Monday, March 18, 2013

RESOLUTE & PATRIOT Lead "Islands Race" Sweep

(Newport Beach, CA)- A race that has become a fixture on the Southern California offshore racing circuit is the "Islands Race".  Seeming a simple romp around "the islands" offshore of Los Angeles, it's a 129nm race starting from Newport Beach, leaving Catalina and San Clemente Island to port, then heading for the finish line off San Diego's Point Loma.  However, as many experienced offshore racers in the SoCal circuit can explain, what one sees just off the harbors along the shore has nothing to do what's happening several miles offshore beyond the islands; it's a tale of two very, very different worlds.  And, as has often been the case in the past, sunny, mild conditions at the start can turn into "fresh-to-frightening, white knuckle" reaching conditions in 20-30 kts winds and 10-15 foot "washing machine" seas on the backside of San Clemente Island-- certainly not what the brochure said!

Sailing offshore in California means you have to rely on your boat and your crew.  And, after decades of sailing in some of the world's toughest offshore races, J/Boat owners know that more often than not they can race hard, get around the race track in some bruising sailing conditions and still make it to the cocktail bar to tell their "war stories".  

For this year's Islands Race, there were thirty-two boat that sailed the race with nine J/Team's participating (nearly 1/3 of the fleet!).  In the end, the J's sailed fast and enjoyed what turned out to be fairly epic sailing conditions.

Taking top honors in PH-1 was the J/125 RESOLUTE sailed by Tim Fuller, reveling in the fast-reaching conditions and after rounding San Clemente, able to simply fly downwind under her massive kite.  Further back in her division was the J/46 INNOCENT MERRIMENT sailed by Myron Lyon, racing comfortably fast around the islands and down to the warm, comfortable climate in San Diego.  RESOLUTE's performance was quite remarkable considering they were sailing against many top offshore racers in the Los Angeles basin, including TP52s, several Santa Cruz 52s, Andrews 49, Rogers 46 and a Davidson 50.

The PH-2 class looked like a J/Fest reunion of some of SoCal's fastest offshore J/Teams.  For such a reach race, it was amazing to see the J/44 PATRIOT sailed by Paul Stemler power through the conditions to take overall honors in the class against a veritable posse of J/120s who never take their racing lying down!  In fact, it was perhaps the J/120s whom were most shocked by not taking a clean sweep of their class, such is their reputation in races like these.  In the end, the 120 gang gave it their best shot, but managed to sweep the balance of the class, taking the next four spots in the top five!  Second was SHENANIGANS skippered by Gary Winton, 3rd was J-ALMIGHTY sailed by Mike Hatch, 4th was HOT TAMALE raced by Jim Barber and 5th was John Laun's CAPER.

The weather reports for the weekend were for a breezy race. At the start, the fleet saw around 8-12 kts and as they made their way across the channel to Catalina the wind kept going right.  As the J/125 and the J/120s & J/44 approached the island, the fleet was tacking to make it around with winds in the mid to high teens.  In the late evening hours, most of these boats rounded Catalina and were headed for San Clemente in a building breeze. It didn't take the fleet long to get into some serious conditions – winds blowing 22-28 kts and 12 foot beaming seas were far from ideal for any boat.

When the fleet got to the bottom of the island most jibed in and tried to work the best VMG.  Some did with jibs, others went with chicken kites and as the wind moderated nearer shore, many of the top boats went with larger running kites into the finish line.

It was a crazy race with one unfortunate, very sad incident.  Reported one boat, "the worst part of the night was the waterspout sighting and getting everyone down below as we watched it approach then pass by us. I’m not sure what to do if you get over run by a waterspout but figured the best place was to stay in the boat!"  One boat had to unload an injured crewman who'd seriously hurt his back, with the US Coast Guard rendering them assistance.  Another boat lost its rudder, went aground on a San Clemente beach and lost a crewman (thankfully, the rest of the crew were rescued OK).  Our deepest sympathies and prayers go out to the crew and family of the "Uncontrollable Urge" sailing team.  For more Islands Race sailing information