Thursday, March 24, 2011

J "Musketeers" Crash The Cabo Race Party

J/111 sailing Cabo Race to Mexico
J/111 and J/145 Second In Class, 3rd & 4th Fleet, Respectively!
(Newport Beach, CA)- OK.  The forecasts for the classic 600 nm sprint south down the Cal-Mex coastline to "Cabo" was daunting-- the Friday starting group (including all  J's) looked reasonable, but the Saturday starters looked troublesome.  With any luck, the Class C & D fleet would be treated to early jib reaching that would morph into high-speed spinnaker reaching as the fleet moved south; the winds typically move more into the NW quadrants at this time of year the further south you get.

For the three "J-Musketeers" participating, leading the charge down the track was Tom Holthus' J/145 BAD PAAK from San Diego, CA.  The veteran J/124 GOOD CALL sailed by Tom Barker from San Diego and the "new kid on the block", the J/111 speedster INVISIBLE HAND sailed by Frank Slootman and crew proved to be "double-trouble" for the fleet and their own class.  Given the fact that winds hit 15-20+ knots, it was an epic ride down the coast for this gang of serious speedsters- a trio of trophy-hunting thieves. Other than the unfortunate withdrawal of GOOD CALL within 50 miles of Cabo (due to a crew injury), all three boats would have made it on to the podium!  The two that did grab trophies were Frank's J/111 INVISIBLE HAND getting 2nd in Class D and 3rd overall and Tom's J/145 BAD PAK getting 2nd in Class C and 4th overall sailing under the ORR (offshore racing rule) handicap system!  Here is what happened:

cabo race storm frontOn Saturday Class C and D started in light to moderate winds. By Sunday, a massive front with strong breezes and very choppy waves hit the tail-end of the Cabo fleet (see photo to right), primarily affecting the big boats in Class A & B that started a day later than Class C and D.  A and B basically got hammered and a bunch of top boats dropped out later on Sunday, early Monday morning (California "sleds" and modern, lightweight "wedges of cheese" cannot sail well upwind, period).  Meanwhile, SoCal was drowning in water with record rainfalls generating road closures and massive mud slides.  Pacific Coast Highway (Route 1) was washed out and Santa Barbara set a record of 6" rainfall in 24 hours with yet more to come.  Perhaps some of those J/24s and J/105s in SB Harbor may be put to good use as second homes!

By Monday, Class C and D saw light winds south of Cedros Island and made significant headway south along the coast.  Frank's team aboard INVISIBLE HAND reported on, "C & D divisions had steady but light pressure for the start.  Most everyone worked offshore to pick up a bit more pressure into the evening.  Looks like the boats outside the rhumbline did a bit better on the morning report.  With very little time on the new J/111 we are happy with her performance thus far.  Moves very well in the 14-17 knots we had for the majority of the night and held impressive speeds during the lighter 8-12 knot periods.  Tomorrows GRIB looks quite interesting with some challenging decisions for the next day or so.  We'll keep pressing the cloth and hopefully we won't get smacked by the the Southerly moving through."

Sailing to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico harbor -looking towards finish line- sailboats in harborOn Monday afternoon, fleet compression was occurring as the northwesterlies filled in and continued building behind Class C and D.  With approximately 300 NM to go (finish line off harbor to the right), the fleet saw increasing pressure from the NW, which usually dominates the Baja peninsula this time of year.  By late evening, the night-time pressures increased to 18 knots along the lower Baja California peninsula and the entire fleet flew chutes with increasing speeds through the night, taking advantage of a clear, moonlit sky with warmer winds.  The Monday afternoon Anarchy report from Frank's INVISIBLE HAND was, "Well, as expected, the last 36 hours on the course were full of challenges.  The A & B classes that started Saturday got the full impact of the southerly system and the retired casualty list is larger than those still racing.  The boats in our class (C) had very light winds out of the south.   We looked OK at yesterday's check-in but after 24 hours beating into a light southerly we could not overcome the longer waterline of our class competition so we slipped a place but held the same in the overall.  The GRIBs have been consistent so we still have some running to look forward to over the next few days and hopefully reel in those that slipped by.  To still be in full foulies on the 3rd night was not what we expected and the shorts are still in the crew bags.  This is not what they said it would be in the brochure!  The boys on deck just unfurled the Code-0 and dropped the Light #1 to see if we can get a bit more out of the new J/111.  We've got our work cut out for us, back to the grind."

typical Cabo Race sailing conditions- 10-20 knots northerlyBy Monday nightfall, it was amazing to see the Class C and D boats locked in a very strategic duel with roughly 170NM to the finish (winds looking like this photo to right!).  It was a very interesting strategic mix off Cabo San Lozaro in the early hours of the moonrise as the Class C and D boats were making tactical turns downwind and a break for the beach for offshore-wind pressure or better sailing angles by going slightly outside on the right side of the course.  It was in this part of the race were some boats made significant gains and others lost out some distance on their competitors--- the J/111 INVISIBLE HAND happened to be one of the latter.  The afternoon Anarchy report from INVISIBLE HAND stated, "we were finally able to stop sailing upwind Monday and had a spinnaker up by late afternoon.  The morning check-in showed what we expected with us still in 3rd in class since the prior 24 hours still included a lot of upwind work.  Since dark we started to put on pace with winds of 10-20 knots.  There were pretty large swells rolling through with another direction wind wave so driving was challenging as the stern quarter kept getting checked around.  The 6am morning scheduled radio report had us 17 miles behind the Beneteau First 40.7 NOAS 2 with 179nm to the finish.  To our surprise we spotted them and crossed several miles in front by 2:45pm this afternoon.  So we made up quite a bit of miles in just under 9 hours with boat speed in the 10-13 knots range.  We have about 90nm to the finish so we hope to be able to make up more of the time lost on course while sailing upwind.  The swells have now reorganized and are allowing us a much better average not fighting to keep the boat on course.  Finally feels like we entered a Mexico race, the Sun is finally out and so are the shorts. Hopefully the wind will hold and we will finish in the wee hours Wednesday morning."

J/145 Bad Pak- 2nd Class C in Cabo RaceBy Tuesday midday, it was clear that all three boats were simply flying down the race track to Cabo.  Tom's J/145 BAD PAK was averaging 10-12 knots under spinnaker, gybing back and forth to maintain speed and angle.  Perhaps one of the best navigated J's was Tom's J/124 GOOD CALL.  For most of the race it was pretty certain GOOD CALL was likely winning Class D and was well positioned to take overall honors for the fleet.  The boys on the J/111 INVISIBLE HAND were both planing and surfing at times up to 15 knots and having an amazing ride.  However, they took a few meanders both right and left that chewed up a few too many miles versus their competition, first gaining big chunks of distance, then losing ground quickly in an hour or two.  By Tuesday afternoon, the gang on the J/145 BAD PAK sailed a great race, kept pressing hard, finishing at 4:14 pm off the beach at Cabo.  Just before the finish, a crewman was injured on GOOD CALL, necessitating an emergency VHF call, help from the Mexican Navy and the withdrawal of GOOD CALL (we hope he's OK).  Locked in a boat-for-boat battle with a First 50 and the First 40.7, INVISIBLE HAND played the last few gybe angles into Cabo well to pass both, but then in yet another nail-biting finish, lost the First 50 Sarasvati II within the last 0.5 mile at midnight Tuesday.  INVISIBLE HAND finished at 00:31:22 am!  Congratulations to all three J's for great sailing, great seamanship and heads-up sailing at the end of the day.   For more Cabo Race tracking and sailing information.  See this great example of how to use Facebook for sailing events and regatta reporting.