For the ninth year, San Diego Yacht Club and Newport Harbor Yacht Club hosted the 130nm Islands Race on February 16 and 17. Kicking off the 2018 offshore racing season in Southern California, many boats used this year's Islands Race as a tune-up for SDYC's Vallarta Race which will have its first start on March 1.
Islands Race competitors have experienced a variety of conditions since the event started nine years ago, ranging from so windy the course had to be shortened to so light that many boats had no choice but to drop out and motor home. This year's race fell on the lighter side, with the wind speed never exceeding 10 knots. In addition, with just a sliver moon, sailors were missing one of their favorite features: moonlight!
The 60' ocean trimaran, Mighty Merloe, was the first boat to finish with an elapsed time of 13 hours and 17 minutes. This was about 3 hours slower than their finish last year and about 6 hours slower than their record finish in 2015 of 7 hours and 45 minutes.
The first monohull boat to finish was the Mills 68 Prospector, owned by Larry Landry, Dave Siwicki, Marty Roesch, and Paul McDowell. The Prospector team is based on the East Coast, but plan to spend the next few years traveling all over the world competing in "bucket-list races".
This was Prospector's first time competing in the Islands Race and the first time Landry had ever raced in California. He described what it was like.
“It was great but it was hard. The light air made it very tricky. It was like a rubber band...we would get out to a lead and then we would lose pressure, other people would have it and they would close on us. That happened about four times down the course. It was hard work.”
The slower breeze this year did not stop the competition between boats whatsoever, especially between Horizon (SC50) and Lucky Duck (SC52). Horizon ultimately came out on top to win the ORR-2 class and they also finished third overall. Skipper John Shulze shared what it was like out on the water.
“For us it was a great race, and we only had one other Santa Cruz 50/52 in our class (Lucky Duck) so it was basically a match race between the two of us. We’re arch rivals and we race a lot of the open ocean races against each other. Even though there are other boats, it usually comes down to the two of us competing. Lucky Duck has some great sailors on board and we really enjoy racing against each other."
The light air caused Shulze's team to utilize a lot of different techniques, which was good practice for March when they defend their title as the overall 2016 PV Race winners.
"This was a course where we could really exercise all of our different skills in sailing in different conditions. My favorite moment was coming across the channel from the islands and actually having some breeze. It was a great race and we actually passed Lucky Duck several times back and forth so it was great competition."
Rivalry was also fierce among the bigger boats in the ORR-1 class. The Andrews 70 Pyewacket, defended their title and won the ORR-1 class and the overall Islands Race title for the second consecutive year. Crew Ben Mitchell explained how visibly seeing the competition on the water kept their team concentrated.
"We were close to OEX, Medicine Man, and Stark Raving Mad VII. We had lead changes the whole time and all four of us were in sight and sometimes just two boat lengths apart in the middle of the night. That was exciting and kept everyone focused. We sailed well, had a couple nice breaks and had a fun time."
Though they were able to pull off the win, they also faced some challenges according to Mitchell.
"This year was a little bit light and slow, but not bad. Surprisingly, there was a little bit of glass off the west end of Catalina at 4pm on Friday which should be the windiest part of the day, so that was frustrating. Coming in it was light from San Clemente Island to San Diego and then the wind filled in and the big boats finished on a nice breeze out of an unusual direction, a northeast wind (050-070), which is not a direction we see very often. We finished and the wind died down about an hour after that."