June 5, 2012

Around Catalina Island Race Wrap Up

The Annual Around Catalina Race held on Memorial Day Weekend saw some great racing and close finishes.  Every year Dana Point Yacht Club and Cabrillo Beach Yacht Club coordinate the regatta that has been held since 1981.  The Around Catalina Island Race is the fourth stop in the Ullman Sails Offshore Series.

2012 wind models were all over the place and that is never a good sign.  The heavy hitters were hoping for some breeze to try and compete for the elapsed time record of 7hrs 26 min held by Taxi Dancer in 2006.  

The starting sequence was inverted which meant the cruising classes were all starting early and then the slower rated PHRF boats were given a jump on the ‘A’ class yachts to promote similar finishing times.  This year I was on the J-125 ’Timeshaver’ as we were using this race to sort out any kinks before we race Coastal Cup.  Before the start the wind was blowing around 20kts and we decided to use this time to test our new 5A spinnaker.  This happened to be some of the best sailing we had as the flat water and breeze allowed us to reach around Long Beach at 15kts of boatspeed!  Your missing out it you have never been on a J-125.  These boats are high performing carbon fiber rocket ships. 

After watching all the boats leave Angels Gate we finally got to our start.  We had a mix of good boats in the fleet from the Farr 40 ‘Temptress’ to the SC-50 Horizon.  We started in around 15kts of wind and got out the gate without incident.  We positioned ourselves a little higher and closer to Point Fermin than Horizon and White Knight.  We were hoping for a lift up to Catalina Island.  Unfortunately for us this did not occur and the opposite happened.  We found ourselves headed into Horizon’s stern and not looking pretty.  Sailing Around Catalina is always a beautiful sight.  As we approached the West End of the Island all the boats were greeted by Bronny Daniels (Joy Sailing) who was taking pictures from a chase boat.  This was a treat as it is not often an owner get a picture of their boat rounding the West End.

Horizon and Temptress were the first around the island and we were in hot pursuit only 10 minutes behind.  We set the 3A and then went to the 2A as the angle went further behind us.   In front of us the two boats were getting bigger as we plugged along in the fresh breeze.  There was one other boat that had a jump on everyone and they were looking good for an overall win.   To my surprise the boat was the Jeanneau 44 ‘Sleeper.’  They were looking really fast with their large symmetrical spinnaker poled way back and heading right towards the east end of the island. 

Our first jibe was towards China Point and as we approached the island the wind started to build and really became J-125 conditions.  Our boatspeed was averaging in the low teens and saw a high of 16kts in about 18kts of wind.  This top speed came up with the 1A up a healthy puff as the sun was starting to sink towards the horizon.  Both boats in front of us were getting bigger and we were now in the hunt. 

The East End was rapidly approaching and the wind was rapidly dying.  Not an ideal situation as we still needed to get passed the boats in front.  We decided to try and cut in a little closer to the island and this seemed to be working….. Until we hit the wind shadow.  Unfortunately we cut it a little to close and were now firmly in the lee of the island watching everyone sail around us.  Not a good decision as it was only a ¼ mile difference between some and no wind.  The Open 40 was fast approaching and used us as a road map to show them where not to go.  They successfully avoided our hole and so did a lot of other boats.

When we finally got moving again it was to late and we had given up way to much distance to recover.  Horizon held on for the A class victory and had the honor of First To Finish.   The real story was the Jeanneau 44 Sleeper as they had a really good race and come out corrected overall winners!  Head over to www.dpyc.org and check out the results. 

Thanks to Bronny Daniels for the pictures.

Keith Magnussen