New for this year, the 2016 California Offshore Race Week featured the combined forces of five yacht clubs along the California coast to produce a week-long schedule of races in a tour covering almost 600 miles of the California Coast line. The race brought together the Spinnaker Cup, Coastal Cup and SoCal 300 from May 27 - June 5. In between races, the boats had enough layover time in each port to make modifications to their boats for the next legs, participate in beer can races, return to work or just meet up with friends and family.
Prior to the start of the SoCal 300 on June 3, 17 of the boats had participated in the first two events for California Offshore Race week. They experienced increasingly lighter winds coming down the coast, which foreshadowed expectations going into the SoCal 300. Forecasts were predicting a massive high pressure system to stall on the coast and push the much sought after Pacific trade winds even further out to sea. The light conditions caused 2 of the 29 boats registered for the SoCal 300 to drop out even before the race began, while several also retired during the race to return to Santa Barbara and San Francisco Bay.
Steve Meheen, skipper on Aszhou (RP63), recounted the first two legs of CORW series before heading into the SoCal 300. “The winds were light throughout the beginning of the week, but there was enough wind to race. It looks like the winds will be light again for the SoCal 300 and right now our division is stuck in a 4-way tie. We’re hoping to sail our fastest to break out of that. The SoCal 300 should be interesting because of how the race will be scored (four separate legs), which will really illuminate how boats are performing against their ratings.”
Bill Guilfoyle, skipper of Prevail (SC 52), had glowing remarks about the first two events of the CORW series.
“In a word the week has been fantastic. The racing has been close in our Santa Cruz 50/52 class. After 200 miles of racing, three of us finished within a few minutes of each other. The hospitality in Monterey was outstanding with Monterey Peninsula Yacht Club (MPYC) rolling out the red carpet and Betsy Jeffers and her team arranging escorts to pre-assigned slips, somehow getting 60 boats into the harbor and keeping the food and drink flowing until our departure on Sunday. We made good use of our lay day completing some minor repairs and enjoying a relaxed day ashore in beautiful Monterey.”
SoCal 300 Chairman and crew aboard Fox (TP-52), David Servais, also expressed his gratitude to MPYC saying, “Betsy Jeffers did a spectacular job hosting the boats during that layover and everything went off without a hitch. We had enough time to enjoy the aquarium and festivals for Memorial Day in Monterey.”
Servais also recounted some of the tight rivalry occurring in Division A. “There was only one minute between the second, third, and fourth place finishes in the Division A during the Coastal Cup. Additionally, the Division A boats were in a four-way tie going in to the SoCal 300. So to say it has been close all week is an understatement.”
Bill Helvestine, skipper on Deception (SC 50) from St. Francis Yacht Club, reported that, “this is some of the best racing on the West Coast. Prevail, Horizon and Lucky Duck had a match race within themselves during the Spinnaker Cup. They all finished within five minutes of each other, which is just incredible after an 18 hour race.”
“Going into the SoCal 300 we are hoping to improve our game. We have not placed as well as we could have, some of which we blame on the light winds, but we keep trying to improve. Luckily, our crew is great and we haven’t had any breakdowns. We owe a big thanks to Bill Guilfoyle, David Servais and others who had the foresight to organize the week the way they did,” expressed Helvestine.
However, the conditions during this year’s SoCal 300 were not ideal for those hoping to improve. The race started in Santa Barbara with about 2-4 knots of wind which stayed light until boats were able to clear the Santa Cruz Channel where there was slightly more pressure, but nothing too significant.
A crew member on Prevail described the race as “brutal” in one word. “It was a challenging race because the wind never got going. The fog was extremely dense, with maybe only 100 feet of visibility. The toughest part was getting out of the Santa Cruz Channel. Because of these factors, it took us an extra 12 hours to complete the race this year compared to last year.”
Helvestine and his crew on Deception also spent longer on the water than they expected to. Trapped in the lee between the two Santa Cruz Islands, “We made the decision to put our anchor down at one point because we weren’t certain where the currents would take us. We didn’t want to hit a rocky point and be forced to turn the engine on. So we dropped anchor next to a Cal40, which looked like a complete ghost ship in the distance because of the fog.”
HL Enloe’s Orma 60, Mighty Merloe, was the first boat to finish after about 23 hours and 13 minutes, as the lone trimaran to compete in the SoCal 300.
Navigator on Mighty Merloe, Artie Means, reported what it was like for them out on the race course. “We were the only multihulls out there unfortunately. Completing the course in 23 hours was on the slower side for us, but we still finished 9 hours ahead of Rio100. The fog definitely made the race more nerve-racking. We went through the first gate at the islands and didn’t even see them and we almost ran into a weather buoy (end of leg 3/beginning leg 4) at one point. Regardless, it was a fun race with the scoring gates and the multiple marks. Hopefully next year we will have somebody to race against!”
Runaway (Andrews 70), Kokopelli II (SC 52) and Numbers (Taylor/Goetz 49) were the winners of the monohull classes A, C and D respectively.
Mike Price’s ODay 39, Peacemaker, led the class E boats to the finish line. He and Ed Sanford’s J/105, Creative, battled their way around the 255 nm course hardly more than sight distance apart for the majority of the race. Reflecting on the chase, Ed Sanford recounted the moment when their J/105 rose up on a swell and landed on a kelp island….while Peacemaker sailed away into the night.
Horizon (SC 50), skippered by John Schulze from Balboa Yacht Club, took first place in the overall race week standings and Varuna (Rogers 36) won the four-way tie in the overall rankings of Division A.
Lastly, for the first time ever, this year’s SoCal 300 was partnered with Sailonline.org to make the race virtual with conditions and elements mimicking the race in real life. There were 205 participants from 35 different nations who competed in the virtual race, with 10 different nations filling the top 10 places. The margin between first and tenth places was only 23 minutes and 5 seconds, which was a much closer gap than in the actual race. This close and competitive racing in Sailonline.org virtual races is significant since it helps to sharpen skills for the real world.
The consensus at the awards ceremony hosted by the San Diego Yacht Club was that this was a successful offshore racing model for the owners and sailors involved. We are excited to bring it back in 2017 with improvements and another great turn out.