Pacific Cup: Chutes and ladders
Published on July 14th, 2018
(July 14, 2018) – As of early morning today, there is movement all over the leaderboard in almost every division, signifying that every fleet is still very close and ripe for the picking.
Closest to Hawaii, the first wave of starters has slowed slightly but is still making better comparative speed than any other wave, while the day two and three starters have again slowed to a crawl. The final wave of July 13 starting big boats appear to have ironically found a bit of a good luck as the weather system has evolved from 24 hours ago and looks to potentially offer them a quicker than expected escape from the coast and the worst of the light air.
With each passing day, it begins to look more and more like Charles Devanneaux and co-skipper Matthieu Damerval onboard A Fond le Girafon are – barring unforeseen circumstances – headed for a decisive line honors victory in this 20th edition of the Pacific Cup. Now just over 1,100 miles away from the finish line, they consistently continue to be the quickest boat in the first wave of starters and to pull further and further away from her twin Hanse 505 pursuers.
Behind A Fond le Girafon is fellow French-crewed yacht Outremer, the ‘cruising’ Hanse 505 owned by Emmanuel Sauquet and sailing with Vendée Globe star Tanguy de Lamotte and an all French crew onboard. For these eight French sailors at the head of the Pacific Cup fleet, their fast sailing and French pride is certainly celebrating as today is Bastille Day, basically the 4th of July in France, while tomorrow their country will play Croatia to decide the World Cup.
Behind this trio of boats at the front of the fleet that will not be eligible for overall corrected time awards, Jim Quanci’s Cal 40 Green Buffalo continues to lead both the Coral Reef Sailing Apparel A division (PHRF-DW <= 615), and the fleet overall by a slowly widening gap. With a veteran skipper and crew, and a wind forecast that shows steady winds in the 15 knot range for the duration of the race, Green Buffalo could be well on her way towards an overall corrected time victory in this 2018 Pacific Cup.
With a well sailing 40-foot boat that rates slower than most 27-foot boats in this race, Green Buffalo appears to be getting tailor made conditions for her to be the right ‘horse for the course’ in this race, when piloted to her full potential by a veteran skipper and crew like Green Buffalo’s.
Not very surprisingly, sistership Highlander is correcting out to second in class, second overall as well. Also sailing in the Coral Reef Sailing Apparel A division, Rebecca Hinden’s triple-handed Express 27 Bombora is now third in division and fourth overall, currently correcting out ahead of all six of the doublehanded Express 27’s which took the southerly option in this race.
The DH1/ Pau Maui Vodka division (Express 27s DH) is getting blown wide open by the shifty, challenging weather conditions that much of the fleet is now experiencing. Pre-race favorite Motorcycle Irene’s once ballooning lead has now been eroded as Irene slowed down alongside Wolfpack, allowing her slightly more northerly rivals to make inroads into her lead and allowing the pursuers to catch up slightly.
As of this writing, the top four Express 27’s are virtually tied in the ranking with Fired Up! having gained a very small divisional lead with John Morrison’s Fired Up! at the head of the fleet. The other doublehanded division, DH2/ Mount Gay Rum, has been a battle seemingly dominated by weather routing, as this diverse yet similar fleet of boats has truly spread themselves out all over the map.
Douglas Pihlaja’s J/105 Abstract has slowly been moving further and further up the leaderboard, and at the moment her extreme northerly position seems to be paying dividends as she is leading DH2 and has moved into third overall behind the two Cal 40’s. Sean and Kim Mulvihill’s J/120 Jamani continues to sail a good race, currently in third in division while Frederic Berg and Mike Bacon on the Antrim 27 Bacon Berger have begun their march up the leaderboard as well, continuing to make solid speed along the rhumbline while her more southerly rivals fade in the rankings.
While the northerly boats are currently looking good in the rankings, and may continue to do so, this race will continue to fascinate as the large north – south split threatens to massively re-shuffle the rankings at almost any time. The question is quickly becoming a matter of whether or not the northerly boats can keep moving through to the trades before sailing a hot angle south compress with her rivals near the islands, or if the southerly boats can reach the more fresh tradewind breeze first and make gains.
The day two and three starting fleets have now proven to have lost the weather lottery; two and three days out and they have yet to accelerate, with most boats registering speeds in the 2-4 knot range. It’s ugly out there, with the bulk of the fleet still consolidated on the rhumb line and extending north in what appears to be the massive light spot that has situated itself over the rhumb line.
Kirk Denebeim & Robb Daer’s Archambault 35 Mirthmaker is owning the north, but it’s yet to pay dividends as they are still slow and now sailing more miles than necessary. In the Pasha Hawaii D division (ORR tcf <= 1.099) that began on July 12, one boat has taken a massive flyer away from the fleet that has put them, for the moment, at the head of the division and may well prove to have been the decisive move in this race, even though it was made in the opening stages of a 2,070 mile yacht race.
J World’s Cazan, a DK 46 recently relocated from Honolulu, is the only boat who opted to make a move south, while all of others are well north. Cazan seems to have jumped on the southbound train and is beginning to hook into the same pressure that is propelling the big boats south.
The July 13 starters, meanwhile, have seemed to find better conditions than originally forecast and are moving away from the coast at 8-9 knots and should soon be hooking into slightly increased pressure that will stay at the beam or forward for quite some time, ensuring good boat speed and daily runs for he Friday starters. While the fleet’s fastest boat, the Mills 68 Prospector, leads boat-for-boat, Roy P. Disney’s Andrews 68 Pyewacket has already begun to jump out to a lead on corrected time.
Background: This is the 20th edition of the 2,070 nm Pacific Cup Race from San Francisco to Kaneohe Bay, Oahu. The start of the fleet was staggered with divisions beginning on July 9, 11, 12, and 13.
Source, Ronnie Simpson, Pacific Cup