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BadPak wins 2024 Islands Race, Rio100 sets course record

by San Diego Yacht Club 12 Feb 18:21 PST February 9-10, 2024
2024 Islands Race © San Diego Yacht Club

The annual Southern California offshore and coastal racing season kicked off with the 2024 Islands Race, a coastal race co-hosted by Newport Harbor Yacht Club and San Diego Yacht Club since 2010. Featuring a 142nm course from San Pedro, around Catalina and San Clemente Islands, into San Diego for the finish, the Islands Race was sailed by 28 boats across 6 divisions this year.

The race was held earlier than usual due to its status as a feeder for SDYC’s International Race to Puerto Vallarta Mexico, which was also moved up the calendar to a late February start to take advantage of the full moon and in collaboration with the renowned Mexican Ocean Racing Circuit (MEXORC). Twelve teams racing in the Islands Race will gear back up in two weeks to race to PV, along with 11 others.

With the race date such as it was, Islands Race competitors were left to ponder the weather superlatives raining down on the West Coast as the 'atmospheric river' prepared to 'slam the west coast,' and 'swamp Southern California' with unprecedented storms. Well that happened in many places and a lot of water has fallen on California in the last 10 days, much of it running off into the ocean. There was a USCG advisory to be on the lookout for debris in the water near shore, which competitors are verifying lumber, poly rope, and lots of plastic were easy to spot.

But once offshore, the race benefitted from a classic, albeit colder than most would have preferred west-ish breeze driving competitors around the course.

NHYC's Race Committee team aboard the Albert Soiland RC vessel checked in Friday morning off Point Fermin with conditions presenting a 4-6 kts breeze out of the east. Local knowledge knew this was atypical and left the RC to work through various starting plans.

The first of six warning signals was scheduled for 1225 and the conditions quickly went into a transition in hope of a prevailing westerly. The wind dropped to 1-2 kts from the south and a flooding tide which would dictate starting line push on the fleet. Classes ORR F, E and C had the unfortunate fallout of this breeze/weather transition leaving them with more tide than breeze on the starting line. This prompted the RC team to deploy the 'X' flag on two of those starters. Both teams had to fight back the tidal push to clear themselves in order to dial back in and shoot for the North Point of Catalina. At approximately 1300 hours the westerly breeze built enough push for the sleds to engage in some more tactical startline set ups. ORR B was off the line clean and felt the first pulse of the expected Southern California breeze. The final start of the day set up the ORR A fleet with the best starting conditions of the race, a westerly breeze at 5-7 kts. With the line square to the north point of Catalina the boats stacked up on Starboard and were able to dial in to a fetching angle off the line to Catalina. All boats were on course! Thank you to our NHYC OA Dwight Belden and our on the water PRO Jim Bailey and his team aboard the Albert Soiland for getting the competitors off to the races.

Always in the hunt for a course record, Manouch Moshayedi's Bakewell White Rio100 was targeting a finish time before 00:09:52 on Saturday to overtake the previous monohull course record set by Roy P. Disney's Volvo 70 Pyewacket 70 in 2021 (10:49:52 elapsed time). After making the turn around the southern waypoint mark to head east towards the finish, Rio100 was on pace to do just that. The wind held up and Rio100 sailed to the finish setting the new record by 31 minutes at 10 hours, 18 minutes and 45 seconds.

Rio100 Navigator Jay Davis: "Another personal record [for this race] was laying Catalina without tacking, first time for me. And for a while on the finish approach I thought we might finish without any tacks, but then we found the land breeze and had two tacks." The race tracker showed Rio100 did sail the shortest distance of all competitors (147nm) to complete the 142nm course.

Manouch Moshayedi, Rio100 Skipper: "The first race of the year is always very special, this year's Islands Race was double as much for me since the last time I raced on the boat was the Cabo Race of 2023.

We were very lucky with the weather which cleared up to a nice sunny day after a few weeks of constant rain and clouds.

We had a good crossing from the start to the west end of Catalina which we were the first boat to round, and then a beautiful and fast reach to the bottom of San Clemente Island, followed by a great VMG sailing to the finish.

Only right at the end, the wind shifted and we had to put our jib back up to go across the line.

We were very lucky that the wind velocity cooperated and our capable crew did a flawless job to make it possible for us to break the record by 31 minutes.

