Friday, June 16, 2017

J/125 Flies In SoCAL 300 Race

J/109 sailing offshore of CaliforniaJ/109 takes 3rd overall in CORA
(San Diego, CA)- Returning for its second year, the 2017 California Offshore Race Week featured the combined powers of five yacht clubs along the California coast. With efforts from Encinal Yacht Club, San Francisco Yacht Club, Monterey Peninsula Yacht Club, Santa Barbara Yacht Club, and San Diego Yacht Club, a week-long schedule of races occurred covering almost 600 miles of the California coast between May 27 and June 3.

The week brought together the previously independent Spinnaker Cup, Coastal Cup and SoCal 300. Participants had the option to compete in the whole week with layover time in ports along the way or they could chose to compete in the individual races.

Prior to the start of the SoCal 300, eleven boats had participated in the first two California Offshore Race Week (CORW) events. Many of these racers described the Spinnaker Cup as "typical" and "a great one-day race" to start off the week. The Coastal Cup followed which was much more challenging than expected with winds over 30 knots and exceptionally rough seas!  However, unlike the previous two events, the SoCal 300 was a longer race that usually features a variety of winds, which was certainly true for 2017. After a slow start, the breeze shot up to around 30 knots around the Santa Cruz Islands, and then all but shut off prior to the finish. Perhaps the biggest impact of this scenario was the J/125 TIMESHAVER skippered by Viggo Torbensen and hi compatriot Mark Surber on the J/125 DERIVATIVE. Both boats were vying for the overall lead of the race after they passed the offshore mark on the course and were flying down the track on port gybe past the southern parts of San Clemente Island into the San Diego finish line off Point Loma.

The J/109 winning team!But, here is where the most exasperating parts of SoCal offshore racing can create more than a few anxiety attacks for many.  Or, point to the differences in races that can be finished on A (the “same day”), or B (the “night” with no wind), or C (“next day” where everyone goes through A & B).  The sad part of this story for J/teams was that it was a combo of B+C.  For the big boats, they got in just in time to finish with breeze.  The 35-45 footers did not and had to deal with much less breeze as they finished, as in the case of the J/125s, like drifting kind of stuff.  Up until the last few miles in the race, both J/125s were on track for class and overall honors.  Such is the “tale of the tape.”

In the end, despite all obstacles thrown in front of them, in Division C it was Torbensen’s TIMESHAVER in 2nd and Surber’s DERIVATIVE was 3rd. Meanwhile, taking 3rd in Division D was the J/109 JUNKYARD DOG.

Here is the report from Jim Goldberg from the gang on the J/109 JUNKYARD DOG regards sailing the entire California Offshore Race Week:

“Last year we raced just the first leg of the California Offshore Race Week, the 100 mile Spinnaker Cup from San Francisco to Monterey.  After the race we kept asking ourselves "Why didn't we keep going?"  This year we committed to racing all three legs and what a wild ride it was.

Nothing too unexpected for this years Spinnaker Cup, just business as usual getting out past the Golden Gate Bridge in the typical early morning light winds and finding the best current relief against the building flood tide.  Once past Mile Rock and outside the bay it was all about guessing where the winds would shift from upwind to a reach, then downwind.  Guess too early and you suffer an extra tack away from shore, play it right, set the kite at just the right time and you could enjoy a nice downwind sleigh ride all the way to Monterey potentially without a single gybe until you turn into Monterey Bay.

Unfortunately, we missed that call this year.  We set the code zero and turned slightly downwind for better speed expecting a lift which never materialized, forcing us to hitch a painful close haul tack offshore until we had enough in the bank to set the A3.  We set the A3 and were feeling good about our position compared to the other lead boats.  Parallel with the leaders but farther offshore we figured they would run into the same problem we experienced and would eventually have to tack out and offshore in which case we should take over the lead.  But, sure enough the wind clocked around, the boats close to shore get a huge lift and we're changing to the A2 for a deep downwind run.  Timing is everything I guess, next year we'll remember this and be a little more patient waiting for the lift.  Despite our poor timing on the lift we still managed to place 5th in our division.

We had a day off in Monterey before the next leg which was the 204 mile Coastal Cup from Monterey to Santa Barbara.  One of the great things about the race week is the chance to socialize with all the other boats and competitors at each stop. The talk of the dock was the forecast which looked rather ominous for the next leg.  Getting around Point Conception is no joke and is often referred to as the "Cape Horn of the Pacific".  Once again timing is everything here. Get lucky and you may catch it on an off day with mild to moderate winds and seas, but that's the exception and not the rule.

