Returning for its second year, the 2017 California Offshore Race Week featured the combined powers of five yacht clubs along the California coast. With efforts from Encinal Yacht Club, San Francisco Yacht Club, Monterey Peninsula Yacht Club, Santa Barbara Yacht Club, and San Diego Yacht Club, a week-long schedule of races occurred covering almost 600 miles of the California coast between May 27 and June 3.
The week brought together the previously independent Spinnaker Cup, Coastal Cup and SoCal 300. Participants had the option to compete in the whole week with layover time in ports along the way or they could chose to compete in the individual races.
Prior to the start of the SoCal 300, eleven boats had participated in the first two California Offshore Race Week (CORW) events. Many of these racers described the Spinnaker Cup as "typical" and "a great one-day race" to start off the week. The Coastal Cup followed which was much more challenging than expected with winds over 30 knots and exceptionally rough seas. For a better idea of those conditions, be sure to read the story of the Moore 24 Snafu's Coast Guard rescue.
Bill Helvestine, skipper of the Santa Cruz 50, Deception, described this year's Coastal Cup as the "roughest race that he's ever sailed." After completing that race and resting for a night, Helvestine and his crew prepared for the strongest downwind driving in SoCal.
Unlike the previous two events, the SoCal 300 is a longer race that usually features a variety of winds, which was certainly true for 2017. After a slow start, the breeze shot up to around 30 knots around the Santa Cruz Islands, and then all but shut off prior to the finish.
Helvestine enjoys the competition, especially downwind, with the Santa Cruz 50 class, and frequently races alongside Oaxaca, Hana Ho, Horizon, and the SC52's Lucky Duck and Elyxir. "The competition in the SC50 class continues to build and improve, especially when boats turn over owners. Santa Cruz 50's and 52's continue to be strong boats in downwind races. That certainly includes the CORW races since they are largely downhill, and it also includes Transpac and the Pacific Cup."
With his all Corinthian crew, Helvestine hopes to be back to participate next year. "I think it’s an excellent idea to have the race week stop in harbors along the way. It makes it very enjoyable, especially for those who worry about sea sickness."
The Pac 52, Invisible Hand, skippered by Frank Slootman was the overall SoCal 300 winning team. According to the tactician on board, Gavin Brady, the team was racing the SoCal 300 for the first time as a qualifier for Transpac. "We have always wanted to do this race. Not a lot of races are run this way and the way the points work out, you need four really good legs. It's one of the hardest trophies to win in the United States."
H.L. Enloe's ORMA 60 Trimaran, Mighty Merloe, was the first boat to finish, breaking last year's pace by over an hour with an elapsed time of 22 hours, 9 minutes, and 18 seconds. This is the new course record, earning the team a place on the new perpetual Multithull Trophy.
One of Mighty Merloe's crew, Jay Davis, claimed that their forward-thinking ways were helpful during the challenging portions of the race. "We had to switch things rapidly when the breeze filled as we were going around the islands. Those minutes as the breeze filled were the most precious minutes. That's all we had to get prepared for the next move."
Not surprisingly, their motto on board during this race was "saving our contingencies so we can get the immediate work done."
The Santa Barbara Yacht Club Commodore, Bill Guilfoyle, wasn't able to sail this year since his boat was under repair, but was a co-host of the SoCal 300. “In only its second year we were thrilled to see so many of the top California offshore programs represented in this year’s CORW. I can’t think of another west coast race that offers a more complete test of the boat and crew capabilities, a perfect way to recognize the California Offshore Championships."
Guilfoyle noted that a lot of boats used this week as a qualifier and feeder from NorCal for next month's Transpac start. "With a half century of yacht design represented from the Cal 40's, Santa Cruz 50’s, 52’s & 70’s, to the new Pac 52’s, there’s a place for any offshore capable boat to compete. We hope to see the race encourage more offshore sailing and continue to build participation for years to come.“
The SoCal 300 Chairman, David Servais, hopes to see the race week continue in the future. "Between San Francisco and San Diego, you have incredible logistical facilities for boats to start and enter. This year was a good year for wind, which is really important for us. The Coastal Cup lived up to its reputation for having the most wind. But the SoCal 300 saw varying conditions with tactical challenges for racers."
When asked about his favorite part of organizing the event, Servais replied, "I like seeing the NorCal sailors and SoCal sailors get together which doesn’t happen very often. It’s really fun and the tour of the coast is amazing. It’s just cool to go out and see it all.”
For the second year, the SoCal 300 partnered with Sailonline.org to offer a virtual version of the race with conditions and elements imitating the live event. This year there were 154 participants from 36 different nations who competed in the virtual race. Seven different nations filled the top 10 spots with participants from Italy taking the first, third and fourth places. The elapsed time for the virtual winner was 1 day, 5 hours, 21 minutes, and 14 seconds. Competing in Sailonline.org virtual races is relevant as it helps to improve certain skills for the water.
SoCal 300 class winners: Dorade (Division D), Locomotive (Division C), Lucky Duck (Division B), Invisible Hand (Division A), Mighty Merloe (Multihull Division).
Full results of the whole CORW and the SoCal 300 can be found here.
Photos courtesy of Sharon Green, Ultimate Sailing.
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