Vic Maui 2014 is in the books. It is easy to report the final standings and who won which trophy. What is not easy to report are the feelings and memories that all boats will take away from this year’s race.
And this race had everything. Fifteen boats sailed off into the murk off Victoria on two separate days to promptly struggle with the tides in Juan de Fuca Strait. Both starting fleets rounded the corner of Cape Flattery and into lengthy open ocean calms off the Washington coast as the weather tried to figure out what it wanted to do. Then the weather gods decided the fleet needed a good blast, and so came three days of heavy weather reaching off the Oregon Coast. This blast was too much for the recently rebuilt Anduril who suffered a steering failure and Greg Harms and crew retired from the race to make for San Francisco under emergency gear.
Just when the other boats were figuring out how to sail in heavy weather and what was the best course to Maui, the dreaded Pacific High decided to wake up, move, and sit on the fleet. For a couple of days, Anduril was the only boat making progress. The calms were frustrating, only broken by the occasional tuna on the fishing line and the 'zen' of being the only thing in your part of the ocean (except for vast quanities of the garbage which is a whole other story). With the No Wind zone covering the whole offshore California area, Passepartout, Turnagain, Turicum, String Theory and Alegria decided to split from the fleet and took the high risk gambit of sailing into headwinds on the west side of the High.
Boats on the east side of the Rhumb Line eeked out what wind they could find, or in JAM’s case went back towards the coast to chase the earlier strong coastal winds. The others went for swims and focused on the fishing rods. The five boats on the west side had jibs up and were pointed towards Guam.
Eventually the trade winds came. On the east side, the rich got richer as the trades got to the boats furthest south earliest. Longboard and New Haven started legging out, followed by Kahuna and JAM. Picking up the wind a little later were Kinetic and Family Affair, then later still Avalon, Losloper and Bedlam II.
What followed was five or six days of perfect blue water broad reaching for Hawaii at top speed. Unless you were one of the brave five on the west side who still had their white sails up, and while enjoying a shorter course we neverously hoping the wind would back to the east and let them get in on the speed game.
As all boats got closer to Maui, the navigation of numerous squalls, too many days of stressing the sails and rigging with higher winds, and the onset of crew fatigue became the storyline as all boats started to see minor and major failures.
Longboard and New Haven rode the strong winds to the finish, and an improving sailing angle allowed String Theory to take charge of the five renegades and make good time as well.
But Poseidon, or Pele the Hawaiian goddess of wind and volcanoes, or whatever god out there that does not like sailors, was not finished. Boats were now getting discarded fishing nets and ropes and other garbage stuck on their keels, rudders and props; sails started fraying or disintegrating, halyards started breaking, and Kahuna lost their mast overboard. John Leitzinger and his crew were able to quickly clear the wreckage and get moving under jury rig with the loss of only an hour - Remarkable. And this was all before the remnants of Tropical Depression Mali delivered an unforecast punch of storm-force winds of 35 -50 kts right on the kisser of Passepartout, Turicum, Kinetic, Family Affair and Alegria. They used every seamanship skill they had to survive this and then blast to the finish. Then the wait was on for the smaller and heavier boats (Losloper, Avalon and Bedlam II) to the ride the steady trade winds to the finish.
All crews were joyed upon arrival in Lahaina by the enthusiastic and generous welcome put on by the volunteer LYC Welcome Parties. And the the greetings of waiting loved-ones were very emotional for many. Then they were off to enjoy the shore delights of new port: a Mai Tai, a shower, a sleep in a real bed, and some fresh food – in different order for different people.
It was a very memorable Vic-Maui. Conditions ranged from frustrating calms to perfect blue water sailing to survival. Boat types went from the venerable Bedlam II built with long-gone design ideas and returning to Maui after 32 years, to the custom designed flyer Longboard, to everything in between. And there was the incredible display of seamanship required to deal with broken spars, broken rigging, and broken sails. These are the things sailors will remember for a lifetime.
All attention now turns to the Awards Banquet on Saturday Night at the Sheraton Maui at Black Rock. An impressive array of silverware and Polynesian Sailing Canoe model trophies still needs to be handed out. And the last opportunity for all boats and crews to share stories, have fun with each others' triumphs and foibles, and to share one last Mai Tai together.
Last time, that is, until July 2016 and the 50th Anniversary Edition of the Victoria to Maui International Yacht Race. Event website