Opening day on San Francisco Bay for the inaugural Pac52 Cup hosted by the St. Francis Yacht Club held back nothing, as boisterous conditions welcomed the fleet of six boats and crews from all points of the globe in spectacular fashion. From the initial gun fired off Treasure Island, winds funneled through the Golden Gate and down the racecourse with reckless abandon.
“It doesn’t get any better than this”, gleamed both Frank Slootman and Manouch Moshayedi, owners Invisible Hand and Rio, post race, while reliving the day. “We saw winds in the 30 knot range, and had downwind speeds at 25 knots, with really close sailing” Slootman added.
But all this fun and excitement does not come without some pain. “It was a lot of pressure on the tiller today” Moshayedi explained, the contestant pounding along with the tugging locking up his lower back, forcing him to hand the keys off to the crew while he went ashore after the lengthy Race 1.
The fleet enjoyed three races inside the Gate during the day, the first of which went all the way from the Treasure Island Starting Area up to Blackaller and back down twice, with a Hollywood finish. Toney Langley’s Gladiator, sailing their first San Francisco event, showed some great upwind speed, rounding the weather right ahead of Karl Kwok’s Team Beau Geste. That lead would evaporate at the bottom, but Gladiator fought back on the second leg, rounding the weather mark neck and neck. The pain continued to be delivered, this time on Gladiator’s first gybe when the bowman got flushed off the bow and the team was forced to retire.
Other boats would watch their kites explode upon launching, eating up precious time before resetting and rejoining the fleet. The joy as well as the pain was well spread amongst the competitors throughout the day.
The second and third races were just as boisterous as the first, but mercifully, a tad shorter. The ongoing rivalry between Slootman’s Invisible Hand and Tom Holthus’s Bad Pak was exacerbated during the day, as they both seek the season’s title, each boat keeping close tabs on the other. The Hand had shaken some leftover Rolex Big Boat Series funk in the first race, rounding ahead of Bad Pak before it too had a kite explosion. The boats finish the day with 9 points for Bad Pak and 10 for The Hand. Only the near-perfect Team Beau Geste would finish the day unscathed, bringing three aces to the table for a three-point total.
The racing continues Saturday, with three races, and will finish Sunday with one long distance challenge.