Skip to content

Classic Coastal Cup

Onboard the SC52 Prevail, former Latitude 38 racing editor Rob Grant trims the A3 spinnaker while Hilary Walecka grinds, owner Bill Guilfoyle drives, and legendary Santa Cruz Sails — now Ullman Sails — sailmaker Dave Hodges trims main.

© Ronnie Simpson

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.

Snafu ducks Plus Sixteen at the small boat start on Wednesday, June 3.

© Fred Fago

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.

Ian Rogers (left) and Mark English (right) hold the perpetual trophy for Coastal Cup Line Honors. The other three engraved plaques visible in the photo are for the Open 60 O Canada in 2011, and the SC70s Holua (2012) and Retro (2013). Little Mas! finished in 43 hrs, 29 mins, 35 secs.

© 2015 Jane Watkins

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.

Astra and Hana Ho at the big boat start on Thursday the 4th.

© 2015 Fred Fago

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.

Leave a Comment

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.