Early Lead for Double Handers in 2012 Pac Cup

With more than half the 2012 Pac Cup fleet now en route to Hawaii, albeit slowly, the remaining racers are not exactly chomping at the bit to get off the dock, given the dour wind pattern that has plagued the early starters and the not-so-great outlook for the next day or so.

As of 1300 hours PDT on Wednesday, as predicted, the lead boats were those taking a more northerly route. Currently leading is Jamani, the J-120 from San Francisco skippered by Sean Mulvihill and crew Jeff Mulvihill, with a mere 215 nm under their belts in almost 48 hours since their start on Tuesday.

Committee boat Valis heads out toward the GG Bridge after Monday's start.

Naos 30, the Beneteau 1st from Los Angeles, skippered by Charles Devanneaux and crew Frederic Courouble, had tucked away 192 nm in the same period, while in third, Moonshine, the Dog Patch 26 crewed by Dylan Benjamin and Rufus Sjoberg had sailed 183 nm.

Jamani and Moonshine, further north than Naos 30, were making between 6-7 knots, while Naos was maintaining a steady 5.5 knots.Skip McCormack, navigator on Double Trouble leaves for his 9th west coast to Hawaii race on Thursday with the Div E boats.

“It’s unfortunate that the way that these things work with the staggered starts is that you generally have winners and losers right off the bat,” McCormack commented. “Unfortunately those earlier starts are showing again, just as they did in 2010, they’re just struggling to get around and through that low that eventually shut the door on them. It’s a real struggle out there - the buoy reports are showing absolute still calm conditions right outside the Gulf of the Farallones. It’s just a bummer and I feel pretty bad for those guys.”

While the fact will be beaten to death that the conditions we’re seeing at the start of this race are far from typical, what’s more frustrating is that the race is being held a few weeks later than usual, at a time when summer coastal conditions should be well and truly set up.“It was really unexpected that it would be this bad but the upper atmosphere is just not settled right now,” McCormack said, “It’s really very jumbled and that’s created a couple of opportunities for surface level junk to show up. It looks like everything will start recompressing against the coast by later this week and a clearing breeze all the way through.”

Skip McCormack & wife Jody also like to sail fast skiffs on SF Bay.

This will lend a nice advantage to the last boats scheduled to leave at 2:45pm on Thursday.

“That’s the way it goes,” McCormack said. “We got the roll of the dice this year, just as we got left on the first start in 2010, we’ve been there. And, that’s just off the gate, then we’ve got to put the hammer down and do some work against some really good teams - there are some incredible boats sailing with us.”

McCormack never tires of racing to Hawaii, in fact he's taken it a step further this year, retiring his corporate job to become a professional navigator. “I took it to heart when they said you have to do what you love,” McCormack joked, “It’s pretty neat and I’m having a pretty good time right now - LOL!”

Meanwhile, there’s not been too much chat or blog activity from the boats probably because there’s not been too much happening other than sitting out the light air.

Andy Brainard, crew on the J/35 Brainwaves, reported that they were happy with their Tuesday start, “We had a great start, we stayed away from the traffic at the other end of the line and managed to cross with speed and clear air. Although we didn’t win the “first under the bridge” prize, we claim we won the first past mile rock prize. It was nice sunny sailing, tons of dolphins and more whales than I’ve ever seen, and variable wind from 7-13 knots.”

After sunset he reported that the wind really died and that Brainwaves was doing 0.00kt speed over water, “The seas are so flat that we can’t even really use our ultra-secret swell drive.”

First start boats heading off to Hawaii in search of wind ... and sun.

Weather guru Lee Chesneau said that the calm conditions are due to the very weak pressure gradient east of 130.

“Whether boats are headed south or north they’re going to have a rough time of it when it comes to wind. At least by going north they’re eventually going to catch the wind quicker. It’s not going to be a race for early wind, even on Monday some of those guys are going to be struggling a little bit.”

He expects that once the fleet gets away from the coast this afternoon, the sea breeze wont be that strong but there’ll be some. He quipped, “Then they go out into the weak gradient so their seamanship skills will be tested in light breeze for sure, especially overnight.”