Encinal Yacht Club’s famous Coastal Cup has been on the endangered list for years. Low attendance, an inconsistent and oftentimes inconvenient destination, and an increasingly busy racing calendar contributed to the cancellation of the race in 2014 and made 2015 a ‘definite maybe’.
While this year’s fleet was small, with just seven starters and six finishers, the sailing was classic Coastal Cup. Similar to a West Coast version of the Sydney to Hobart Race, though much shorter, Coastal Cup comprises three distinct stages. After starting in an iconic sailing harbor, San Francisco Bay, boats must work away from the coast before completing a long and oftentimes windy and gear-breaking offshore leg to Point Conception. Once around the point, the race can turn into a shifty and notoriously light inshore-style leg through the Santa Barbara Channel that rewards local knowledge. To survive the Coastal Cup is one thing, to win it is another thing entirely.
Wednesday’s ‘small boat’ start was the clear winner of the weather lottery, leaving San Francisco in blustery conditions with strong coastal northwesterlies allowing the three-boat PHRF C fleet to get down the coast in a hurry.
Paul Disario’s Olson 911 Plus Sixteen and Karl Robrock’s Moore 24 Snafu battled for the lead early, while Mark English’s Moore 24 SC Mas! struggled to hold the pace. Once offshore however, Mas! popped up the symmetrical reaching kite and lit the afterburners to pull out a commanding lead. The ULDB’s Yellowbrick tracker pinged speeds consistently in the teens, peaking at 17 knots around midnight. Snafu posted similar speeds as the two ran away from the bigger, heavier Olson 911 with ease. Entering the Santa Barbara channel with up to 32 knots of breeze and more long and wild 17-knot surfs, the boats were on a near-record pace to reach the barn before becoming becalmed for nearly four hours within sight of the finish line. Mas! held on to beat Snafu by an hour and a half, winning PHRF C and easily winning overall over the Thursday starters, which had decidedly slower conditions.
The big boats in PHRF A started a day later with light air outside the Golden Gate and a northwesterly that shut off halfway down the coast. Bill Guilfoyle’s Santa Cruz 52 Prevail battled early with Mark Dowdy’s Santa Cruz 50 Hana Ho and Simon Phillips’ Farr 40 Astra before legging out on the competition. Alex Farell’s turbo 1D35 Alpha Puppy started late and could never quite challenge the leaders. Astra pulled into Santa Cruz with gear failure. Prevail prevailed over Hana Ho for the division win but corrected out well behind every Wednesday starter.
Relaxing under the warm Southern California sun in the idyllic setting that is Santa Barbara, racers swapped stories, wined and dined at a Santa Barbara YC Crab Crack, and then partied the night away in local music venues with everyone in attendance asking the same question: "Why does a race like Coastal Cup attract only seven boats?" This is perhaps the single best offshore race on the West Coast, run by a great PRO, James Vickers, and two of the finest yacht clubs in existence. There’s no reason 20+ boats shouldn’t be duking it out next year.
Unlike last fall’s devastating Hurricane Odile, former Hurricane Blanca did no significant damage to boating interests in Cabo San Lucas or La Paz when she passed by to the west on Sunday.
One powerboat crewmember in Cabo reported that even at the height of the storm, when it was blowing about 40 knots, some vendors were still trying to hawk souvenir trinkets along the perimeter of the marina.
Glenn Twitchell and Debbie Jahn of the Newport-based Lagoon 380 Beach Access, who hunkered down in La Paz, reported gusts to 45 knots and moderately strong winds continuing to blow 24 hours later. But they’d seen more than 45 knots in Newport Beach, so it wasn’t a big deal. Most boats had been well prepared, so there wasn’t any significant damage.
Greg King of the Long Beach-based 65-ft schooner Coco Kai was making his 18th trip north from Cabo when Blanca started chasing him. It caught them while Coco Kai was abeam of Mag Bay, about 175 miles north of Cabo. King, who is completing a nearly 9-year circumnavigation with the schooner, headed to the west and hove to. After a minor roughing up, they were able to continue north.
If there was any significant damage from Blanca, we’re unaware of it.
Perhaps the oddest thing of all was the crew of the steel sloop Corazon de Acero sailing onto La Paz a day or so before the arrival of what had been downgraded to a tropical storm. It was odd because they’d sailed two days from a place that was under no threat of tropical storm conditions to one that was. And when we said they sailed “onto” La Paz, it’s because they missed the entrance channel and ended up hard aground, as much as 45 degrees over, right in front of the crowds on the malecon. Mike Rickman and Shelly Rothery Ward of the Peterson 44 Avatar responded, as did Will of Shaman. With halyards led from the sloop’s masthead to the dinghies pulling the boat over, her keel popped free, and she took off under the power of her jib in the gusty winds — nearly capsizing Will and Mike in the dinghies being dragged behind.
Meanwhile, eebmike.com, perhaps the premiere hurricane watch website for Mexico, is showing a graphic of weather down around Tehuantepec that has a 60% chance of forming into a tropical disturbance. Before anyone gets their sailing shorts in a twist, the ultra-long-range possibilities on what might happen are shown in the second graphic. Something to be watched, but at this point not to be worried about.