From all accounts, it was a beautiful day in Malibu as the racers gathered for the 2017 Santa Barbara Island race. There was some trepidation due to the weather report, and a lot of thought into sail selection, but these guys showed up and were ready to go despite all of that! There were four boats at the start: Aloha (J33), Virtu (Jeanneau Sunfast 3200), Pavlova (Pacific Seacraft) and Slow Poke (Ranger 23). Apparently no one wanted to be the rabbit (can you blame them?!), so Peter on Virtu suggested they start 4 boat lengths from the buoy. Brian’s reply was, “is that 4 Virtu boat lengths or 4 Slow Poke boat lengths”? That plan was quickly thrown out with what sounds like a good laugh, and the racers decided to start between the two buoys. Aloha was first to cross the line. Brian says that at the start, both Aloha and Slow Poke had a reef in the main and a small head sail. Virtu had a full main and a #4 jib. Pavlova had a full main a staysail and eventually a big head sail.

All racers reported the increase in wind as the day went on, saying that it got up to 30 knots within 5 miles of the island. That coupled with confused sloppy seas and big breaking waves filled up a few cockpits. Brian called it sitting in a cold Jacuzzi with wind jets.  Brian described a pretty tough beat to the island, while Bill on Aloha and Peter on Virtu were able to stay high at the outset to allow them to afford to crack off a little as the wind increased. This was especially helpful given the steep short interval swells they were all dealing with.

The conditions around Santa Barbara Island sounded pretty harrowing from all accounts, Peter describes it this way :” wind gusts and breaking waves led to spindrift and foam that had the disturbing look of water breaking on rocks “. Slow Poke was last to round the Island and reported that he could just see Pavlova when on top of a wave, and it was found out later that Pavlova lost their boom after they rounded and had to head back to MDR. All hats are off to Pavlova for not only sailing the race with no autopilot (which was in for repairs) but for dealing with such a potentially scary scenario with heroic efforts and a great attitude!

The ride downwind towards Catalina sounds from all of the skippers’ perspectives like it was a real adventure. Brian describes Aloha as doing “a Zorro course cutting a path through dangerous seas all the way to the finish”! The wind was in the 30’s gusting higher and they were dealing with huge and sometimes breaking swells. Both Aloha and Virtu hit record speeds for their respective boats on this leg, Aloha got up to 15.1 and Virtu, 14.6! Once the boats got to the backside of Catalina, the wind lightened up considerably. Aloha and Virtu were within a couple of miles of each other all the way to the finish, and though they left Slowpoke at the West End, Bill’s words were “I was not surprised when Slowpoke sailed light air down the Island and corrected over me! He is the resident light air expert, and he did an amazing job as usual. Looking back at his track, I was shocked how deep he was able to sail given the sea state at SBI. I didn’t dare sail wing and wing in that air with those waves, but he was able to sail it perfectly.” As always, we all learn so much from Brian and his tenacity, expertise and patience in these situations!

Congratulations to all 4 boats for setting out into a daunting forecast to sail one of our signature races! Three boats finished in the wee hours, and another wonderful season of PSSA races was brought to a close!

A video of the trip courtesy of Peter on Virtu:  HERE