(Santa Barbara, CA)- The 42nd running of the popular California offshore classic, the 81nm Santa Barbara to King Harbor Race, was truly the "tale of two cities" (the fast boats and the little boats). The weather forecast seemed normal for the race, a light SSE breeze clocking around after the start to SW and slowly building into the WNW at 10-18 kts during the day and, perhaps, dying by evening. Toss in plenty of sun, the spectacular seascapes of the Channel Islands, cute little brown seals swimming everywhere (great white shark lunch!) and amazing schools of porpoises ripping through schools of fish or racing underneath the bow wave and you have the ingredients for a near perfect downwind roller-coaster ride down the California coastline.
As has often been the case, what appeared to be a "normal" SB-KH race was nothing like the sort. While the initial part of the race held true to form, the fleet starting under headsails then switching to mostly Code Zero's or reaching chutes to fetch Anacapa Island, what happened after that was not what the "playbook" was prescribing. Getting to Anacapa Island's northern turning point is a bit like the "Looking Glass" in the Wizard of Oz or, as some have put it, "The Twilight Zone"-- one never knows what's beyond it once you've entered it. Some say go tight along the western side of the island, others says go outside at least 1.5 to 3.0nm to avoid the inevitable wind-shadow cast by the 1,000 ft plus ridge on Anacapa. Seeing little or no wind inside, most all the bigger boats (over 35 feet) set for an outside, longer course. Some exceptions included the J/111, J/120 and others that magically shot the middle-left position and snuck through. But, the smaller boats never had that issue as most simply turned left at the island, set chutes and sailed nearly direct to King Harbor at a bearing of 98 degrees! To confound the "local knowledge" experts even more, the anticipated "geographical shift" often found by sailing towards Point Dume just north of Malibu, not only happened (with the breeze shifting from 300 deg to 270 deg) but the wind kept backing around to 235 deg near the finish line at the entrance to King Harbor.
As a result, the big winners were the later, slower boats to start the race at 12:25pm. The ocean greyhounds that took off first got the short end of the stick in this year's edition. PHRF D class simply cleaned house in the Top 10 overall, with the J/30 FRICTION LOSS taking 3rd in class and 3rd overall while veteran Santa Barbarian offshore champion Larry Leveille sailed his famous J/29 RUSH STREET to 5th in class and 6th in fleet! Good show for these teams!
Starting at the same time as PHRF D was PHRF C class, with the J/33 TIGGER sailed by Fred & Suzanne Cottrell taking class line honors and 2nd overall on handicap, 9th in fleet and 13th overall.
Also starting later and reaping the benefits was PHRF Sprit B class, which was mostly a "J/Navy"- 9 of 10 boats! Leading the charge down south was Brian Kerr's J/92 DOUBLE DOWN, taking class and Sprit Fleet honors and 12th overall. Second in class, 2nd in Sprit fleet and 14th overall was the J/105 ARMIDA sailed by Tom Bollay. Third in class, third Sprit fleet and 15th overall was another J/105-- TWELVE BAR BLUES skippered by Chuck Spear. Rounding out the top five in class was the J/109 LINSTAR helmed by Len Bose and in 5th was Dan McGanty's J/105 AQUABELLA.
Sweeping the top two spots in a duel to the finish for PHRF Sprit A class were the J/111 and J/120. In the end, while Bill Webster & Mike Moorhead's J/111 JATO took class line honors, the winner on handicap was Gary Winton's J/120 SHENANIGANS by nine minutes. They both finished 5th and 6th, respectively in Sprit Fleet and 23rd and 25th overall of 75 boats. Here's a YouTube video of JATO's ride to King Harbor- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yqQ-grLqGGA
In PHRF Sprit ULDB A class, the J/125 and J/145 had a rough go of it, with one boat heading too low and the other heading too high off on the initial run to Anacapa Island, and then getting too far south (to right of rhumbline) on the way down to King Harbor. Consequently, Viggo Torbensen's J/125 TIMESHAVER finished 4th in class and Carolyn Parks' J/145 RADIO FLYER took 6th.
The host finishing club, Kings Harbor YC hosted their incredibly delicious "shrimp feast" on Saturday afternoon in conjunction with the awards ceremony (part of the secret recipe- cayenne pepper, olive oil, lemon). It was a fitting end to a beautiful race on a sunny day overlooking the Pacific Ocean and harbor.
Sailing photo credits- J/Boats and Bronny Daniels @ Joysailing.com. For more Santa Barbara to King Harbor Race sailing information