Initially, the forecast looked like the usual 20-30 knot winds and 5-7 ft seas one expects in that region.  What we came upon there was even worse than any of the forecasts called for.  We saw true wind speeds hit 40 knots on our instruments a handful of times and the US Coast Guard said the seas were steep 10-12 ft with occasional 14 ft sets.  To top it off, there was at least 2 or 3 different swells coming in from different directions making for some very confused seas.  It was for sure the most difficult conditions our boat and crew had ever experienced.

crew relaxationDarkness was quickly arriving and having already blown up our A4 earlier in the evening we prepared for a long night of white knuckle sailing.  We decided to just go with the mainsail and point as deep as we could down the coast.  We were planing down the face of the waves and at one point hit a new boat speed record of 21 knots with mainsail only! Who says a J/109 is too heavy to plane?  Ok, so it didn't do it for long but it did plane and make some very strange noises in the process!!

Why did the US Coast Guard (USCG) give a wave height you ask?  Around 9pm there was a distress call made over the radio of a boat in the race which lost their rig.  The 200 mile stretch of coast from Monterey to Santa Barbara has no safe harbor or close port to turn into.  Morro Bay is about half way, but getting in and out of there in any kind of weather and in the dark is not much of an option at all.

We heard the radio call and realized the boat was just a few miles behind and abeam to us, so we made radio contact with the USCG on Channel 16, as well as the vessel in distress.  The USCG asked us if we could move closer to the vessel and stand by until they arrived.  Turning into the wind and swell and dropping the main, then tying it off to the boom was quite possibly one of the most difficult things we've ever had to do on the boat.  Having said that, it still pales in comparison to what the Moore 24 had to do to get their rig and sails secured to their boat.  Luckily there was another boat, the Cal 40 "Azure" who was also close by and also came over and remained on standby with us.  We later joked that we came over to provide assistance to the Moore 24 but the Cal 40 Azure came over to provide assistance to us.  Coincidentally, one of the crew on Azure, Jim Vickers also owns a J/109 in San Francisco.  I always knew there was something about those J/109 owners I liked!!

After remaining on standby and circling around the Moore 24 for over 2 hours, the USCG arrived and cut us loose.  The Moore 24 was only able to make about 1-2 knots of boat speed with the rig dragging in the water, so we just motored in circles around them.  Motoring with the waves was not so bad, motoring into and abeam in those conditions was something I hope I never experience again.  We were all absolutely drenched, cold exhausted and half the crew was sea sick.  It's a good thing bailing out into Morro Bay wasn't an option, because at that point, I'm sure we would have taken it and not resumed racing.

Eventually, we collected ourselves, hoisted the main and started racing again.  Once you turn around Point Conception, it's like another world. The seas become smaller and the winds eventually ease.  We reached the finish of the Coastal Cup and even managed to snag a 2nd place in division.

Santa Barbara was a time to lick our wounds, rest up and catch up with the rest of the fleet.  It seemed like everywhere you looked, there were teams making repairs on their boats caused by the brutal conditions of the Coastal Cup.

The last race of the series was the SoCal 300 which is a 254 mile race from Santa Barbara, offshore through the Channel Islands and down to San Diego.  While the Coastal Cup will be remembered as the most extreme leg of the series, the winners of the SoCal 300 quite possibly will represent the most well rounded teams.  This years SoCal 300 had it all.  From the postcard perfect conditions at the start in Santa Barbara, with plenty of Southern California sunshine and easy moderate winds, to the breezy second leg with sustained winds in the high 20's to mid 30's, ending with the very challenging near drifting conditions of the 3rd leg.

I'm not going to lie, the drifting in the third leg almost broke me. The crew threatened to duct-tape me to the mast if they saw me make one move toward the engine ignition switch.  Eventually, the winds filled in just enough to power us to the finish.  The SoCal 300 uses a unique scoring system where it's divided up into 3 legs as well as a score for the entire race which is weighted as 1.5x.  We placed 2nd in the first leg, 2nd in the second leg and 3rd in the 3rd leg,  For the entire race week series we placed 3rd.

It was an insanely fun week of racing. Junkyard Dog held up extremely well and delivered the "Dog Pound" to each port safe and sound. The only major mechanical failure through all the extreme conditions was a blown speaker.  I'm incredibly proud of our boat and the crew.  We learned an enormous amount during this week and have all grown closer as a team.  There are no superstars in the Dog Pound, just a bunch of guys who get along with each other, aren't afraid to work hard and have a very strange idea of what's fun!”  Junkyard Dogger’s out!   Sailing photo credits- Erik Simonson-
Sailing Video of the entire race week here of the J/109
J/125 TIMESHAVER sailing video
For more California Offshore Race Week sailing information Add to Flipboard Magazine.