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Pacific Cup Profiles: Chris Maher and the Olson 34 ‘Keaka’

We ran into Chris Maher at the Svendsen’s Spring Fling as he was picking up some stainless steel fasteners for his next project — getting the family Olson 34 Keaka ready for the Pacific Cup. He says it’s a tough job preparing the boat for Pacific Cup safety inspector Bob Hinden, whose job it is to make sure no one has any surprises out there. But Chris says they’re coming down the home stretch. We asked if he’d give us a little more background on the boat and the reason for the race. His wife, Sheila, responded with the story below.

“Chris said he had promised to send you some background on Team Keaka and their quest to race in the Pacific Cup this summer. As you know, our family has had many boats over the years. The first major family trip was cruising the San Juan Islands when our boys were only 3 and 5. That was long before email and cell phones. I remember trucking the boat to Anacortes, and I think most people thought we were a bit crazy. We did two Baja Ha-Ha’s, in 1995 and 1997, and then Chris went on to do another five over the years onboard various boats of ours and on friends’ boats. He always told me it was ‘work’ because, as an owner of UK Sailmakers, he met so many customers while cruising in Mexico.”

Chris and Annabelle Maher
Chris Maher with granddaughter Annabelle Maher, who’s helping him get the boat ready for the Pacific Cup.
© 2024 Maher Family

“Thinking the grass might be greener working for a large company, Chris became an industry representative for AkzoNobel Yacht, Division/Interlux and Awlgrip, and was transferred to the Northwest. We felt bad for Patrick and Thomas because we took our boat to Anacortes. They were just finishing college at Cal Poly, and Chris thought they needed a boat on the Bay to meet girls. We purchased the Olson 34 and gave it to them, hoping they would sail together as partners. Apparently it worked, because they met and married two amazing young women and we now have four grandchildren.

Patrick Maher
Patrick Maher cultivating future crew as he brings his son Ollie Maher.
© 2024 Maher Family

“That brings me back to the name Keaka. It means ‘Jack’ in Hawaiian. For years no one could agree on a name, but after Chris’s father Jack passed away in 2019 it was named in his honor. He and Chris both shared a love of sailing and were always boat partners.

“When we moved back to the Bay Area, Chris and the boys started racing together. I always assumed someday they would do another Ha-Ha together. Since retiring, Chris has taken on many challenges such as long backpacking trips like hiking the John Muir Trail and summiting Mount Whitney. I really shouldn’t have been too surprised when he wanted to race in the Pacific Cup. Patrick really wanted to go, and convinced his good friend Blake Martini to join the crew. John Ross is our nextdoor neighbor who owns the Widerness 30 Special Edition and is the only crew member to have raced to Hawaii. Nick Degnan rounds out the crew. Nick, Patrick and Blake were all college sailors.”

Keaka Crew
The rest of the Keaka crew from left to right: Nick Degnan, John Ross and Blake Martini.
© 2024 Maher Family

“I am still not exactly sure why they all want to do this. It takes an incredible amount of work to get a boat ready. There are more requirements to do an ocean crossing than a coastal trip. I think it has been fun for Chris to reconnect with all the marine industry professionals that he has known over the many years of sailing. He has started a ‘support group’ of Encinal Yacht Club members who will be racing this year, to share information and get to know each other better.”

Patrick getting ready for the Pacific Cup on Keaka
Patrick Maher getting ready for the Pacific Cup.
© 2024 Maher Family

“The team has learned so much attending the seminars and safety training. One reason Chris told me he enjoys ocean sailing is that it is the same as backpacking. You are self-contained and on your own.”

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