July 8th-10th was our last practice session before the start of the Pacific Cup. We finally had everyone together – Danny, Paul, Ralfie, Cameron, Morgan, Mark, Robbie and me. Our goal was to be offshore for 48 hrs to try to understand what racing will be like.

San Francisco, California, USA: The Pacific Cup race organizers announced the final starting lineup, with a total 61 boats competing in the biennial race to Hawaii. Twenty-two boats including two double-handed divisions are set to begin the race early afternoon Monday, July 14, with additional starts for faster boats through Saturday, July 19.

Most racers anticipate arrival at Oahu’s Kaneohe Bay around July 26-29, with that date range varying by several days on either side depending on weather, course selection, and boathandling. Notable participants in this year’s race include Paul Cayard and his family aboard Hula Girl and Philippe Kahn aboard Pegasus.

Saturday’s start, Division F, consists of the fastest boats skippered by dedicated and aggressive racers. Philippe Kahn on Pegasus (OP-50) hopes to best the record for fastest doublehanded passage now held by Stan Honey for his passage on the 70-foot Mongoose.

As the fastest-rated boat in the fleet, Kahn should set the pace for the rest. The other boats in Division F are fully-crewed, generally meaning they will benefit from less fatigue and more aggressive sail handling. 70-foot sleds like Velos, Holua, and Rage will spar with Pegasus as well as Criminal Mischief and Flash, designed to take advantage of light weight, surfing all the way to Hawaii.

2008 will see some special trophies. Blue Water Sailing magazine has sponsored a prize this year for the “Fastest Family Afloat.” At least eight boats have declared as family efforts, with at least three relatives aboard, or two for doublehanders. These include perennial Pac Cup buffs Jim Quanci and Mary Lovely aboard Green Buffalo, the Jensen family aboard Alternate Reality, and the Cayard family aboard Hula Girl. Competition for the prize is expected to be spirited.

Race co-organizer Storm Trysail Club has sponsored a Team Trophy. This prize will go to the three boat team from a single yacht club with combined best performances against the overall fleet and each boat’s division. Nearly half the entrants have joined in teams defending the reputations of the Saint Francis, Richmond, Encinal, Corinthian of Portland, and San Diego yacht clubs, as well as the Singlehanded Sailing Society.

All monohulls compete for the Pacific Cup, the trophy that gives the race its name. This is awarded to the boat completing the course with the best corrected time. Super-racers compete with modest family programs for this coveted prize.

In the highly variable conditions of the Pacific, and under the strictures of the race, it’s as likely that the trophy will be carried away by a general purpose sailboat of modest design as it is to be taken by an all-out race machine.

The Hula Girl, a Santa Cruz 50, untied her lines yesterday afternoon at 1600 local time with 8 crew onboard. Destination unknown, pretty much wherever the wind would take us. In our case we have been very lucky. Amazingly, the wind has been very light, 5-8 knots from the South. Currently (1000 local) we are running, yes running in a Northwesterly direction off the coast of San Francisco. As I said, very unusual.

We are on a two day, offshore training sail in preparation for the Pacific Cup, the race from San Francisco to Hawaii, which starts on July 17th.

We have been blessed with plenty of sealife so far. Just off Point Bonita, the Northern entrance to SF Bay, we literally ran over a whale. Luckily, she did not hit our rudder. About two hours later we saw yet another. I am surprised to see whales around SF at this time of year and so close to the Bay. This morning we saw plenty of sharks. We see the tip of thier fins as they circle around, just below the surface. Last night we could hear seals barking. Maybe they are not there anymore. The water is nice and clear now that we are away from the Bay. This is a great opportunity to run the watermaker.

We had 20 knots from the West as we slipped out of the Golden Gate, but that wind quickly dropped and backed within 45 minutes. So we had an easy night of light air reaching, south then west of the Farallon Islands and now we are off Bodega Bay. The plan is to use this southeasterly wind to get northwest and then to run back with the northwesterly which should fill back in this afternoon. This will give us a long run way back to SF tonight to test spinnakers and check our polars.

We have run the watch system, had nighttime steering practice, made a good lasagna dinner (freeze dried lasagna which would make my Italian friends cringe) and we just had breakfast, granola with blueberries and coffee. So we are not hurting.

We have found many things that are not quite perfect so this will give us a chance to address them before the race. Some of these things were are fixing out here like, splicing different lengths to some of our halyards and strops.

I have taken a few photos, but I did not load the software for that yet and don’t know if I will be able to transmit those larger files but I will try to work on that this weekend.

That all for now from the Hula crew.

Danny Cayard, Allie Cayard, Mark Towill, Robbie Kane, Ralfie Steitz, Cameron McCloskey, Morgan Gutenkunst &Paul Cayard

With a ten o’clock first start, the teams were up early and off the dock by 0830.

The wind turned 180 degrees today and we had a mistral of up to 30 knots. There was enough carnage after race one that the committee sent us to the shore where we waited a short time until they called it for the day.

Onboard Desafio, we had a decent result finishing 4th, but unfortunately did not leave the race track feeling really good. How is that possible?

After a perfect start at the pin end of the line with the left hand side of the course being favored, we were first to the first windward mark by 20 seconds over Mutua Madrilena. As we rounded and hoisted the spinnaker, now blowing 30 knots, the spinnaker tore on the hatch. It did not even get full, so we had to take it down and put up the back up. This took 45 seconds, pretty fast but still Mutua passed us. So we got the back up spinnaker up and started planning down the run at 21 knots. In fact we, went so fast that we caught up to Mutua, blocked them from gybing and then re-took the lead.

