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Kenny Keiding and John Vincent's Argo 4 wins overall at California Offshore Race Week

by San Diego Yacht Club 1 Jun 18:40 PDT May 25 - June 1, 2024

The 2024 CA Offshore Race Week featured 90 boats and over 400 sailors racing throughout the three events of the series which is in its 8th year, annually occurring around Memorial Day Weekend.

John Brynjolfsson (TP52, Saga) described the race experience best saying, "Few experiences can rival the thrill of sailing with Saga's seasoned crew under the iconic Golden Gate Bridge, alongside a fleet of fellow sailors embarking on a week-long, 500-mile odyssey. This historic week comprised the storied Spinnaker Cup from StFYC to MPYC, the Coastal Cup from MPYC to SBYC, and the SoCal 300 from SBYC to SDYC. As the fog lifted outside San Francisco, and the flood tide lay behind us, the fleet converged down the coast on Monterey, our first port of call. A welcome break and authentic eateries awaited our courageous crew.

Later legs took us to Santa Barbara and San Diego, each pushing seasoned sailors to their limits on every point of sail, Beaufort scale, and sea state. Our crew dug deep, grabbing brief respites when possible, and fueling up on black, hot coffee, as the sun rose over California's stunning Coastal Range and Channel Islands.

Off-watch respites offered fleeting glimpses of sleep, as boats heaved and rolled, while lay days brought welcome relaxation in plush hotel beds and gourmet meals.

And as the familiar San Diego skyline came into view, the sun set on Saga's historic week-long adventure, a journey etched in memory forever."

J/125s Argo 4 and Arsenal, both set to race in the full series, were locked up in a tight battle after the Spinnaker Cup where Argo 4 won Class 1 on PHRF scoring with Arsenal less than 7 minutes behind on PHRF scoring, and Arsenal leading the series on ORR scoring. But damage to Arsenal's rudder in the Coastal Cup forced them to drop out of the race and the series. Argo 4 continued with a 1st in Class/3rd Overall in the Coastal Cup and 2nd in Class/7th Overall in the SoCal 300 to lock up the series Overall victory. Argo 4 is the second J/125 series champ with Velvet Hammer being the first in 2019.

Kenny Keiding, skipper of Argo 4, shared his reflections on their recent victory:

"After a hectic month of preparing our J/125 Argo 4 for California Offshore Race Week, and then a challenging week of racing down the coast, we were very happy to learn we won 1st place overall. Our crew was an all-Santa Barbara based group including John Vincent, myself, Gary Gordon, Tedd White, Bill Blazewicz, Peder Lenvik, and Carly Kieding. The first leg of the race, from San Francisco to Monterey, was probably the highlight of the week. It was relatively warm, super fast, and it's always fun to sail under the Golden Gate Bridge. We also saw three orcas which was a first for most of us. For me personally, it was really special to have my 17-year-old daughter Carly drive the boat at 22.5 knots, ripping downwind toward the finish.

I would say the most challenging part of the week was during the Coastal Cup, when we navigated big breeze, a pitch black night, and confused seas. It was also super cold. None of us got any rest that night, so it was nice to end in our home port of Santa Barbara, with hot showers and our own beds waiting for us. We took a day and a half to get some sleep, check the boat, and inspect safety gear before heading out for the last leg to San Diego. We learned a bunch on the last leg and ended up giving away a few extra miles, but ended the week in good spirits and happy with our overall results.

Congrats to all the other racers - it's great to sail against such talented competition. We hope to see all of you at King Harbor Race, Long Point Race Week, and other upcoming coastal regattas. And lastly, a big thanks to MPYC, SBYC, and SDYC for the warm racer welcome and stiff drinks!"

While prepping his boat and team to race in all 3 events of the series aboard Rogers 46 Lucky Duck, skipper Dave MacEwen also stepped up as a co-chair for the Spinnaker Cup representing St. Francis Yacht Club. The Lucky Duck team has sailed most of the CORW series events going back to their Santa Cruz 52 edition. This year, Lucky Duck finished 2nd in the series and 2nd in the SoCal 300.

MacEwen excitedly remarked that it was "another epic running of the California Offshore Race Week." He continues, "the conditions ranged from fantastic surfing and planing conditions on the Northern sections of the series, to challenging Catalina Eddy influenced light air conditions down south. Congratulations to all the racers, particularly to the J/125 Argo for winning the overall CORW series. We look forward to seeing everyone next year!"

And for others, this series was the first taste of offshore racing. J/133 Bacchanal owner Ron Epstein shared, "Offshore racing is new to both me and Bacchanal, and we're really pleased we were able to make such a good showing in our first major offshore regatta. Our performance was due to a fantastic crew that was able to share the secrets of running in a coastal race like CORW. I expect this will be the first of many more offshore races to come for me in the Bacchanal team.

For me, perhaps the most exciting moments were sailing a Spinnaker at wind speeds of 15 to 20 kts under a moonless, cloud covered night sky. It's a special feeling when you let the force be your guide."

Spinnaker Cup
84nm from San Francisco to Monterey: 48 Entries

The Spinnaker Cup kicked off the CA Offshore Race Week at StFYC with a welcoming atmosphere. Sailors were greeted with a quick skippers meeting, a weather briefing provided by Quantum Sails, and a farewell party in a relaxed setting.

It was a picturesque scene on the San Francisco Bay as nearly 50 yachts in seven divisions started on time, heading south toward Monterey. The course required sailors to navigate past Mile Rock before turning and hoisting their spinnakers and gennakers. Leading the fleet were the three big boats: Saga, Lucky Duck, and Buona Sera.

