by Joe Bersch
20 boats sailed in the Pacific Rim Championships hosted by Kaneohe Yacht Club and sponsored by Horizon Container Lines, EcoFlag and West Marine. The competition, camaraderie and sailing conditions were some of the finest experienced in recent history. The hospitality of the club and the generously poured and consumed Mai Tais were as always fantastic. Most of the out of towners experienced two fabulous days of practice before the regatta in winds of around 20 knots. Many boats experienced minor breakdowns during practice as a result of a long winter lay-up but were ready to go when racing started.
Notable attendees, other than the usual suspects were skiff sailor extraordinaire Cameron McDonald from Australia, Canadians Jason Lemieux, Greg Loffree, former Canadian 49er FX Campaigner Lauren Laventure, UK nay American Jamie Ried sailing the Hoff and old timers Alan Laflin and Eric Ahrens. Lawrence Henderson and Kurt Schmidt made a reappearance and you could see the smiles of Seattle newcomers Brennan Ashton and Zach Faorcade from anywhere on the bay! Sadly, Chris Rutz sustained a hand injury before the event and was unable to sail, but he came any way to watch, learn, support the junior clinic and just plain enjoy being with the fleet in Hawaiian sunshine! Thanks to all the competitors for coming and making this a great event and thank you to all of the sponsors for making this event possible. Mahalo!.
Racing on Day 1 was scheduled to start at 1300 but didn’t get going until about 1335 as the race committee waited for several boats to make the line including, but not limited to, the latest boat out of Henderson Boat Company. It was unpleasant waiting in 16-20 knots (anybody feel sorry for us?) but it was good to see USA 1192 and a couple others make the start. Unfortunately, that did not include Paul Galvez/Cameron MacDonald in USA 1168 who broke their lever vang on the way to the line and missed both races of the day while waiting for their repair to cure.
Race 1, a two lap windward leeward, was heavy pin favored at the start with winds of 16-18 knots. Steve Goodson and Alan Diercks played the right side of the beat and rounded first followed closely by Kris Bundy and Jamie Hanseler. The pack followed 4 boat lengths back led by Joe Bersch/Leith Shenstone, Terry Gleeson/Evan Sjostedt and Brad Ruetenik/Garrett Brown. The two leaders enjoyed a big puff out to the right while the pack had only 12 knots or so at the mark allowing them to stretch to a serious lead by the leeward mark. The second beat was all the way right to the reef with a tack on the lay. Bundy/Hanseler held their lead up wind and down and finished first followed by Goodson/Diercks and then Bersch/Shenstone a distant third.
Race 2, another two lapper started in about 20 knots after several of the finishers in the first race received an “OWF” – on the water finish. Despite the flat, warm water of Kaneohe Bay conditions were already near survival mode. As a result, most everyone was late at the boat-end favored start. Bersch/Shenstone won the start but forced Bundy/Hanseler and the other leaders right to the favored side with more pressure and a good shift. Goodson/Diercks rounded first by 30 yards, Bundy/Hanseler second, Bersch/Shenstone third essentially overlapped with Ruetenik/Brown and Gleeson/Sjostedt. Tight sailing! Bersch/Shenstone stayed right while the remaining pack went left. The right paid but Bersch/Shenstone missed the port tack lay and capsized while trying to execute a jibe take-down in a stinger at the leeward mark. Goodson/Diercks demonstrating their trademark good boathandling rounded first followed by Bundy/Hanseler, Gleeson/Sjostedt and Ruetenik/Brown. The second beat was again all right. The leaders rounded in the same positions with Bersch/Shenstone back up to 5th. As the group approached the leeward mark, so did a large squall. The first two boats made it around and immediately tacked before the wind hit. The next three rounded and stayed on port, while mayhem developed amongst the boats still coming downwind when it started pouring rain and blowing 30 plus knots with a 40 degree shift right. 8 boats finished the race with the remainder scoring OWF or DNF. Canadians Greg Loffree and Zac Baum rounded in the squall and set their kite only to end with a spectacular crash and splash! Veteran Hendo Henderson claims he has never gone faster in a 14 with his kite up. Fortunately the water was warm, nobody was injured, no turtles were harmed and there was no significant boat damage before the racing was binned for the day. On the way in, the fleet passed a disappointed Galvez/MacDonald team heading out for the scheduled Race 3. The day ended with two boats tied for 1st and 3 boats tied for 3rd a harbinger of the tight racing to come.
