2018 Spinnaker Cup Prospecting For Bullets

- Erik Simonson,

Saturdays 88 nm race from San Francisco to Monterey witnessed 44 boats in 6 divisions, dancing out The Gate in heavy overcast, light winds and ample ebb. With a 40 minute delay for the 1st starters, while RC juggled a cavalcade of issues, including attempting to get the Yellow Brick Trackers to all the boats, squaring the line, and sharing the start area with a bundle of Halibut fishermen hoping for fresh fish taco to start their Memorial Day Weekend.

When the 1st start commenced, the smaller boats with the higher ratings led the parade out of the bay and onto the brisk and lumpy Pacific. Early forecasts had insinuated steady winds in the 25+ knot range, so it appeared that the 2018 edition could be a fast one!

For years, the Spinnaker Cup was started on a Friday to give crews ample time to enjoy the Monterey Bay and ease back into reality at a more civilized pace. In order to compress the California Offshore Race Week into a manageable 8-day affair, the Spinnaker Cup was pushed up a day and Saturday starts are the new norm. So a quick jaunt down is just what the doctor ordered, and to help facilitate that, the tedious ride out the shipping channel to entrance Buoy 8 (Course 2) was discarded for the more direct course 1.

Diners with window seats at the Cliff House and Beach Chalet were provided a bonus visual treat as the fleet hugged the coast around Seal Rocks, and sailed just outside the surf zone all along SF’s Ocean Beach before moving a tad offshore to clear the Montara Mt dead air zone and setting kites off Half Moon Bay.

The Mills 68’ Prospector had passed the fleet, including early lead boat, Natalie Criou’s Figaro2 Envolee by the time they were due west of the SF Zoo, despite the head start of 40 minutes. Immediately in their wake, SC 70’s Catapult and Buona Sera had already locked into a tight two boat match race with a large grouping of boats in tight formation. Envolee would hold her own until Pillar Point where the larger boats began to utilize their waterline and sail area to their advantage.

Division E would quickly become a dogfight with the Elvis guided J-111 Madmen matching jibes and tactics with, the Azzura 310 Outsider the Columbia 32 Six Brothers, the Swan 53 Blue and the C&C 30 Don’t Panic, the last 3 mentioned shadowing one another until a split at Pigeon Point where 6 Bros stayed offshore with Outsider and Don’t Panic chasing Velvet Hammer towards the shore seeking the increased pressure created by the Santa Cruz mountain ranges proximity to the shoreline.

The 7 boat strong Division M, all SC 50’s or 52’s were not far behind as the lead boats of Div E neared Ano Nuevo. A mini match race between Horizon and Lucky Duck had begun, the two boats battling for division superiority over the past few years, Lucky Duck clinging to a narrow lead as they neared the Big Basin breeze inducer, Waddell Creek. Oaxaca had sailed wide but would cross well behind the lead boats off 4 Mile Beach.

It was approaching 7:00 PM by now, and Prospector had sailed a flawless race, and would cross the finish line at 19:11:11 with and elapsed time of 06:51:11, just off Tom Akin’s TP52’ Meanies  2013 record of 06:43:33. Paul McDowell, speaking for the Shelter Island Transatlantic Partners which owns and sails Prospector reports” “We had no idea we were so close to the record. I guess we will just have to come back then”. Paul indicated the set their A3 30 minutes after exiting the harbor and the boat saw top hull speed of 23 knots with wind in the 25 knot range. “It was really a pleasant ride with no drama, aside from the mesmerizing view you get sailing under the Golden Gate and the beauty of the coastline along the way!”

40 or so minutes behind Prospector, the two 70’s, Catapult and Buona Sera’s evenly matched match race continued with Catapult getting the better in this one, a 5 minute and 19 second delta. Shortly on their heels the gunboat 60 Chim-chim and the much smaller canting keel Shock 40 Velvet Hammer.

It was now a 2 boat race between Greg Nelsen’s Outsider and Julian Mann’s Don’t Panic for 1st to finish in Divison E. Greg attributes his success to great crew work, and early offshore diversion and setting the right sail. “We went A2 straight out of the gate and never changed. We were on the upper limits for a while but held on. Both Six Brothers and Don’t Panic were having crash issues and went through several sail changes. They are both very, very fast but with the low freeboard, very wet, and I think the submarining episodes slowed them down. I spoke with Chris, the owner of 6 Bros after the race and he explained that they blew up their A2 in a previous regatta so did not have that option in their quiver”

Julian Mann, owner of the C&C 30, Don’t Panic would finish 2m:35sec behind Outsider but correct out more than an hour off the pace. Julian was objective about the race:

I'm pleased to report that the first proper coastal race for the Don't Panic team was a complete success. After using Lightship and Duxship as our offshore training events it was great to have a longer downwind run to better assess our distance race potential. All of our time prepping paid off, despite taking a lot of water over the bow, I don't think our bilges turned on once and we had far less water below than on a typical inshore event.

The forecast looked great going into the race, with all the models indicating that we would set past mile rock, gybe into Davenport, and depending on the time of day and cloud conditions either take another hitch into the bay, or maintain the outside lane and gybe on the lay line to finish. We opted for the outside lane into Monterey because we felt we had good pressure and the sea state was easier to manage on starboard. We didn't have the ability to update our weather routing mid race, which may have made a small adjustment to that decision but I don't think would have altered our finish time by more than a couple minutes.

Overall it was a fun and exciting race with peak boat speed of 21+ kts and sustained runs over 17, all on a 30 ft boat!

In the 50’s or Division M, the grudge match between Dave MacEwen’s Lucky Duck and John Shulze’s Horizon would continue all the way down the track, with Horizon trailing the entire way and Lucky Duck extending just a bit on the final run across Monterey Bay to take a 09m:32se, hard fought victory, the 1st after many battles between the two. Coming in 3rd, Michael Moradzadeh’s Oaxaca, having undergone recent boat improvements and a few tweaks in personnel. Michael reflects:

"A sharp divergence in forecasts. Commanders figured we'd finish around 2-6 am.  Mike Dvorak was heard to be predicting a 9 pm finish for sistership Adrenaline.  At the end, both had the wind right, but we beat the prediction by going faster.  Offshore (8 miles or so) we found very steady winds slowly building to about 23 knots with a moderate sea state.  As westmost boat in our fleet, we probably got a bit more wind than others, though we forgot to ask them as we downed the free rum shots at the YC bar.  Great spinnaker conditions with a fair amount of surfing under A2 and A4.  One bad wrap burned up a fair bit of time, but the team recovered and off we went.

Near evening, we got a few hours of sun, and the wind began to wane, making for a more civilized approach to Monterey.  The wind began to die in earnest as we approached the finish, but under the #1 jib we had no trouble making the line, once we picked it out from the cluster of lights on shore.  A tiring run, but a good one.

Oh, and I forgot to mention. We had to alter course to avoid a whale.  Very close encounter.  Apparently, whales are always leeward/starboard, so no protest."

Michael Moradzadeh, Oaxaca

Other winners:

Mark Chaffey Express 37 Loca Motion took Division F

Nick Sands’s Sabre 402 took Division G