Pacific Cup: Embracing the trades
Published on July 18th, 2018
(July 18, 2018) – Another day, and another series of surprises that continue to impact the rankings in this 20th edition of the Pacific Cup to Hawaii. Seemingly with every check-in, the rankings get shuffled, the pursuing boats make gains and the fleets continue to compress.
While a handful of boats looked dominant in their divisions as of yesterday’s report, this morning shows that every single fleet in this race is still firmly up for grabs. With much of the fleet past halfway and into moderate a somewhat atypically narrow band of northeasterly tradewinds, the fleet is quite literally being herded to the barn.
The major navigational decisions have been made and the rest of the race is poised to be a dead downwind drag race to Kaneohe; the boats that can run deep the best and begin surfing the earliest should make gains in the closing stages of this race, while many boats that jumped out to early leads are now forced to look into their rear view mirrors and try to hold onto whatever cushion they may have built up.
At the head of the premier BMW of San Rafael E division (ORR >1.099) is now the Riptide 41 Blue, the radical Paul Bieker design which is a larger, more evolved cousin of the Riptide 35 which first dominated it’s division in the Pacific Cup 20 years ago, going 1-2 in class and beating many 50 footers over the line.
The aptly named blue-colored rocketship sailing with two-time Olympic medalist Jonathan McKee and some rockstar skiff sailors onboard suffered somewhat in the early stages of the race, but is now ripping along at 12 knots average speed, just over a knot quicker than her much larger divisional rival and leader Pyewacket. Seemingly in the blink of an eye, Blue has worked her way into second place in division and looks poised to continue her upward march.
Reminder: Like a few other boats, Pyewacket and Blue are not eligible for ‘overall’ Pacific Cup honors. They are using new specialty reaching sails sometimes called “tweeners.” These sails are recently approved under ORR but not permitted under PHRF, which is being used to score the Pac Cup overall.
When using multiple ratings systems, as is done in Pacific Cup to provide broad competition between divisions, these kinds of strategic choices can arise. This will get attention for the 2020 edition of the race with that hindsight.
At the front of the E fleet on the water, and now third in division and first overall (confusing, right?) is the Mills 68 Prospector who continues to rip along at warp speed and threaten to be first over the finish line. With a top-tier crew and a fantastic overall platform to race to Hawaii, Prospector continues to cook along at around 14-15 knots, running great angles towards Kaneohe.
If Prospector can indeed be first to finish and win the overall, it would be another nice feather in the cap of navigator Artie Means, who served in the same capacity for first-to-finish and course-record setter Mighty Merloe in last year’s Transpac race. Their route thus far has simply been a thing of beauty.
Right when it looked like the Farr 52 Zamazaan may threaten to run away with the Pasha Hawaii D division (ORR tcf <= 1.099), Chris Kramer’s Columbia Carbon 32 Six Brothers has come screaming up from behind and begun to rapidly close the gap. Sailing with a trio of 19 year olds aboard, including Chris’ son Colin, Six Brothers suffered in the early stages of the race due to her lack of waterline length in comparison to her divisional rivals.
In these later running stages of the race however, the little speedster is now benefiting from her light weight, powered-up sail plan and slippery hull form to rise through the ranks and have a very real shot at winning the D division. Six Brothers has just recently displaced J World’s Hula Girl in the rankings while the Melges 32 Rufless is poised to be the next boat to do so, with the little Melges also suffering at the start and lighting up in the downwind conditions.
The Alaska Airlines C division (DW PHRF 582 to 550) is now beginning to see a major development in the fact that the Evelyn 32-2 Poke and Destroy has steadily eroded Sweet Okole’s lead for second place and has now pulled even with the famed Farr 36. Poised to overhaul Okole in the rankings some time today, the Seattle based yacht owned by Ballard Sails’ co-owner Alex Simanis has been making the same speeds and miles made good as division leader Zaff, and threatens to begin working away at Zaff’s lead.