Being a bit gun-shy, we were overly conservative with the spinnaker drop and sailed for about a minute with no kite. Better that than what some of our competitors did?shrimping we call it. (That is expensive shrimp when you go shrimping with a $30K net.) Artemis gybed at the bottom of the run and took the favored gate. Here again we were conservative, just went straight and rounded the left hand gate to save a gybe in 30 true.

So Artemis had a two boat length lead on us when we crossed about ten minutes up the second beat. We rounded the top mark about 20 seconds behind Artemis and 12 seconds ahead of Matador. We sailed pretty fast but Matador was able to block us first and then we got free enough to gybe, but they gybed on top of us. In the fight, they rolled us, and then when the air got clean, we were slow and the gust knocked us over.

It was a pretty frustrating few minutes there and we even got rolled by Mutua just before the finish.

So that was fourth after being first. Now you can see why we weren’t ecstatic with our 4th place.

We are still 6th overall, not far ahead of Matador.

Tomorrow we will sail up to three races. The mistral wind is forecast to die and a sea breeze should build tomorrow, an 18 knot sea breeze. So the race committee has changed the start time to 1000 in order to try to get three races in before the 1530 cut off.

For complete results go to www.medcup.com

Today was the coastal race which was basically two longer windward leeward courses tied together, with about eight miles of reaching each way.

The wind was more left in direction today and lighter. We started in 8.5 knots of wind. No one used the mast head genoas on the first windward leg although we were right on the cross over with the light jib.

We had a decent start and stayed on starboard for quite a long way. To leeward of us were, Mutua Madrilena, Bribon, Quantum, Mean Machine, Audi Q8 and Caixia Galicia.

We had no problem to hold our spot and Audi Q8 and Caixa tacked fairly soon after the start. Clearly, Mutua and Bribon wanted to go left. Most of the rest of the fleet tacked onto port as the right has been dominant., Platoon came out of the right 5 minutes after the start and crossed everyone who was on port by 1 minute. Seeing that, they tacked back for more on the right also.

Anyway, as we went up the windward leg, Mutua and Bribon starting making good gains on the left and Artemus who was behind us realized this first. They led our group over there and passed us and Mean Machine with that move. In the end, it was all about the left and that was about it for the day.

Down the run you had to go all the way to the right corner, then reach for eight miles, nothing changed, then up the second windward leg of five miles you had to go all the way to the left and one tack it. Anything ventured out the right was lost. Then down the last run you had to go all the way back to the same corner you had just come from and then eight miles of reaching to the finish.

That was about it. A delivery really after the first windward leg.

We did not do a brilliant job and finished 7th. Mutua Madrilena won, Bribon was second and Caixa was third. We actually moved up a place in the standings to 6th, but the bad news is that we lost contact with third place in the regatta which was Bribon and all the boats just in front of us in the standings. This race was a double counter, one finish at the second windward mark and one score at the finish. Nothing changed in between so it was a double counter based on the first windward mark which was about 40 minutes into the 4 hour tour. Quantum and Mean Machine had a bit of an off day (for them) finishing 5th and 6th.

There are four races left, so we can still come back but we have to sail better than we have been.

Tomorrow might be a better day for some of us, as it is the 4th of July. I am looking to anything for help at this point.

For complete results go to www.medcup.org

Two races were held today in 12-16 knots of wind, similar in direction to yesterday, South Southeast see breeze. There is still no gradient as a large high pressure system is sitting over this part of the Mediterranean.

Mean Machine and Quantum Racing continue to be setting the pace and really it is starting to look like they have a speed advantage on the rest of the group. Quantum started to the right and went right soon after the start in each race. The right was favored and they were first to every mark today. But Mean Machine started on the left side and despite the right being favored, they got around everyone but Quantum by the time the starboard layline came up.

We had to good day that started with two good starts. In the first race, with 12 knots at the start and very smooth seas, we managed to get a very good start about four boats down from the committee boat and we tacked onto port fairly soon. It was a foot race to the right and Quantum got there just ahead of us. We rounded the first mark third and stayed there despite some challenges from Artemis, Bribon and the Russians.

In the second race, which started with 16 knots of wind, we had a good start in the middle of the line. We were able to tack onto port quickly and the foot race began. Quantum was much quicker in this breeze and even Bribon had a bit of pace on us. We just could not quite cross Artemis and that forced us to tack short of the layline and we bagan to lose the boats that were to our right.

We rounded the first mark about 9th or 10th. This race was a five leg race, three windward legs, two downwind legs, with the finish to windward. We managed to work our way up to 6th which was a nice comeback.

So we are currently in 7th, but just 4 points out of 3rd. Things are very tight in the regatta except for Quantum and Mean Machine who have gotten a jump on the fleet.

Tomorrow is the coastal race which looks like two windward leeward courses in two bays along this coast. So we will start, go to windward, run downwind to a mark then reach for five miles over to a point of land and into another bay, where we will do another windward leeward and then reach back to the bottom of the first course and then into the harbor for a finish off the end of the breakwater. Not quite sure what this adds to our racing, but it is in the bylaws of the Class so we have to have one.

For complete results go to www.medcup.org

Three races were held today in perfect conditions. Sunny skies, 10-18 knots of wind and smooth seas. For El Desafio it was a mediocre to poor day, with a 6,7 and 11th. In the last race we were over the start line early, and well trapped, so it took us over a minute to restart. We did manage to beat a couple of boats but still not a good result.

Mean Machine sailed the best scoring a 1, 4 and 1. Nothing special, just good clean starts and good speed. Quantum racing was strong as well with a 3,1 and 6.

For sure the competition is very strong here but we have to do better.

Same weather forecast for tomorrow.

For complete results go to www.medcup.org