Racing the California Coast

54 boats, 450 sailors, 5 yacht club hosts, 530+ miles of sailing, and 3 races made up the 2017 California Offshore Race Week. Sailors and families spent Memorial Day weekend and the following week in some of California’s finest locations: San Francisco, Monterey, Santa Barbara and San Diego. Boats ranged from the doublehanded Moore 24 to several Santa Cruz 70s, and everything in between along with two multihulls. And the conditions varied just as much, starting with light conditions heading out of San Francisco Bay, peaking with high 30 knots during the overnight Coastal Cup, and slowing to a crawl in the final day of the SoCal 300 for most. The courses also brought out different challenges, particularly the SoCal 300 scoring of 4 race legs giving navigators additional things to consider when strategizing the race plan.

Check out the race tracker for all three races to see how the competition played out.

Racing began in San Francisco Bay Saturday, May 29th in about 8 knots of breeze with the 38 entries split into 4 fleet starts beginning at 0900, racing out to the ocean under the Golden Gate Bridge. The Spinnaker Cup is a long standing annual northern California tradition occurring Memorial Day weekend, and attracts a great group of boats looking for the fast sprint to Monterey that can be done in a single day.

Hop on board Rufus Sjoberg’s Melges 32 Rufless in this video, racing the Spinnaker Cup as first to finish in the 11 boat Class E, and 4th in Class corrected.

A welcoming group of Monterey Peninsula Yacht Club member volunteers lead by Commodore Betsy Jeffers and regatta chair Sharon Frey received the Spinnaker Cup finishers well past midnight to Monterey, and provided the start to the Coastal Cup on Monday afternoon in conjunction with Commodore Doug Perry and Vice Commodore Chris Anderson from Encinal Yacht Club.

Spinnaker Cup Top Performances:
Full Results

1st to Finish: Bill Lee, Merlin, Lee 68
Class Winners:
Edward Marez, Buona Sera, Santa Cruz 70
Howard Turner, Symmetry, J/111
Laurence Baskin, Bullet, Express 37
Rodney Pimentel, Azure, Cal 40
John Gallagher, Chim Chim, Gunboat 62
John Shulze, Horizon, Santa Cruz 50

A consistent fleet of Santa Cruz 50s and 52 have been battling each other on the west coast for years and the boats are building both rivalries and camaraderie, particularly between Dave MacEwen’s Lucky Duck and John Shulze’ Horizon. Rounds 1 and 2 (Spinnaker Cup and Coastal Cup) went to Horizon, while Round 3 (SoCal 300) went to Lucky Duck. Looking at the overall Offshore Race Week series standings, you’ll find Horizon 2nd in class, and Lucky Duck 3rd, and Lucky Duck 2nd overall, with Horizon 3rd. The battle continues, and any Santa Cruz 50/52 should consider heading west to race with this competitive offshore racing fleet!

Video by Karl Grunewald aboard Lucky Duck during the Coastal Cup.

Wayne Zittel who leads group of sailors out of J World on offshore races year after year to Mexico, Hawaii and CA coastal races, took J World’s newest boat Cazan, a DK46 through the whole series.

“The Coastal Cup (Monterey to Santa Barbara) is know for the often challenging conditions, and this year was no exception!  Winds in the steady 35 knot range (gusting to over 40) kept us pretty wound up, and after blowing up our second kite we throttled back, but still recorded a top speed of just over 20 knots….  woo-hoo!”

The big seas and high winds during the Coastal Cup did lead to the Moore 24 Snafu getting dismasted after dark on Monday night, about 20 miles west of Morro Bay. Karl Robrock and Gilles Combrisson, sailing doublehanded had some difficulty with communications with their mast in the water, and were grateful to have fellow competitors from Junkyard Dog and Azure stand by, communicate with the Coast Guard and support them during a difficult few hours. Read more about the eventual Coast Guard rescue in the article from May 31, 2017. The boat was also successfully recovered the following day.

See what it was like for Snafu before their race came to a halt with this video from Karl and Gilles.

Joel Ronning’s Santa Cruz 70 Catapult turned out to be the boat to beat in every leg of the series, and few were able to keep pace with them, ending up as first Overall and in Class for the Offshore Race Week series, first in Class in the Coastal Cup, and 2nd in Class in the Spinnaker Cup and SoCal 300. Next up for Team Catapult is the 2017 Transpac race in July.

From the Catapult Facebook page: “Hauling the mail downwind on the Catapult. Saw 26.8 knots top speed and over 20 knots for many hours. Won the Coastal Cup, first to finish and our class. Great team on the boat, lots of smiles and focus. This boat is a gas!”

Sabine Suessmann aboard Deception, “CORW 2nd race Coastal Cup. Monterey to Santa Barbara. Awesome day and night with winds in the mid 30s and swells up to 18’ for hours on end. Top wind speed 39 knots, top boat speed 18.5 knots. Hummingbird and dragonfly entertained us when the wind died as we were approaching the finish line in 2 knots for several hours.”

Video by Sam Wheeler of Deception from their overcast Coastal Cup race and sunny SoCal 300.

Santa Barbara Yacht Club opened their doors on a normally closed Tuesday to welcome racers throughout the day with hot meals and a flowing bar, and hosted their regularly scheduled Wet Wednesday club racing with an expanded field of boats in town for the Coastal Cup finish and SoCal 300 start. The party on the beach with live music and BBQ buffet was a welcome break for Offshore Race Week sailors.

