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2020 Pacific Cup Yacht Race - Preview

by Ronnie Simpson 1 Mar 2020 01:07 PST 29 June - 3 July 2020
Kernan 68 Peligroso © Sharon Green / Ultimate Sailing

The Pacific Cup yacht race is a unique event in the world of sailing. Having established itself as "The FUN race to Hawaii", the Pacific Cup Yacht Club and it's members are firmly committed to running a race that is competitive, fun and safe while operating the race with a focus on preparation and openness to a wide range of entrants.

From tiny double handers to mega yachts and from adventurous families to well-tuned racing syndicates, the Pac Cup routinely caters to a wide range of sailing yachts and an equally diverse group of sailors and their respective backgrounds.

Case in point; when Manouch Moshayedi's Rio 100 blasted it's way to a course record in the windy 2016 race - on a 100 foot supermaxi full of professionals - the race was won overall by a couple of mates with regular jobs sailing a tiny Moore 24. It takes all kinds in the Pacific Cup, and with the race's ethos centered around fun, safety and inclusion, 2020's fleet is as diverse and interesting as any we've seen.

The smallest boat in this year's race is Peter Fray's prototype Mini Transat, number 415. Mini's are well known in Europe and are purpose-built for one person to race solo across the Atlantic Ocean. Downwind in a breeze, the boats punch well above their weight and are capable of phenomenal speeds. Fray's boat, 415, is a prototype design and sports carbon-fiber construction, a carbon mast and a canting keel.

Peter purchased the boat in early 2018 and has undertaken an extensive and thorough re-fit to prepare her for his ultimate goal of racing the Pacific Cup doublehanded. Sailing alongside friend and co-skipper Jim Nachtman, the duo competed in a 300 mile race from Saint Petersburg, Florida to Havana, Cuba in March 2019; great training for a Pac Cup.

With another year of solid preparation and sailing, as well as constant optimization, look for 415 to be a force to be reckoned with in the always-competitive doublehanded division that has featured several small, fast French designs over the years.

Also sailing in the doublehanded division is past Pacific Cup Yacht Club Commodore Buzz Blackett and his long-time doublehanded sailing partner, the renowned Bay Area-based naval architect Jim Antrim.

For 2020, the duo is back for their fifth Pacific Cup race together and third doublehanded, though this time they are on a brand new boat. Having owned an Antrim 27 in the past and then an Antrim designed Class 40, Blackett decided on a new build for this year's race. His new boat, dubbed 'io, is a custom all-carbon Antrim 27 that is thoughtfully prepared for doublehanded sailing.

Having just been launched in late January, the pair - who both turn 70 this year - managed to win this year's Three Bridge Fiasco race overall, coming first out of an incredible 315 starters in their debut race! Look for Buzz Blackett and Jim Antrim onboard 'io to be a major contender in the doublehanded division, and in the race overall.

As well as the multi-time race veterans, the Pacific Cup race almost always features a handful of race rookies. This year, an all-female crew of race rookies - many of whom have never made a major ocean crossing - will be sailing to Hawaii onboard Carliane Johnson's full-time liveaboard Freedom 38 Kynntana.

After racing to Hawaii solo in the 2018 Singlehanded Transpac race, Carliane thought about doing the solo race again, but after meeting new friend Tammy Mercado-Ruff at a women's sailing seminar in Alameda last year, a plan was hatched to do the Pacific Cup with a crew of women.

As Carliane puts it, "We definitely enjoy racing and sailing with our male friends, family and husbands, but it is shocking to me how few woman sailing teams there are in the SF Bay area where it is such a huge sport and hobby... Coincidentally, it's looking like I might also have an all-woman delivery crew for the return trip as well. There's no shortage of enthusiastic, capable and adventurous women sailors!".

Another crew with some notable rookies is the Richmond-based Andrews 43 Kahoots.

"I sailed the Transpac in 2015 with some fellow RYC dinghy sailors on Adrenalin, the Santa Cruz 50... Fast forward two years to 2017, and on the drive back from Stockton Sail summer camp my daughter Kate, (then 13) asked if I would ever race to Hawaii again, as she'd like to do it. I didn't need any more hints!", owner and skipper Greg Mitchell told us.

Three years later, Greg has purchased an Andrews 43 and put together a stellar crew that includes five sailing coaches from Richmond Yacht Club's junior sailing program and a couple of junior sailors themselves. In addition to Greg's daughter Kate, who is now 16 and will operate the pit, the crew includes RYC's Laser coach Miles Englehart and his 15 year old son Chase, who will serve as bowman.

With five sailing coaches and a couple of very talented dinghy and small-boat sailors on an Andrews 43, we wouldn't be at all surprised to see these junior sailors place very high in the overall rankings when all is said and done.

For every team full of women, children and first-timers, there's also a crew of consummate professionals and one such boat is the Kernan 68 Peligroso. A veteran of several races to Hawaii, Peligroso is now owned by renowned big-boat owner Doug Baker who has owned several successful boats including the multi-race record setter Magnitude 80.

Having sailed with some of the best and most highly experienced sailors on the west coast for decades, Doug has had the luxury of cherry-picking a dream team of legends and long-time mates to help him make his Pacific Cup debut on Peligroso a success, and that's exactly what he's done.

With Whitbread Round-the-World legend Keith Kilpatrick and famed naval architect Bruce Nelson as Watch Captains, and a crew that includes Jimmy Sloughter and experienced navigator Ernie Richau among many other talented and well-known sailors, we can only imagine that Peligroso will be exceptionally well sailed all the way to Kaneohe.

A Tim Kernan designed 68-footer that was designed and built in the mid-2000's as a modern interpretation of a 70-foot sled, Peligroso will almost certainly be the scratch boat in this year's race and could well be the first boat into Kaneohe and a top contender on handicap.

Another race stalwart who is back in 2020 with a new and improved boat is the Richmond based team Rufless. Since winning their division in 2018 on a Melges 32 of the same name, Rufus Sjoberg has now joined forces with his brother Jason Crowson to purchase and rehab one of those unicorn boats that have claimed an almost unrivaled amount of Pacific Cup and Transpac hardware in recent years; J Boats' venerable all-carbon J/125.

When Crowson stumbled upon an internet ad that appeared to show an abandoned J/125 sitting in the Netherlands, he immediately told Rufus and the two brothers hopped the next flight to Amsterdam to verify the boat's identity and then bring it back to the US.

Once the boat was offloaded from the shipping company in Maryland, the brothers had to do some last-minute welding to their newly acquired 1D35 trailer to get it to Richmond. When the new Rufless finally got to her new home, the boat was discovered to have a bad rudder and need an extensive amount of work.

With Rufus' skillsets as a world-renowned boat builder and professional sailor who has even been employed to repair boats in the Volvo Ocean Race, we fully expect the new Rufless to be one of the best prepared and fastest J/125's on earth.

After watching J/125's go 1-2 overall in last year's 50th Transpac, and with Zachery Anderson, Will Paxton and the rest of the crew onboard rival J/125 Velvet Hammer, no one is going to bet against this pair of well-sailed 40-foot carbon J Boats in the Pacific Cup.

With the 21st edition of the Pacific Cup now less than four months away, it's full steam ahead for much of the fleet.

More information at

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