Day 2 started with the scheduled Junior Sailing Clinic which is the heart and soul of the event and the basis of its sponsorship. 12 enthusiastic juniors in their early teens showed up at 0900 to learn about skiffs and have their first opportunity to take a ride and trapeze on and in many cases, drive a 14 foot skiff. This is a favorite of many of the participants who get to give back to the sponsors, promote junior sailing and promote the future of the class. Chris Rutz again generously donated his boat for use in the dry land trapezing, tacking and gybing clinic. Most of the sailing was done three up in winds o 8-14 knots. Perfect to teach the kids to sail a skiff with great rides both upwind and down. Thanks to Tom Pochoreva for once again organizing this fun event and to Steve Goodson, Joe Bersch/Leith Shenstone, Kirk Twardowski, Steve Shumaker, Kris Henderson/Martin Fabiansson, Brad Ruetenik and others for taking the juniors sailing.
Day two racing immediately followed the clinic in 10-14 knots with lots of streaky puffs and holes. Day 2 had 4 races with particularly tough sailing downwind. Single leg deltas of 6 boats were frequent. Gleeson/Sjostedt sailed exceptionally well downwind resulting in their winning the day. Rounding ahead was not always an advantage. More important was rounding in a puff and linking it to the next one when possible. If you rounded ahead and in a lull, you got schooled by those behind you.
Bersch/Shenstone sustained a breakdown during the Clinic and had to return to the beach for a quick repair. The fleet got a four and a half minute jump on them when the committee started the first race of the day, a 2 lapper, on time. Galvez/McDonald sailing their first race of the series were back with a vengeance, showed their good speed and tactics and took the race win. Welcome back! Gleeson/Sjostedt were second with Cameron Puckey and youth sailor Richard Didham in 3rd, Bundy/Hanseler 4th, Ruetenik/Brown 5th.
Race 4 was a one lapper. Bersch/Shenstone rounded the weather mark first, followed closely by Ruetenik/Hanseler, Bundy/Hanseler and a pack including Galvez/McDonald, Gleeson/Sjostedt, Henderson/Fabiansson and others. Bersch/Shenstone held the lead all the way until the last tack to the finish when Ruetenik/Brown passed them from the right for the win. Gleeson/Sjostedt sailed a fantastic leeward leg and finished third. The racing was tight with many lead changes not only in the front of the fleet but throughout the fleet!
Race 5 was another one lapper in similar conditions. Again the right side of the beat was favored with most of the fleet heading hard right. Bersch/Shenstone cover the fleet as they head right and are able to round just in front of and overlapped with Puckey/Didham with many others in hot pursuit. The two leaders did a bear away set in a dying puff. The pack also did a bear away but in a big puff which quickly puts them inside the leaders. Gleeson/Sjostedt were first to jibe and stay in the puff all the way to the bottom to round first and go on to win the race. Ruetenik/Brown also come from the left with a nice puff and move to second. Puckey/Didham jibe early from the right and hang on to third while Bersch/Shenstone round the bottom in 8th but manage to finish in 5th just behind Bundy/Hanseler in 4th.
Race 6 was a 3 lapper that started in 6-8 knots but built to about 10-14 knots. The pin was heavily favored and the right side had been favored all day. Bundy/Hanseler decide to go for it but are over early at the pin on port tack. Bersch/Shenstone try the opposite approach and win the boat heading left for the Marine Corps Air Base puff. Except for Bersch/Shenstone, most of the leaders go right. There is a big hole in the middle causing a split fleet. Both sides look good right until the end when the left prevails and Bersch/Shenstone round with a good lead. They jibe set into the header and extend downwind. Bundy/Hanseler and Gleeson/Sjostedt round behind. All the leaders head right out of the leeward mark. Henderson/Fabiansson, Twardowski/Lazzarro and Galvez/McDonald are several hundred yards back but sheer off on a private left shift, passing all but Bersch/Shenstone who can barely cross them on starboard. In the next exchange, Bersch/Shenstone barely cross them but overstand the starboard lay when a 20 degree shift allows Henderson/Fabiansson and Galvez/McDonald to lay. Hederson/Fabiansson round first in about 14 knots overlapped by Bersch/Shenstone who are also overlapped with Galvez/McDonald. Bersch/Shenstone set and then jibe and round the bottom first about 50 yards in front of Galvez/McDonald. Unfortunately, Henderson/Fabainsson who are showing better speed each race pitch it in during a jibe. The final beat is all right side. Bersch/Shenstone take the win followed by Galvez/McDonald and then Gleeson/Sjostedt who continue to show good speed and tactics downwind.