To avoid light winds near the coast, the yachts stayed offshore before jibing back toward the coast to catch a fresh breeze at Waddell Beach, then continued straight into Monterey Bay. The competition was intense among the three J/125 boats, which finished within six minutes of each other, securing 1st, 2nd, and 3rd places.

The TP52 Saga claimed line honors with a time of 8 hours and 18 minutes (the 2013 record was 6 hours and 43 minutes), but this lead wasn't enough for an overall win, and Saga finished in 5th place. The overall winner in Group 1 was Argo 4, while the last boat to cross the virtual finish line was Flexi Flyer with a time of 15 hours and 4 minutes.

Coastal Cup
205nm from Monterey to Santa Barbara: 12 entries

Moore 24 Oxymoron used the least miles sailed to come out 2nd overall in the Coastal Cup, nearly catching overall winner Moonshine who corrected ahead by 30 minutes despite sailing 27 more miles along the race course. While sailing behind the rest of the fleet, Oxymoron hugged the coast, staying within about 20 miles of the coastline, while the rest of the fleet including Moonshine sailed as much as 50+ miles offshore.

"We were excited to return to Cal Offshore Race Week this year, though, since our focus is a doublehanded Pacific Cup this summer, we had a very different goal than 2023" said David Rogers from Moonshine. "It was great to see 12 doublehanded boats racing Spinnaker Cup, and were eager to push the boat in a doublehanded fleet, ultimately maybe pushing a little too hard, resulting in a pretty epic wipeout."

He continued, "Coastal Cup offered primo conditions, and allowed us to take our lessons from Spinnaker Cup, and dial back when needed to keep the wheels on the bus. A late afternoon approach and southerly route allowed us to avoid the Santa Barbara channel wind hole that plagued most of the fleet.

Going into the SoCal 300, it became clear to us that little boats weren't going to make it into San Diego before the breeze died Friday night. So after discussing with our closest competition, the Moore 24 Oxymoron, both boats made the difficult decision to skip the final leg. We instead loaded the boat on the trailer and got a head start home. We encourage more boats to do the series, especially the trailerable boats! There's great hoist facilities at each stop, so it's easy to skip the legs that don't make sense for you at the moment. Thanks again to all the organizers! Moonshine will definitely be coming back."

SoCal 300
255nm from Santa Barbara to San Diego: 28 entries

The 2024 SoCal 300 featured 28 entries from up and down the coast, drawing more of the Southern California boats.

Manouch Moshayedi helped create the SoCal 300 in 2015 and graciously donated the perpetual trophy for the race nearly 10 years ago. His Bakewell White Rio 100 is the course record holder (16:26:58 in the inaugural year 2015) and was narrowly first to finish this year. Rio, Bottle Rocket, and GoodEnergy each finished within a few minutes of each other early Friday afternoon making it a tight race. Rio held a 12-16 mile lead over GoodEnergy for much of the last leg heading east towards San Diego and within the last 35 miles GoodEnergy got as close as about a mile before Rio held on to finish first, with David Schumann's Seacart 30 sandwiched in between the two largest monohulls in the race.

The winner of the SoCal 300 was Thomas Furlong's R/P 52 Vitesse which has been ramping up their racing program, most recently finishing 2nd overall in the San Diego to Puerto Vallarta Race in February. Vitesse's elapsed time was just over 26 hours, which happens to be about the same as last year's SoCal 300 winner Argo 4.

Furlong has participated in this race for four consecutive years, and each year brings new challenges. He mentioned that while they think they've learned from the previous year and adjusted their strategy, race day always presents unexpected surprises requiring new lessons. Despite these challenges, he finds the race tactically challenging but incredibly enjoyable, which keeps him coming back every year.

Reflecting on this year's race, he said, "We did a great job getting across the channel and overtook many boats, lining up against close competitors like Fast Exit, Saga, and Zero Gravity, even though we had some issues off the start line. It was really great to see us perform so well and come out on top."

The closest race to watch was the ORR-B duo of Stark Raving Mad VII (SRM) and Triumph. SRM as the faster rated boat took the lead to the islands, and the race flipped on the long overnight run as Triumph sailed less miles and reached the turning mark before SRM. Jim Madden's Swan 601 was skippered by Chris Busch for this race, and they used the last leg to gain about 10 miles over Triumph. But the wind held up Friday evening and Steve Sellinger's Santa Cruz 52 Triumph was able to correct out against SRM by just under 7 minutes.

Steve Sellinger with Triumph said, "First off, thanks to SDYC and SBYC for hosting one of the best west coast races and my favorite of the year. This year's race, like many from the past, combines the challenge of light air sailing upwind and down, requiring focus and continuous awareness of the race course, weather data and the other players on the course followed by big wind reaching to the ODAS mark near Tanner Bank. Stark Raving Mad VII provided a challenge for us as this is a super fast and well sailed displacement boat with a great depth of experience. The last leg of the race from ODAS to San Diego can be especially challenging looking for the wind and fighting our way to the finish line. The finish can be fraught with frustration as the pressure went from 9 to 2 knots and back to 4-5 knots. Team Triumph made numerous sail changes and fought hard to the end. We also had a good luck mascot, a little black bird, join us about 75 miles out and stayed with us until the finish. He provided a little extra inspiration to finish strong!"

Thank you to Helly Hansen for providing gear for awards for the Offshore Race Week winners, and to Quantum Sails for sponsoring not only the kick off party at St. Francis Yacht Club, but also the three pre-race weather briefings presented by Jeff Thorpe.

Full results available here.

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