Southern Californian “Horizon” Out Front – Wedding Bells for Some – War Pony a Dark Horse?

Kanoehe, Hawaii – Thursday’s roll call showed Horizon, the Santa Cruz 50, still out in front of her division (Division D) and the fleet overall, though her lead has narrowed slightly. J World’s Hula Girl, which moved into second place yesterday, has held onto that position. If the lead boats continue their pace – not always a sure thing – we may expect to see our first finishers as early as Friday night in the near ocean waters off Kaneohe Bay.

“We’ll be ready for them when they get here,” said Iwalani Stone, escort committee chair at finish line host Kaneohe Yacht Club. After arriving, finishers are guided through a narrow channel in the reef that fringes Kaneohe Bay by a club volunteer in an escort boat. Though the “Sampan Channel” is well-marked, it can be a bit intimidating to a tired skipper and crew grown used to two thousand miles of open ocean. This is one of many welcoming courtesies extended by the volunteers and staff of the club to the arriving racers.

Division Leaders: In many classes, the leaders have remained consistent for a few days. However, as boats start to position for their approach to the finish line, which can include a few course changes as boats must avoid the artillery range at Kaneohe Marine Corps Base, as well as the outlying Mokumanu Island, significant boatspeed can be lost, allowing a wilier competitor to sneak up and finish first. Since the land masses can affect wind strength and direction, crews must readjust their thinking from “Ocean Mode” where the winds are fairly consistent in direction from point to point, to coastal or inshore mode, where the effects of land, and even current, can be significant.

Nancy, the WylieCat sailed by San Francisco Yacht Racing Association Chair Pat Broderick, has retained her lead position for several days now, and may have an unassailable position there. With her single sail, looking more like a child’s drawing of a sailboat than the billowy spinnaker-endowed racers hot on her trail, Nancy benefits from being easy to handle while obtaining great drive from the powerful sail. Of course it does not hurt that her two crew, Gordie Nash and Michael Andrews, are tremendously experienced and successful racers on their own boats.

Moonshine continues to lead her doublehanded division, with steady leads. However, Tule Fog has outpaced Pocket Rocket to take the lead in that group. Neither of them should rest on their laurels, however; Trunk Monkey, skippered by a husband-and-wife team,is gaining steadily on both of them. In the very competitive Division B, Dean Treadway’s Sweet Okole, a beautiful cold-molded Farr 36 has held off all challengers for the lead. Treadway is a multi-race veteran and has put nearly a full day between himself and his nearest competitor.

In Division C, a group characterized by lighter and faster boats, Chris Gilmore’s Columbia 30 Sport Uncontrollable Urge maintains a slight advantage over her competition. With the top seven positions less than 20 hours apart in forecast finish times, and her closest competition only a few hours behind, Chris and his crew will have to remain at the top of their game to retain their lead.

The superstars of the race, Division E, consisting of the very fastest-rated boats, are all on pace for Saturday and Sunday arrivals. Division leader Criminal Mischief under Chip Megeath is expected on the afternoon of Saturday the 18th, barring difficulties, which has a good chance of placing him in the top boats overall. The longest boat in this year’s fleet, the Santa Cruz 70 Mirage, skippered by Hector Velarde out of the Waikiki Yacht Club of Peru, is only a few hours behind Chip, and we may see positions change a few times before the finish.

As of Thursday afternoon, War Pony, a Farr 36, had made significant position gains. Not yet reflected in the official standings, around 5 pm Pacific Time she appeared on satellite tracking to have to advanced to a position just behind Horizon, as second closest boat to Hawaii. The “tiny” boat in her division, War Pony must overcome what many consider to be a very challenging rating handicap to take home one of the Weems and Plath clocks used as trophies in this race, but her recent burst of speed must be giving skipper Mark Howe a real taste for victory.

Marriage Proposals: “Maybe we should be called ‘The LOVE Race’,” commented Commodore Michael Moradzadeh. The Pac Cup has served more than once as a couple’s honeymoon cruise. Skip McCormack and Jody Talafiero racing this year on Trunk Monkey wed on a sandbar in Kaneohe Bay immediately after the last race. This year, we’ve gotten word of two engagements. A crew member of Tiki Blue, forced back to dock with electrical troubles, proposed to his intended right after returning – his original plan had been to do it by radio midway, but face-to-face apparently works too. At evening roll call, the crew of Great White announced a new engagement as well. VALIS, the communications boat, has not yet relayed information as to whether the crew are engaged to each other or to someone else, but updates are eagerly awaited.

Great White, is currently fifth in her division, twenty-sixth in the fleet, but first in love.

Racer blogs, tracking and updates can be found on the race website at PacificCup.org.