The race started like most winter races start: Calm and little breeze.

The rabbit start proved how rusty the fleet was, with several boats unsure if the start had actually occurred. The rabbit yelling at us to start clarified things a little, and we got under way headed out offshore, heading maybe 240 degrees.

The fleet seemed to have the Sailflow forecast etched in their memory, because most of the boats put up a spinnaker right after the start with the forecasted wind supposed to be out of the north or northeast. Aloha preferred to actually get a taste of that northerly wind before she would allow a sail change, and the change never came. As we headed southwest, the wind wrapped around more from the west in a typical onshore model, and Aloha slipped off toward R10 away from the fleet.

Much to the shock of her skipper, Aloha managed to hold off the fast boats in the fleet until she was passed around R10 by Distraxion and Charles Calkin’s Class 40. As the faster boats got out into the breeze in the channel, they disappeared into the distance in short order. Aloha managed to maintain her position to the fleet with a little help from a banana staysail and a 3 sail reach, but the competition started heating up when Velocity (Hobie 33) came into sight off the starboard rear quarter.  Aloha and Velocity rate the same, and skipper Thomas Wilson put on a great chase and reeled Aloha in through the channel.

Some aggressive trimming and driving managed to keep Velocity at bay all the way back across the channel until 6 miles from R10, when the wind shifted abruptly. Aloha had it in mind to tack out to the west in the shifty air in the hopes of something more stable. Velocity took full advantage by maintaining course and working through the unstable air, and her persistence paid off. She managed to finally get around Aloha and keep moving in the light wind, and Aloha lost her lead over Velocity until the finish. The two boats that rate 81 finished 4 minutes apart over 41 miles.

That pales in comparison to Distraxion’s victory in the double handed fleet over Rubicon III with 1 second on corrected time. Unbelievable!

In years past, this race has never been my favorite, in honesty. It gets dark fast, in most years there’s light wind, it’s a struggle to clear ship rock, and usually it’s cold. This year has me rethinking my opinion of this race. This was probably one of the most fun PSSA races to date, and it really has me looking forward to the Bishop Rock race and some relentless competition from the Hobie 33.

A congratulations to all the trophy winners of Ship Rock 2018, and a congratulations to all the finishers who were still out navigating the channel once the wind shut off. The wind can be a real challenge during this race, and the fleet did a great job working through it and finishing.