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Celebrating North American distance racing

by David Schmidt 5 Jul 08:00 PDT July 5, 2022
Start of the 2018 Pacific Cup, D division © Erik S Simonson /

The days are long and so are the racecourses. The dust may have barely settled on the 2022 editions of the Newport Bermuda Race and the Race to Alaska, however the American and Canadian distance-racing circuits have already geared up for some great events in July.

These kicked off yesterday, Monday, July 4, with the first staggered starts of the Pacific Cup, which will take crews from the waters of San Francisco Bay, under the Golden Gate Bridge, and across the Pacific to a finishing line off of Oahu, near beautiful Kaneohe Bay, as well as the 2022 Vic-Maui Race, which began in Victoria, British Columbia before heading out of the Strait of Juan de Fuca and across the Pacific to a finishing line off of Lahaina, on the island of Maui.

Both events employ staggered starts, with the slower boats starting first, and both races also promise plenty of off-the-breeze sailing, ideally with a sea state that's conducive to burning off the miles.

Sixty-three boats entered the Pacific Cup. Of these, the Ocean Navigator, double-handed, and cruising divisions started on Monday, while the teams entered in the second double-handed and the first two PHRF classes will begin today (Tuesday, July 5). Thursday, July 7, will see the ORR Division D and ORR Division E classes begin, while Friday, July 8, will see ORR Division F begin their push to Hawaii.

While the Pacific Cup bills itself as the fun race to Hawaii, there's no question that all competitors are taking the race seriously and aim to push their crews and steeds en route to one of the prettiest states in the nation. And while any one of the 63 teams could prove tough to beat on handicap time, some of the fleet's fastest guns in the fleet include two Volvo Open 70s, a Reichel/Pugh 55, a Santa Cruz 70, and two TP52s.

Two interesting boats to watch in the BMW of San Rafael class, which will start on Thursday, include Shawn Dougherty and Jason Andrews's J/125 Hamachi, and Michael Schoendorf's Riptide 41 Blue. Both crews run deep with experience, and both boats have enjoyed great offshore rivalries over the years. Both are also sailing with the runaway winners of the 2022 Race to Alaska, with Matt Pistay racing aboard Hamachi and Jonathan McKee and Alyosha Strum-Palerm racing aboard Blue. (These three Seattle-based sailors won the R2AK aboard McKee's Riptide 44, which was racing as Team Pure and Wild.)

And of course, sailing audiences can also expect great rivalries to play out between the two Volvo Open 70s. Roy Disney's Pyewacket 70 includes a long list of ocean-racing greats including Peter Isler, Brad Jockson, Kyle Langford, Mark Towill, and Tony Mutter, while Peter Askew's Wizard will be racing with Stu Bannatyne, Richard Clarke, Will Oxley, Nick Dana, and Phil Harmer.

Jumping north of San Francisco to Victoria, the 2022 Vic-Maui will see twelve teams starting in a staggered fashion over two days (July 4 and July 6). The two divisions in this race are the Lahaina Class and the Racing Class, Fully Crewed.

The Lahaina Class includes boats such as Ben Homsy's Beneteau Oceanis 45 Amun-Ra, Patrick Fenton's Nauticat 39 Outbreak, and John McCarthy's ketch-rigged Amel Mango 52 Annie M, while the Racing Class, Fully Crewed includes Doug Baker's Kernan 68 Peligroso, Gordon Wylie's Xp 44 Phoenix, and Aidan Walters's X-43 Xiomara.

While there's plenty of West Coast offshore action unfurling this week and next, there's also distance-racing game to be had on the East Coast. On July 7, the Boston Yacht Club will begin its Mentuck Memorial Ocean Race, which takes crews from a starting line off of Marblehead, Massachusetts (in the vicinity of Tinkers Gong), out into the Gulf of Maine, and around Mantinicus Rock (passing it to port), before heading back to Marblehead.

While there were only four boats entered in the Mentuck Memorial Ocean Race at the time of this writing, the fact that they range from 36 feet to 45.8 feet suggest that there could be some good racing as teams push north while trying to dodge lobster pots.

And while it's still a few weeks over the horizon, Mid-West distance racers are gearing up for the 2022 edition of the Bayview Mackinac Race, which starts on July 16, and the Chicago Yacht Club's Race to Mackinac, which starts on July 23.

Sail-World wishes all of these teams fast and safe sailing to their respective finishing lines.

May the four winds blow you safely home,

David Schmidt North American Editor

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