While the Bay Area continues to creep toward spring and longer days on the water, the sailing season has already kicked into high gear in the winterless Hawaiian Islands. Saturday and Sunday, February 20-21, saw two of Hawaii’s most prominent yacht clubs, Waikiki YC and Hawaii YC, team up to host Opening Day weekend.
With boat blessings, a parade of sailing and power yachts, social events, and two races, Honolulu’s fleet began 2016 with a bang, especially after Sunday’s breeze-on Koko Head Race. Thirteen boats took the start of Hawaii YC’s Koko Head Race to sail 16.7 miles or 28.7 miles, depending on division. Sailed in highly atypical conditions for the Hawaiian Islands, Koko Head was contested in a nuking westerly generated by the same storm system that allowed ‘The Eddie’ big-wave surf contest to take place just a few days later for the first time in six years.
With breeze in the low to mid-20s and gusts to 30+ knots, the fleet jib-reached to Diamond Head before setting spinnakers for the very atypical and quick run to Koko Head. In the premier four-boat X Division, James McDowell’s Corel 45 Heartbeat led around the race course, though John Spadaro’s Sydney 41 Boomerang showed impressive speed and depth when running downwind and looked to be the favorite on handicap. After rounding the leeward mark at Koko Head and sailing upwind, however, Boomerang’s #4 headsail and headfoil failed — their race was done. With Heartbeat’s owner James McDowell sailing his other boat, the Santa Cruz 70 Grand Illusion, off the coast of Mexico in the PV Race at the time, guest skipper Steve Martin and crew drove it like they stole it to smash around the course and earn Heartbeat’s first win of the new season.
The most competitive division was PHRF A, which saw all six finishers complete one lap around the 16.7 mile course with John Higham’s 1D35 Kahuna stretching out to a commanding victory over Jim Maynard’s Wasabi and Travis Scott’s Beneteau First 40.7 Firefly. While the conditions on Sunday were tough, they were no match for the smallest boat in the fleet, Joseph Shacat’s bright green Waikiki YC-based Santa Cruz 27 86’d, which proved her merit in the big stuff to claim a resounding victory in a three-boat PHRF B division. See the full results here.
The first season points race for the Hawaii fleet will be March 12’s Vasconcellos buoy race off Waikiki, which expects a big turnout with X, A and B fleets racing, as well as a Cal 20 one design and a cruising division.
Thursday’s big swell also affected the Big Island of Hawaii, as this catamaran entering Kona’s Honokohau Harbor demonstrates. The video aired on KITV 4.
The first real competition in the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup World Series was sailed in light air over the weekend off Muscat, Oman. After incurring a penalty for starting prematurely in the first race, Sir Ben Ainslie’s Land Rover BAR sailed back up the fleet to salvage a third-place finish behind Emirates Team New Zealand and Oracle Team USA. The team followed that up with two victories, finishing Saturday four points clear. But Ainslie said it was anything but easy in the light winds. “These conditions make it very challenging,” he said. “You need a decent start and to go the right way, so it’s tough on the tacticians.”
A popular result on Sunday came from Groupama Team France, with a second-place finish in the day’s second race followed by a victory in the weekend’s final race. Adam Minoprio replaced the injured Franck Cammas on the helm, as the latter is still recovering from a serious foot injury. Cammas is expected to be onboard for the next ACWS event on May 6-8 in New York City. The six teams will go into that event with Land Rover BAR in first, Oracle in second, and ETNZ in third. See www.americascup.com for more.
All is not sunshine and shiny trophies with the sailing scene in Oman, however, as the Oman Sailing Committee has withdrawn from hosting the 2016 Youth Sailing World Championships scheduled for December. World Sailing’s press release obliquely implied that Oman would not be able to treat Israeli sailors equally, as required by the non-discrimination elements of the Olympic Charter. "World Sailing confirms it will continue to apply this guidance strictly to all of its future World Sailing championships and explicit acceptance of these conditions will form part of the bid criteria for future events." For more on the background of this story, see www.sailing.org/news/39107.php.