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Record-Breaking Pace in Islands Race

The Southern California coastal racing season kicked off with the 2024 Islands Race, co-hosted by Newport Harbor and San Diego Yacht Clubs since 2010. The 142-mile course starts off Point Fermin, rounds Santa Catalina and San Clemente islands, and finishes in San Diego. Twenty-eight boats competed this year on February 9-10.

We’re always keen for a Merlin sighting. The 68-ft Bill Lee sled sailed in ORR B.
© 2024 Bronny Daniels / Joysailing

Conditions for the Start

Would the racers suffer from the atmospheric rivers slamming into SoCal? Much of the heavier-than-usual rainfall had washed out into the ocean. A USCG advisory alerted mariners watch for debris in the water near shore. Competitors spotted lumber, poly rope and lots of plastic. At Friday morning’s start, conditions presented an atypical 4- to 6-knot breeze out of the east. The earlier-starting boats suffered transitioning breeze and an adverse flood current. But by 1 p.m. the westerly had arrived. The ORR A fleet, starting last, enjoyed the best starting conditions — a 5- to 7-knot westerly. Once offshore, the fleet benefited from a cold west-ish breeze. 

David Moore’s SC52+ Westerly awaits their start in ORR D, which they would go on to win.
© 2024 San Diego Yacht Club

A New Course Record

Manouch Moshayedi and crew on the Bakewell White Rio100 hoped to overtake the previous monohull course record. (In 2021, Roy P. Disney’s Volvo 70 Pyewacket 70 set an elapsed-time record of 10:49:52.) After turning the last mark to head east toward the finish, Rio100 was on a pace to break the record. The wind held up, and Rio100 sailed to the finish to set a new bar of 10:18:45. The race tracker showed that Rio100 sailed the shortest distance of all competitors (147 miles). “We were very lucky with the weather, which cleared up to a nice sunny day after a few weeks of constant rain and clouds,” commented Moshayedi. “The wind velocity cooperated, and our capable crew did a flawless job to make it possible for us to break the record by 31 minutes.”

The record-breaking Rio100 before the start.
© 2024 Bronny Daniels / Joysailing

Vying for Corrected Time Honors

Meanwhile, Tom Holthus’ Botin 56 BadPak and Roy P. Disney’s Andrews 68 Pyewacket duked it out for the best corrected time. While BadPak took a more southern rounding of the waypoint turning mark, Pyewacket chose the shorter distance. The Santa Cruz 70 Grand Illusion and the J/125 Argo 4 made up time in the last third of the race to jump to the top of the projected standings. But, in the end, BadPak’s time held. They were able to win the Islands Race on corrected time, 18 minutes ahead of Pyewacket and 28 minutes ahead of Grand Illusion. “It was a decent breeze all the way until the finish, where it was light and shifty,” said Holthus. “Behind the islands was magical. We were triple-headed on a reach in 18 knots; the miles went by fast. The air was cold, but the stars were bright.”

BadPak looking badass at the start.
© 2024 Peter Mcdonald

“BadPak was in another universe yesterday,” commented Peter Isler, navigator on Pyewacket. “They flew past us before sunset on the outside of the islands with a triple-head rig looking amazing. We had a great competitive race in the sled class. It felt like we were back in the good old days of Southern California offshore racing with five well-sailed, very similar boats tussling for any advantage.”

A Battle Among the Smallest Boats

Competition was close at the other end of the fleet too. With 50 miles to go in Class F, John Staff’s J/111 Obsidian, Greg Nelsen’s Azzura 310 Outsider and Elliott James’s Mancebo 31 Bloom County were within 2 miles of one another in the early morning hours, with the class up for grabs. Bloom County had sailed an excellent first half of the race and was a possible top-five contender until the wind shut down for them. The final 15 miles took several hours. Each boat took a different angle to the finish, with Outsider taking first in class.

Outsider crew
The crew of Outsider looking chilly. Left to right: Dan Alvarez, Tom Warren, Karl Crawford, Chris Jordan and Greg Nelsen.
© 2024 Greg Nelsen

“The Islands Race was on the target list this year now that Outsider has a full ORR measurement,” noted Greg Nelsen. “Since Outsider is dry-sailed, it was a much easier delivery to SoCal by trailer than by dodging offshore winter storms. Cabrillo Beach YC graciously hosted us, along with Bloom County, which also made the trek from the San Francisco Bay Area. Dean Wyer, the CBYC marina manager, helped us launch and get our rigs stepped on their very nice two 6-ton hoists.

“Our division started first in very little wind.” Shortly afterward, the race committee postponed the starts for the larger boat divisions. “We crawled toward Catalina, the first mark of the course, at a snail’s pace for the next hour. The wind filled in nicely through the afternoon. We had a tack-free rounding of Catalina and barely got to crack the sheet to lay the first virtual offset mark west of San Clemente, still too close for the code zero in the building breeze offshore. There were a few kelp back-downs, as we do not have a kelp cutter. Finally, abeam of the island, the code zero went up, and we were able to start making some ground, as the Azzura had the shortest waterline in the fleet.

“After the jibe toward San Diego and after passing the last San Clemente offset course virtual mark, we were still reaching with the code, the apparent wind on the beam. The A2 asymmetrical finally got her angle. We had a few hours of running, until, in the wee hours, we hit the transition to shore breeze on the nose with San Diego dead upwind. We got through the transition well and worked the shifts toward the finish, crossing the line in just under 21 hours for a class win by just 2:22 over the J/111, which finished just before us. SDYC is a great place to finish, and with the use of their hoist, the boat was back northbound on Sunday afternoon.” Outsider is signed up for tomorrow’s Singlehanded Sailing Society Corinthian Race.   

Outsider on hoist
Outsider hauls out at San Diego YC, in preparation for the trailer ride back home to Point Richmond.
© 2024 Greg Nelsen

Where Do We Go From Here?

The Islands Race was held earlier than usual due to its status as a feeder for SDYC’s Puerto Vallarta Race, which had also moved up the calendar to a late February start to take advantage of the full moon, and in collaboration with MEXORC. PV Race starts began yesterday and continue through tomorrow. Twelve teams that sailed in the Islands Race are racing to PV, plus 11 others. We’re looking forward to reports from the PV Race and MEXORC, the latter of which will run March 2-6 out of Marina Vallarta.


1 Comment

  1. Joe Siudzinski 5 months ago

    Were there no multihulls and is there a previous multihull course record?

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