“Whhaaatt!! There’s no tacking in the Lahaina race. Everybody knows it’s all downwind. You’re crazy! I’m not reading this junk.”
Ah but you would be wrong. Let’s take it from the beginning.
The annual Labor Day race from Lahaina was setting up to be a bit slower with 10 to 15 knot east south easterlies predicted making a south shore of Molokai course a near suicide attempt for anyone wanting a trophy, so everyone went the north shore route with one exception, Ikaika. The north route was so favored even the multi-hulls decided their fate would be better sealed along the north shore of Molokai.
With a subtle southerly component to weak trades some spinnakers went up at the start line, and most were up before arriving to Halawa Valley on Molokai. After the big starboard jibe lift eased the wind into a more traditional angle, Kaneohe Bay could be laid by the “slow and low” boats while the sprit boats started their back and forth jibing, some more aggressively than others. While most boats were focusing on eking out that extra tenth of a knot down each swell, the J 35 Alizé was busy landing fish. In all they claim to have gotten 6 strikes, boated five fish and released 2 Aku, landing and keeping a bull mahi, another mahi, and a small yellow fin.
Then came the impending doom scenario. We are all accustomed to seeing Oahu somewhat shrouded in clouds as we approach from the sun soaked outer islands, but this time it was decidedly different. The clouds were more ominous, more threatening. Only Kokohead and Koko Creater peaked out from under the shroud, other land marks were engulfed in mystery haze. Thanks to GPS, the fleet was able to hone in on R2, but then things… took a turn. The first sign of real trouble was the Hobie 33 Flying Tiger’s spinnaker collapse and dousing with headsail to follow. FT was now sailing directly upwind to R2 from outside the slot formed by Mokapu peninsula and Mokumanu island. Off they go on a port tack outside of Mokumanu, soon followed by Alizé. Right behind Alizé, the J 105 father/son J 105, 007 was going through the same transition bouncing around on a confused sea. In an effort to pass Alizé, 007 makes a bold move on starboard through the slot. What was an ETA of 6:30 wains. Boats further behind make the judicious call to start their engines in an attempt to make it home before bedtime.
As FT disappears into the haze and a light drizzle heading into the marine base, it’s come down to three boats left in the race. Now it gets interesting. Alizé and 007 cross tacks with Alizé still ahead, maybe even gained a little but it’s hard to tell in the gloomy conditions. The sun makes a brief attempt at penetrating through the murky haze and rain before extinguishing itself behind the Koolaus and the rain begins an earnest downpour. Even the temperature seems to have dropped 20 degrees. With the sun down, faint lights can be seen in the distance. Shining brighter than the rest is the blinking Pyramid Rock light sending brief pulses of light over the darkened race course as three boats feel their way to the finish at R2. FT is lost somewhere near the air strip while 007 and Alizé make another crossing, Alizé still hanging on to the lead, 007 closing imperceptibly. Now 007 is heading into the murky quagmire at the end of the air strip on starboard while Alizé heads towards Chinaman’s hat on port. Anything can happen as the three boats are on their final approach to R2.
Will the moon come out to clear the skies for a happy ending? What happened to Flying Tiger? Will there be thunder and lighting to cap off the gloom and doom? Will they ever reach the finish mark? Could there be a tie lurking in the near future?
Awards ceremony at Hawaii Yacht Club this Friday night after the Frinight race.
See you there. – Anarchist Fred.