Sailing in Marin: Next generation of Cayards head to sea

Danny and Allie are descended on both sides of their family from famous sailors. Their mother Icka’s father, Swedish ocean racing veteran Pelle Peterson, was one of the true pioneers of the sport, winning three Olympic medals before they were born. Their father, Paul Cayard, won the Whitbread Round the World Race when they were still in grammar school.

On Thursday, the Kentfield teenagers get their chance to try out ocean racing firsthand when they set sail in the Pacific Cup race from San Francisco to Hawaii on the Santa Cruz 50 Hula Girl, racing in a crew of eight, composed of two adults and six young sailors ranging in age from 18-23.

One very experienced adult will be on deck at all times, either their dad Paul or German-born sailing coach Ralf Steitz, 46. Two of the young crew, 22-year-old Mill Valley residents Cameron McCloskey and Morgan Gutenkunst, were on the Marin Catholic High sailing club team with Danny and Allie. Mark Towill, 19, of Hawaii and Robert Kane, 23, of Connecticut are experienced beyond their years – they sailed in last year’s Transpacific Yacht Race to Hawaii.

The idea for the Hula Girl project originated when Paul Cayard experienced an epiphany, a spiritual flash as he approached his 50th birthday. He knew that he wanted, more than anything, to make some memories by sailing with his children to Hawaii. He could sail anytime with other professional sailors in the grand prix racing circuit. That’s his job. But sailing with his children would be special, a trip the three of them would never forget.

Paul broached the idea and the kids were excited. Both sailed small boats, but never big boats, and neither had sailed on the ocean. For them, the trip meant spending time with family and friends, and seeing if they liked ocean sailing and wanted to do more of it in the future.

“I am not expecting to win the race, I just think going will be fun and a cool memory,” said Danny, an engineering student at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. “Definitely for me, it’s not about winning, but being with my family,” said Allie, who starts her freshman year this fall at the University of Colorado in Boulder.

Most of their friends cannot even imagine sailing across an ocean.

“When I told them I was racing to Hawaii they said, ‘Wow that is really a cool thing, not to hop on a plane to get there,'” Danny said.

Added Allie: “My girlfriends think that I am crazy and that it would be basically torture to be out there for 10 days and not have a shower and girl things around. But they also think that it is cool that I am doing something out of their experience.”

The Cayard kids took sailing lessons as young children, but weren’t interested in pursuing the family sport, seeking their own path by playing soccer and lacrosse instead.

“For me, it was because my Dad was doing so much sailing that I didn’t want to do it,” Allie said.

When Danny started at Marin Catholic, a lot of the kids were interested in having him on the sailing team, so he joined. “By then I was a sophomore, and I had fun and enjoyed the team,” Danny said. Allie soon followed her brother onto the sailing team, where she raced FJ and 420 dinghies.

Now Danny sails high performance, extreme sailboats, 29ers and 18 foot skiffs. “Sometimes it helps you being the son of a well-known sailor, but sometimes people try and put pressure on you to do well. That is why my mom stopped sailing when she was younger. I do a different kind of sailing than my dad did as a kid. I have had some successes and some failures, and I think of it as doing my own thing.”

Their dad told them this is an easy ride compared to the Southern Ocean, so they aren’t afraid. But will they like it? Will they be able to sleep on a boat at sea? Will they be able to stand eating the freeze-dried food?

“It will be a surreal experience to see nothing but water,” said Allie, who plans to write a blog from sea appearing on

About two dozen sailors from Marin are in the PacCup, spread among several boats: E.T., Flash, Gavilan, Hula Girl, Low Speed Chase, Morpheus, Ohana, Pegasus, Sapphire, Sweet Okole, Valis. Track the race at

Jan Pehrson
Marin Independent Journal