days 6 hours. The sugar trade was almost exclusively carried on Matthew Turner brigantines for Spreckels, C&H, and Matson.”

The Matthew Turner begins sea trails this fall.

The Pacific Cup brings together a remarkably diverse group of sailors, passionate about racing, crossing the Pacific, having FUN, and arriving in paradise — as Mr. Disney says. Next year’s race begins July 9-13 off the St. Francis Yacht Club for the course from San Francisco, California to Kaneohe, Hawaii. Finish line festivities take place at the Kaneohe Yacht Club, July 23-27.

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