San Diego, CA (February 25, 2017) The 2017 Islands Race was hosted by Newport Harbor Yacht Club and San Diego Yacht Club on February 24 & 25. This year’s event featured considerable visibility and scenery for those on board, yet disappointingly light winds for the last third of the race.
Skies were clear enough at the start on Friday that competitors and Race Committee could see all the way to Catalina with startling clarity due to the stormy fronts that have been blowing through Southern California over the past few weeks. Most boats started in about 8 knots of wind out of the northwest and winds increased as boats moved around the course to San Clemente Island. The breeze peaked at about 14 knots at San Clemente and got progressively lighter and came from odd directions (east) as boats approached the finish. Only 14 of the 24 boats entered in this year’s race finished since many boats turned their engines on and confirmed their “did not finish” status.
Despite the light winds, there was still a fair amount of competition out on the water. Patrick O’Brien (TPYC), skipper on Grand Illusion (Santa Cruz 70), recalled his close finish ahead of Holua after sailing next to each other for the majority of the race.
“We had a really good race with Holua. We were boat-to-boat with them for about 70% of the race. After San Clemente, we started to pull away from them quite a bit. However, at the finish line they caught up, which is when the wind got really light. They finished two boat lengths behind us.”
Skipper Chris Hemans (Balboa YC) on Varuna (Rogers 46), was one of the boats that retired once they were stuck in 1-2 knots of breeze early in the morning for around 5 hours. Prior to the light winds, Hemans and his crew experienced a great night on board with exceptional visibility.
“It was a spectacularly brilliant evening to be on the water. Every star was out! The fact that there was no moon was actually a blessing because the skies were so clear. We thought the deck was going to get wet, but when the wind started to come off the shore, we realized that was why it was so dry. So not only did we have dry decks, but we had clear skies and we don’t normally get that. It was a very pleasant evening to be out on the water.”
Hemans has participated in almost every Islands Race since its inaugural race in 2010 and is the Islands Race defending champion for the past two years.
“We really enjoy the course because it gives us a lot of upwind work which our boat really enjoys, as well as reaching between the two islands. We also enjoy the tactics of getting from the east end of San Clemente all the way to San Diego. Our boat really enjoys big pressure, and though we didn’t have big pressure this year, the last couple of years we have had decent pressure which is why we were able to do well in the past.”
As expected, Mighty Merloe, the 60’ ocean trimaran, was the first boat to finish after an elapsed time of 10 hours, 47 minutes. This was about 3 hours slower than their finish in 2015 where they set the multihull record after finishing in 7 hours, 45 minutes.
Timeshaver (J/125) used the Islands Race as a practice event for the Newport to Cabo Race in March. Crewmember Keith Magnussen explained that one of the highlights during this year’s race was the rivalry.
“A lot of the boats converged around San Clemente Island so there was quite a bit of competition which was really fun. After we got around San Clemente Island we saw about 10-12 knots of breeze which pushed us into the morning when the wind died down. We were in no air for about 4 hours, then the breeze came back and we had all of our class with us. We battled with our sister ship Derivative and also had the other J/125 Resolute behind us.”
The 2017 overall winner was Pyewacket (Andrews 70) skippered by Roy Disney (CalYC) with a corrected time of 23 hours and 1 minute. Though Pyewacket has won many other offshore races in Southern California, this is their first Islands Race overall win.
Event Co-Chair Wayne Terry understands the changing conditions of this race year to year. “Sometimes the race is fast and fun and sometimes it’s slow and frustrating. It’s a shame when you have boats that have to leave right away after a slow race. But we do what we can. I’d like to thank the sailing offices of both yacht clubs for their hard work in making this race possible.”