It's Wednesday morning, and the Monday starters have now been at sea for nearly two days. Still out front of the fleet is Charles Devanneaux's Beneteau Figaro 3 A Fond le Girafon, who holds a lead of just eight nautical miles over the fastest pursuing yacht; Emmanuel Sauquet's Hanse 505 Outremer. While Devanneaux and co-skipper Matthieu Damerval may be the quickest boat on the course, they're certainly not having an easy go of it with reports of the boat being very wet inside and constantly needing to be pumped out with the bilge pumps, due to steady water ingress from the daggerboard trunks which house each of the revolutionary boat's lifting hydrofoils. Behind A Fond le Girafon, fellow French team Outremer is eight miles back on line honors with an eight mile cushion on her Hanse 505 sistership Anais, though there is a definite north- south split between the two boats, which is indicative of the north-south split that has developed in much of the fleet.
The weather scenario has continued to evolve more or less as it was originally forecast as early as last week, with the Wednesday starters getting offshore in the strongest winds before an upper level low-pressure area moves in and sits on the rhumb line, threatening to stop the early starters in their tracks and hinder the Thursday/ Friday starters in getting away from the coast. As a result of this massive hole in the race course, most boats are beginning to hedge their bets and choose either a southerly option or northerly one, with a few stragglers choosing a middle road through the forecast hole. The southerly pack of boats is led by Matt Solhjem's Hanse 505 Anaïs, who has been relying on her waterline advantage to put her at the head of the pack. When the breeze goes light, all eyes will be on whether one of the smaller, lighter boats can make gains or if Anaïs can maintain an advantage.
Behind Anaïs in the southerly pack, Bill and Melinda Erkelens on the Donovan 30 Wolfpack are making great speed, and currently sit third on handicap in the DH2/ Mount Gay Rum division, just behind Lester Robertson's Moore 24 Foamy, who is the fleet's most southerly boat. Currently leading DH2 is Douglas Pihlaja's J/105 Abstract, though they are almost dead on the rhumb line and therefore one of the fleet's most northerly boats, and very well split off from her closest divisional rivals. The DH1/ Pau Maui Vodka division - the Express 27 one-design division - is still lead by Will Paxton and Zachery Anderson on Motorcycle Irene, who are quite simply putting on a masterclass against a competitive fleet. Multi-time Express 27 national champions with a very well prepared boat and a super-trick inventory of customized offshore and reaching sails, Motorcycle Irene is fully living up to the pre-race hype. Consistently faster than her rivals, she has steadily pulled out to a 13 mile lead, likely due in large part to the higher, reefable clew patches that she was sporting on her Quantum headsails. Allowing any jib to effectively become a jib-top or blast reacher, Irene's very well thought out sail inventory appears to be paying off huge dividends.
Coral Reef Sailing Apparel/ A fleet is sailing in a near single-file line near the rhumb line with race stalwart Jim Quanci and his green Cal 40 Green Buffalo leading in fleet and leading the race overall on handicap. Nine miles behind, Bob Horton's Cal 40 Highlander sits in second place in fleet and also second overall on handicap. Behind the two venerable Cals, Motorcycle Irene has quite incredibly moved up to third place on overall handicap honors. With a boat that is sure to light up when off the breeze, and the fact that she is a very southerly boat, yet correcting out with the northerly boats this early in the race indicates that later on in this race, she is quite likely to assume the overall lead.
With the entire fleet headed towards a big hole, the 'winner' in this whole north - south gamble very well could be the boats that reach the breeze first, and that is likely to be the southerly boats. We are fully expecting some major movement on the leaderboard come later this week as this fascinating battle plays itself out.
The media team is currently on site at the Saint Francis Yacht Club to begin covering the second day of starts in this 20th edition of the Pacific Cup. 17 boats are expected to start today in the Weems & Plath B division and Alaska Airlines C division.
Competitor quotes, photos and blogs have been slowly trickling in over the first couple of days, which is not uncommon. Once boats begin sailing downwind as opposed to hard reaching across stiff northerlies, we expect much more info coming in and we will begin posting it.
Here is a link to our full video recap of the first day of starts, on Monday.
Pac Cup Media