Pacific Cup: From A to Z

Published on February 27th, 2020

The biennial Pacific Cup yacht race expects more than 60 yachts to line up for staggered starts from June 29 through July 3, with the 21st edition again setting off on the 2070 nm course from San Francisco, CA to Kaneohe Bay, Oahu.

From tiny double handers to mega yachts and from adventurous families to well-tuned racing syndicates, the Pacific Cup routinely caters to a wide range of sailing yachts and an equally diverse group of sailors and their respective backgrounds.

Case in point; when Manouch Moshayedi’s Rio 100 blasted its way to a course record in the windy 2016 race – on a 100 foot supermaxi full of professionals. However, the race was won overall by a couple of mates with regular jobs sailing a tiny Moore 24. It takes all kinds in the Pacific Cup, and with the race’s ethos centered around fun, safety, and inclusion, the 2020 fleet is as diverse and interesting as any seen.

The smallest boat is Peter Fray’s prototype Mini 6.50, number 415. Minis are well known in Europe and are purpose-built for one person to race solo across the Atlantic Ocean. Downwind in a breeze, the boats punch well above their weight and are capable of phenomenal speeds.

Fray’s boat sports carbon-fiber construction, a carbon mast, and a canting keel. Peter purchased the boat in early 2018 and has undertaken an extensive and thorough re-fit to prepare her for his ultimate goal of racing the Pacific Cup doublehanded.

Sailing alongside friend and co-skipper Jim Nachtman, the duo competed in a 300 mile race from St. Petersburg, Florida to Havana, Cuba in March 2019; great training for a Pacific Cup. With another year of solid preparation and sailing, as well as constant optimization, look for 415 to be a force to be reckoned with in the always-competitive doublehanded division that has featured several small, fast French designs over the years.

Also sailing in the doublehanded division is past Pacific Cup Yacht Club Commodore Buzz Blackett and his long-time doublehanded sailing partner, the renowned Bay Area-based naval architect Jim Antrim. For 2020, the duo is back for their fifth Pacific Cup race together and third doublehanded, though this time they are on a brand new boat.

Having owned an Antrim 27 in the past and then an Antrim designed Class 40, Blackett decided on a new build for this year’s race. His new boat, dubbed ‘io, is a custom all-carbon Antrim 27 that is thoughtfully prepared for doublehanded sailing.

Having just been launched in late January, the pair – who both turn 70 this year – managed to win this year’s Three Bridge Fiasco race overall, coming first out of an incredible 315 starters in their debut race! Look for Buzz Blackett and Jim Antrim onboard ‘io to be a major contender in the doublehanded division, and in the race overall.

As well as the multi-time race veterans, the Pacific Cup race almost always features a handful of race rookies. This year, an all-female crew of race rookies – many of whom have never made a major ocean crossing – will be sailing to Hawaii onboard Carliane Johnson’s full-time live-aboard Freedom 38 Kynntana.

After racing to Hawaii solo in the 2018 Singlehanded Transpac race, Carliane thought about doing the solo race again, but after meeting new friend Tammy Mercado-Ruff at a women’s sailing seminar in Alameda last year, a plan was hatched to do the Pacific Cup with a crew of women.

As Carliane puts it, “We definitely enjoy racing and sailing with our male friends, family, and husbands, but it is shocking to me how few woman sailing teams there are in the San Francisco Bay area where it is such a huge sport and hobby. Coincidentally, it’s looking like I might also have an all-woman delivery crew for the return trip as well. There’s no shortage of enthusiastic, capable, and adventurous women sailors!”

Another crew with some notable rookies is the Richmond-based Andrews 43 Kahoots. “I sailed the Transpac in 2015 with some fellow Richmond Yacht Club dinghy sailors on Adrenalin, the Santa Cruz 50,” reports owner and skipper Greg Mitchell. “Fast forward two years to 2017, and on the drive back from Stockton Sail summer camp my daughter Kate, (then 13) asked if I would ever race to Hawaii again, as she’d like to do it. I didn’t need any more hints!”

Three years later, Greg has purchased an Andrews 43 and put together a stellar crew that includes five sailing coaches from Richmond Yacht Club’s junior sailing program and a couple of junior sailors themselves. In addition to Greg’s daughter Kate, who is now 16 and will operate the pit, the crew includes RYC’s Laser coach Miles Englehart and his 15 year old son Chase, who will serve as bowman.

For every team full of women, children, and first-timers, there’s also a crew of consummate professionals and one such boat is the Kernan 68 Peligroso. A veteran of several races to Hawaii, Peligroso (above) is now owned by renowned big-boat owner Doug Baker who has owned several successful boats including the multi-race record setter Magnitude 80.

Having sailed with some of the best and most highly experienced sailors on the west coast for decades, Baker has had the luxury of cherry-picking a dream team of legends and long-time mates to help him make his Pacific Cup debut on Peligroso a success, and that’s exactly what he’s done.

With Whitbread Round-the-World legend Keith Kilpatrick and famed naval architect Bruce Nelson as Watch Captains, and a crew that includes Jimmy Slaughter and experienced navigator Ernie Richau among many other talented and well-known sailors, Peligroso should have no trouble finding Kaneohe.

A Tim Kernan designed 68-footer that was designed and built in the mid-2000s as a modern interpretation of a 70-foot sled, Peligroso will almost certainly be the scratch boat in this year’s race and could well be a top contender on handicap.

Another race stalwart who is back in 2020 with a new and improved boat is the Richmond-based team Rufless. Since winning their division in 2018 on a Melges 32 of the same name, Rufus Sjoberg has now joined forces with his brother Jason Crowson to purchase and rehab one of those unicorn boats that have claimed an almost unrivaled amount of Pacific Cup and Transpac hardware in recent years: an all-carbon J/125.

When Crowson stumbled upon an internet ad that appeared to show an abandoned J/125 sitting in the Netherlands, he immediately told Rufus and the two brothers hopped the next flight to Amsterdam to verify the boat’s identity and then bring it back to the US.

Once the boat was offloaded from the shipping company in Maryland, the brothers had to do some last-minute welding to their newly acquired 1D35 trailer to get it to Richmond. When the new Rufless finally got to her new home, the boat was discovered to have a bad rudder and need an extensive amount of work.

With Rufus’ skillsets as a world-renowned boat builder and professional sailor who has even been employed to repair boats in the Volvo Ocean Race, Rufless is bound to be one of the best prepared and fastest J/125s on earth. After watching J/125s go 1-2 overall in last year’s 50th Transpac, and with Zachery Anderson, Will Paxton, and the rest of the crew onboard rival J/125 Velvet Hammer, no one is going to bet against this pair of well-sailed 40-foot carbon J Boats in the Pacific Cup.

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Source: Ronnie Simpson

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