As the race moves into the closing stages, Poke and Destroy should continue to make gains on Zaff, who we assume may be hindered by their fixed center-line bowsprit while Poke and Destroy squares the pole back and excels in the deep running angles of the second half of this race.
One of the most exciting races in the fleet is that of the one-design Express 27’s who have turned out six boats for the Pau Maui Vodka/ DH1 division (Express 27s DH). Loose Cannon has opened up about a five hour lead on corrected time while Motorcycle Irene has moved into second place, though just an hour and a half separate second through fourth place with Alternate Reality and Fired Up! still in contention for the final podium spot, if not the divisional win.
While the boats are all Express 27’s, sail inventories, rudders and other slight modifications see the boats sailing with minor differences in their handicaps. With just under 700 miles to go, these four boats are in an absolute dog fight to see who can reach Kaneohe first and/or correct out on top.
The other doublehanded division, the DH2/ Mount Gay Rum division also continues to be hotly contested and still very much up for grabs. Moore 24 Foamy continues to lead, though the Donovan 30 Wolfpack, Santa Cruz 27 Zipper, and Antrim 27 Bacon Berger are all still in it to win it with plenty of race track left.
As with many of the close battles in this race, they will likely come down to the wire and be decided based on who finishes in the stronger mid-day tradewind breezes or at night when the winds typically go lighter closer to shore. Incredibly, many of these small, ultra-light double-handed boats are running very high in the overall Pacific Cup rankings with Loose Cannon in second overall, Foamy in third and Motorcycle Irene in fifth.
Something that could not have been predicted a handful of days ago, the Coral Reef Sailing Apparel A division (PHRF-DW <= 615) sees all four boats in a dead heat on this morning. As Green Buffalo got hung out to dry up north and slowed, fellow Cal 40 Highlander began working the south while Bombora tried to do the same and Eliana kept rumbling along to close the gap on what had previously been a large deficit. The two Cal 40’s were tied dead even this morning and are set to cross paths later this afternoon.
Green Buffalo has consistently had a speed advantage compared to Highlander whenever the boats are in the same patch of water, and so we fully expect Green Buffalo to once again take command of this division, though it’s certainly lining up to be a very close race all the way to the finish.
Currently in last place in division, the Express 27 Bombora is just 1 hour and 4 minutes behind Green Buffalo and Highlander on corrected time, though could easily make up that deficit with half a day of good surfing conditions. Look for the red ultralight to make big moves on the leaderboard as the fleet makes their final approach to the islands where the tradewinds typically get compressed and intensify in strength.
After leading for the Weems & Plath B division (DW PHRF 614 to 583) for days, the Farr 1220 The Fugitive has slipped all the way to fifth place in division overnight, yet sits just over five hours off the lead this morning further illustrating just how close and unpredictable are many of the races in this year’s Pac Cup.
With relative newcomers, wily old race veterans and everything in between on a big fleet of racer/ cruisers, B division will almost certainly be decided in the closing stages of the race. At the moment, the J/35 Shearwater holds a one and a half hour lead over the Davidson 44 Imagine, which is navigated by 22-time Hawaii race veteran Paul Kamen and almost surely has a few tricks up their sleeve.
For the first time since leaving San Francisco, the Kolea cruising division has a new leader in the Hanse 505 Anais. With sistership Outremer getting stuck in the same hole as many other leaders up north for a few days, Anais has finally overhauled her Outremer and pulled out to a narrow 4-hour lead.
Outremer is coming in hot on a port pole and looks set to cross behind Anais who is currently on starboard. With a Vendée Globe superstar onboard in Tanguy de Lamotte, watch for Outremer to eke every tenth of a knot of boat speed out of their steed in an effort to chase down the new division leaders. Impressively, the Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 40.3 Bear Boat is currently rounding out the podium over many larger, and in theory, faster boats.
This race has proven to be as unpredictable as it is long. Whatever the rankings say today, you can almost bet money that they’ll be changed tomorrow; that’s just the way this race been since the start. Stay tuned as boats begin making their final approaches to the Hawaiian Islands, with the first boats expected into Kaneohe in about two days.
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