The PAC 52 Class wrapped up the SoCal portion of the 2018 West Coast Grand Prix Tour on Sunday in spectacular fashion. The heavy overcast and potato patch conditions of the prior day were erased with a broad brush of sweet California sunshine, intermixed with a warm mid-range southerly breeze served on a manageable aqua substrate, with a dash of pending regatta victors to be determined.
The racing in the first 5 races had resulted in 4 bullets on 4 different boats, a testament to the level play of the boats when one critical leg can make or break a boats placement. At the start of play on this glorious Sunday, Frank Slootman’s Invisible Hand (9) held a narrow 1 point advantage over David Team’s Vesper (10) and 5 points over Austin Fragomen’s Interlodge (14). Just off the pace, Manouch Moshayedi’s Rio (20) and Tom Holthus’s BadPak (22) both awaited a change in fortunes and upgrade in standings after few disappointing races left them with burning desire to turn the worm.
Race 6 would begin in 10-12 knots with the pack all close the committee boat, and The Hand making a quick move to the right side of the course with RIO joining shortly thereafter. Vesper, BadPak and Interlodge spread out in a more middle of the road fashion, indicating no clear favored side determined.
At the weather mark, all boats would arrive at the lay line almost joined at the hip, seemingly over standing slightly, all better acknowledging the deceivingly strong current running through the area that caused some weather mark drama the day before. Interlodge would arrive 1st, with Vesper and The Hand, shadowing with little spare air between, BadPak and Rio just a few boat lengths aft. The leaders would stay on the right side for the downhill slide, gybing back to the gates as late as possible. Rio and BadPack made some gains in the down hill run, following Interlodge and Vesper through the gates, The Hand in unfamiliar territory, rounding last.
Weather mark 2 roundings saw Vesper maintain position in 1st with Interlodge right on their hip. A couple boat lengths, RIO was back in the game, having distanced themselves from BadPak and the Silver Steed, both being the higher profile offshore machines which favor the offwind legs everyday of the week and twice on Sundays. Having given up valuable boat lengths in distance, Silver and Blue opted for a left side flyer, hoping to find a better, cleaner lane to accelerate in. Their downhill speed would close the gap, but just not enough. At the finish, Vesper would maintain a narrow lead over Interlodge and RIO with a delta of 14 and 18 second respectively.
There are skirmish’s within battles, and as Frank Slootman so poetically mentioned during a dockside chat “ It’s a predatory game, and even if you can’t win the race, you can make moves on other boats down the track to salvage some minor victories that will add up in the overall standings, and it’s a hell of lot of fun” The downhill strategic mini battle with BadPak on this leg would end with such a slight win, giving them a 4th and pushing their rival into 5th.
But things still remained unclear: With the regatta overall class title still on the line, Vesper now stood atop with 11 points, Invisible Hand in 2nd with 13 and Interlodge in 3rd with 16 points. There was work to be done.
With a slight shift of pressure to the right, Invisible Hand would aggressively defend the committee boat end of the line and get to clear air on right side of the course. RIO would saddle up on their hip with the other three staying left. At the weather mark, Interlodge’s left side strategy paid off, with the Black Stallion 7 seconds ahead of BadPak, which seemed to have finally gotten the break they had been seeking, Vesper would be next, a couple boat lengths in arrears, followed closely by RIO and The Hand.
Once again, the leaders chose the right side of the downhill leg, forcing the trailers to roll the dice and gybe early and into the traffic and wakes of following fleets coming up the course. At the gate, Interlodge maintained the lead with BadPak in second and Vesper 3rd, RIO 4th and The Hand running sweep.
Interlodge would stretch their lead on the uphill leg, rounding the weather mark with a large gap before a hull on hull rounding of BadPak and Vesper, and a bit off the pace, Rio leading The Hand. Interlodge would need a 3 point separation between themselves and The Hand in this last race AND beat them head to head and to knock them back to 3rd for the regatta. A big ask at the start of the race, but now, within grasp. They just needed to hang on to the large lead they had for themselves and hope The Hand’s downwind superiority could not overcome the separation. The Hand would target RIO this time for a bit of one on one match racing and use their off-wind speed combines clever maneuvers to slide ahead of RIO into 4th.... And stay tied with Interlodge for 2nd in regatta with 17 points... But by virtue of the class tiebreaker rules, Interlodge’s victory over The Hand in the last race provided yet another remarkable, against all odds victory for the Austin and Comeback Kids.
All the drama over 2nd place should not, however overshadow the David’s Team of Consistency, that won this final race of the day by a large margin, a delta of 52 second over BadPak, which ended the regatta on an up note, and feeling somewhat vindicated with a good last race, providing positive traction and perhaps some of the missing swagger that has eluded last year season champs as the SoCal portion of the of the tour concludes. The new kids on the block, Vesper, never finished lower than 3rd place all weekend, and had they not missed the 1st regatta of the year, might be right up there for season champion titles.
Final Scores From LBRW:
Invisible Hand 17
The PAC 52’s will adjourn for a short summer recess but resume the West Coast Grand Prix Tour in September in San Francisco with 4 days of head to head battles at the StFYC Big Boat Series September 13-16 followed by the PAC52 Cup also at the StFYC, September 28-30.