Coastal Cup Top Performances:
Full Results

1st to Finish: Joel Ronning, Catapult, Santa Cruz 70
Class Winners:
Joel Ronning, Catapult, Santa Cruz 70
John Shulze, Horizon, Santa Cruz 50
Rodney Pimentel, Azure, Cal 40

The final race in the series was the 3rd annual running of the SoCal 300, developed as a partnership between Santa Barbara Yacht Club and San Diego Yacht Club, and included the unique three-leg course plus the overall race as leg 4 for scoring purposes. A strong field of 28 boats lined up to race on Thursday, June 1st from the SBYC starting line. Sharon Green, Ultimate Sailing captured some great photos of the boats approaching Santa Cruz Island in the early evening.

View full gallery >>

Frank Slootman had the unique opportunity of racing head to head with his previously owned boat, the R/P 63 Aszhou now owned and raced by Steve Meheen. The two sailed within a few miles of each other for much of the race. Slootman and the new Pac52 Invisible Hand edged out Aszhou after the long, slow final leg of the SoCal 300 as the first monohull finisher, and Class A and Overall winner of the SoCal 300.

Christopher Lewis: “Transpac qualifier for the Pac52 Invisible Hand. I zoomed in on the high resolution photo [courtesy of Sharon Green] to read the display. 22.10 knots of boat speed into a wall of a wave. With 11 people onboard for the race there are more than a few getting washed in white water. This was one of my all-time favorite offshore races. SoCal 300. First Monohull to Finish, First Overall. Pac52 Class West Coast Offshore Racing”

While the monohulls continued to make their way through a light aired Friday, HL Enloe’s Mighty Merloe kept the pace up and beat their previous course record by over an hour, finishing the race in 22:09:18. Without another high performance trimaran to race with setting the record and preparing the boat for Transpac was reward enough.

Will Suto, a regular crew member of Mighty Merloe described the 2017 SoCal 300. “Last week we did the new classic SoCal 300 race on the ORMA 60 Mighty Merloe. The race had a bit of everything: started in lovely Santa Barbara, light air tacking away from the coast, sailing between two huge uninhabited islands, dodging rocks, rounding a wild and remote bank 100 miles offshore, and then clawing through light air overnight back to San Diego.

We touched on nearly every sail combination we have, including our previously unused second reef and stormsail configuration. We do a lot of VMG sailing but don’t often reach, so it was nice to get a 100-mile dose of it down the backside of the course.

The race was a good shakedown for out next mission: Transpac. We’re looking forward to lining up against some other big trimarans for a battle to Hawaii in July.”

Quote source: Sailing Anarchy, June 5, 2017

The Mighty Merloe racing program owes a lot of its success to navigator and electronics guru Artie Means. Will Suto snapped this pic or Artie during the SoCal 300 and gave high praise to his fellow crew member.

“The story behind this smile: This is my friend and mentor Artie Means. Artie designed and installed the navigation systems that we use on the #orma60#mightymerloe. I snapped this picture during the SoCal 300 race. We were reaching through heavy seas at 30+ knots boatspeed. Artie had the serious task of navigating us between islands and around rocks and reefs under the most testing conditions. So what you see here is the joy of a guy using a tool that he built to accomplish a very difficult task.”

Another SoCal 300 winner in Class D winner was Matt Brooks’ classic S&S Yawl Dorade. Find out more about Dorade’s history and future international racing plans at

Photo courtesy of Sharon Green, Ultimate Sailing.

Wrapping up a great week of racing all over California, San Diego Yacht Club hosted the awards party on the deck as the last boats came to the finish Saturday, June 3rd. Pantaenius Yacht Insurance provided a nice set of binoculars to the winners of the Coastal Cup, SoCal 300 and overall Offshore Race Week winners, and awards were given to regatta class and overall winners with bottles of Mt. Gay Rum to winners of each SoCal 300 leg. All 5 host clubs look forward to bringing this series back in 2018 and continuing the Calfornia offshore racing adventure.

SoCal 300 Top Performances:
Full Results

1st to Finish: HL Enloe, Mighty Merloe, ORMA 60 (*Course record)
1st Overall: Frank Slootman, Invisible Hand, Pac52
Class Winners:
Frank Slootman, Invisible Hand, Pac52
Dave MacEwen, Lucky Duck, Santa Cruz 52
Larry Andrews, Locomotive, Summit 40
Matt Brooks, Dorade, S&S Yawl
HL Enloe, Mighty Merloe, ORMA 60

Offshore Race Week Top Performances:
Class Results / Overall Results

1st Overall: Joel Ronning, Catapult, Santa Cruz 70
2nd Overall: Dave MacEwen, Lucky Duck, Santa Cruz 52
3rd Overall: John Shulze, Horizon, Santa Cruz 50
Class Winners:
Joel Ronning, Catapult, Santa Cruz 70
Simon Phillips, Astra, Farr 40
John Gallagher, Chim Chim, Gunboat 62

Thank you to CA Offshore Race Week sponsors for supporting this annual event, SD Boatworks, Pantaenius Yacht Insurance, North Sails and Ullman Sails. CA Offshore Race Week merchandise was provided by Pirates Lair, and remains for sale at Photography services provided by Sharon Green, Ultimate Sailing at the SoCal 300 start. Race tracking provided by YB Tracking.