All and all, a very fast and pleasant race, thanks to the organizing clubs who did all the hard work to make this event possible."

While Rio100 chased down the record, Tom Holthus' Botin 56 BadPak and Roy P. Disney's Andrews 68 Pyewacket were locked up in a tight corrected time battle for the best corrected time of this year's race. With about 50 miles to go BadPak and Pyewacket were within 1 projected corrected minute of each other, with BadPak holding a 6-mile distance lead. While BadPak took a more southern rounding of the waypoint turning mark, Pyewacket chose the shorter distance.

But it would not be a two boat race... BadPak saw their distance from the fleet shrink with light winds in their final 3 miles, and they would have to wait and see if their finish time would stand. Both Grand Illusion and Argo 4 made up time on the last ? of the race to jump to the top of the projected standings. As the early morning minutes ticked away, the lighter breeze zone expanded to 10+ miles where many of the early leaders started to bunch up on the slower approach to the finish. In the end BadPak's time held strong and they were able to win the 2024 Islands Race on corrected time by 18 minutes of Pyewacket, and 28 minutes ahead of Grand Illusion.

Tom Holthus (BadPak Skipper): "It was a decent breeze all the way until the finish where it was light and shifty. Behind the islands was magical. We were triple-headed on a reach in 18 knots, where the miles went by fast. The air was cold, but the stars were bright. It was a team effort from start to finish."

Peter Isler (Pyewacket Navigator): "BadPak was in another universe yesterday - they flew past us before sunset on the outside of the islands with a triple head rig looking amazing. They continued off over the horizon so fast and sailed a great track on the way home.

We had a great competitive race in the sled class. It felt like we were back in the good old days of Southern California offshore racing with 5 well sailed, very similar boats tussling for any advantage. We had a hard fought lead as we turned the mark and began the 70 mile leg to San Diego - but then things got "interesting" when the fleet split on opposite gybes. It's impossible to cover two sides of the race course - so after about an hour sailing towards home, we stepped down to get in touch with GI and the fleet to the south. What ensued in the next few hours was a good old fashioned sled race as we pushed in the lighter winds and ultimately a 180 degree wind shift into a beautiful easterly "night wind" coming off the shore. That put GI and the others dead downwind of us - and we were able to accordion back out to a much bigger lead at the finish than it had looked like at midnight."

The boats further out from the finish in the 0300 time frame experienced longer stretches of light breeze and couldn't make up the time to catch the ORR A and B leaders.

The competition between Argo 4 and Lucky Duck in Class C was tight across the race course. Lucky Duck lead by 4 miles at the turning mark, and was able to put an extra 2 miles of distance on Argo 4 to win Class C by 24 minutes. Both boats sailed 159 miles to complete the course.

Having the highest rated boat in Class D paid off in this year's conditions for Dave Moore's Santa Cruz 52 Westerly. They were expected to be fastest across the course in Class D, and were able to avoid the early morning slow down that kept the rest of the class hours behind. Westerly won Class D and finished 5th overall.

The tightest fleet appeared to be Class E, despite all 5 boats taking unique lines to the finish. With 15 miles to go, 4 teams had a chance to win the class from their different angles to the finish. But Dean Stanec's J/130 Night's Watch was the only one to break through the morning breeze to the finish while the rest of the fleet competed for 2nd place.

An interesting early morning contender was the 2nd smallest boat in the fleet, Elliott James' Mancebo 31 Bloom County. While the bigger fleets were sailing miles ahead near the finish, Bloom County would have the chance to sail in slightly different conditions being 30 miles behind the leading group, leaving the possibility of them correcting out over to the early leaders. In the end the conditions didn't allow for this late comeback as the boats in ORR E and F sailed in the light morning breeze.

With 50 miles to go in Class F, Obsidian, Outsider and Bloom County were all within 2 miles of each other in the early morning hours, with the class up for grabs. Bloom County had sailed an excellent first half of the race projecting as a possible top 5 contender until the wind shut down for them. The final 15 miles took several hours as each boat took a different angle to the finish, with Greg Nelsen's Outsider taking first in class.

Replay the race via the YB Tracking race tracker.

Full results available here.

Thank you to Helly Hansen for their continued support of the Islands Race and regattas at San Diego Yacht Club.

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