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Cal Offshore Race Week: Coastal Cup packs a breezy punch

WITH WINDS HOVERING BETWEEN 25-35KTS for over 12 hours, this year's Coastal Cup delivered on it's big wind promise, to the delight of many and the dismay of some. The 204nm Coastal Cup stretches from Monterey to Santa Barbara with a redwood studded coastline in the middle. This year Coastal Cup was the second of three legs comprising the second annual California Offshore Race Week.

My perspective was from the Santa Cruz 50 HORIZON. With probably 50,000nm on the clock and countless improvements, she's one of the best of her breed on the water. We excitedly looked at the forecast from our navigator Jeff Thorpe, seeing the breezy potential to stretch her legs. However a menacing line of 40kts+ loomed only miles off of our desired course.

With big waves and freshening breeze, we got off the starting line with onlookers peering from the top deck of the Monterey Bay Aquarium. We went tack for tack with our friendly nemesis, Santa Cruz 52 LUCKY DUCK, out to the end of the bay. As we cracked off and peeled from our A-0 to A-2, the breeze quickly picked up. At about 25kts we peeled to an A-4 and never looked back. We proceeded to do what the Bill "Fast is Fun" Lee Santa Cruz boats do best – surf. We flew down waves hitting the boat's all-time top speed of 28.7kts.


Video by Max Moosmann from aboard HORIZON, the Santa Cruz 50.

Everyone had a knockdown. For us it came in the form of a Chinese jibe. With the boomvang sheered out of the bottom of the boom our unbalanced boat, with a great helmsman fatigued from the conditions, had its stern dropkicked by a huge wave. At the mainsheet, my mind went straight back to death rolling my Laser as a kid. With the pole in the water compressing against the mast, the chute full of water at the bottom and flogging violently at the top, we were terrifyingly in the perfect scenario for dismasting. We lay there sideways for several minutes, with the cockpit full of water, untangling the mess. We finally got the bow down after transferring the kite to the tack line and with the help of a merciful lull. Somehow the Ullman A-4 stayed intact and happily gybed back, allowing our sleigh ride to continue almost as the knockdown had never happened. Shortly thereafter, this atheist found God or a forgotten Twix bar in the pocket of my foul weather gear. Either way comfort was had.

However, all over the course other boats were less lucky. On CHIM CHIM, the big Gunboat 66, rudder failure left them throttling way back. On CATAPULT, the winning Santa Cruz 70, a violent wipeout left a crew member with a dislocated shoulder as he was nearly thrown into the cold, stormy sea on a moonless night.

Near Moro Bay, the double-handed crew of Moore 24 SNAFU suffered the worst. In a bad knockdown, the small boat dismasted and was left bobbing in the big waves. Throughout the night competitors AZURE and JUNKYARD DOG stood by until the two were ultimately airlifted from the stricken vessel by the US Coast Guard. A fantastic detailed account of the incident and boat recovery can be found on Pressure Drop.

We slogged through the last few windless miles to ultimately finish around 0600, greeted by a welcome Bloody Mary or two at Santa Barbara Yacht Club.

The SoCal 300 (Santa Barbara through the Channel Islands to a NOAA weather buoy west of San Diego and east back into SD). started Thursday morning, the last leg of the 2017 California Offshore Race Week. Follow the trackers here.

As we post this Thursday evening, the first of the fleet have reached the Channel Islands....

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