Day 2 ends with Gleeson/Sjostedt in first with 17 points followed by Bundy/Hanseler with 19 and Ruetenik/Brown with 21, Bersch/Shenstone with 24 and Goodson/Diercks rounding out the top 5 with 31.
Day 3 has three races planned and starts with the lightest winds of the regatta from a direction further left than most visiting sailors have ever experienced. Race 7 is a two lapper with a heavily favored pin end start. Bundy/Hanseler hook the pin anchor line on their foil forcing Bundy into the water to clear it before they can then do their circle. Bersch/Shenstone start one boat up and carry left nearly to the lay. Henderson/Fabiansson and Galvez/McDonald play the right and get a nice right hander on the starboard lay. Bersch/Shenstone are just able to cross them and round first ahead of Henderson/Fabiansson, Galvez/McDonald. Henderson/Fabiansson jibe left as does Gleeson/Sjostedt and unfortunately the right pays. Bersch/Shenstone win the race by a good margin followed by Ruetenik/Brown and then Torontians Lauren LaVenture (sailing her first 14 regatta and improving each race) and Jason Lemieux. Bundy/Hanseler at one point claw back to 6th but finish 10th. Galvez/McDonald finish 4th and Twardowski/Lazarro 5th , Gleeson/Sjostedt 6th. Scores are tightening and it is clear that anyone can win this regatta!
Race 8 is another two-lapper and is the lightest of the series. Ruetenik/Brown win the pin, hit the first shift and go right. The wind is beginning to shift persistently right and the fleet is mixed up with many of the regatta leaders in the left and the leaders coming from the right. The left pays up the second beat for most except those who go far right out of the bottom mark and catch a right hander all the way on the starboard layline. This race reminds everyone that the depth of the competition is strong and it is not easy to win a race or this regatta! Twardowski/Lazzarro and Henderson/Fabiansson sail great races and end up 1,2 with Bundy/Hanseler finishing 3rd and Galvez/McDonald finishing a very solid 4th . Ruetenik/Brown are 5th and Gleeson/Sjostedt are 6th in these challenging conditions. Bersch/Shenstone finish 15th after Bersch receives a concussion from an elbow during the last take down, falls overboard and the boat capsizes!
Going into the final race, it is a very close no throw out series with Ruetenik/Brown in first with 28 points, Gleeson/Sjostedt in second with 29 and Bundy/Hanseler in third with 32. Any one of the three have a shot at winning overall going into the final race. Competition elsewhere in the standings remains equally tight.
For the final Race 9 the wind has gone right and built to 10-12 knots. The Committee has not shifted the line or the course making the boat favored and the course skewed. The first start results in the first general recall of the regatta. The intensity remains high! The second one goes off with an individual recall with a couple boats over and many more wondering “should I go back too?” Bersch/Shenstone win the boat and tack to cover the fleet as they head to the starboard layline. Bundy/Hanseler reach the lay first but Bersch/Shenstone cross and cover rounding first with LaVenture/Lemieux and Henderson/Fabaiansson close behind. Bersch/Shenstone lead all the way arounf and take the win pushed around the entire course by Bundy/Hanseler who take a second but cannot get two boats between them and Ruetenik/Brown who take 4th and the regatta win. LaVenture/Lemieux finish 3rd and Henderson/Fabiansson finish 5th both showing just how much they have improved during the course of this regatta. Gleeson/Sjostedt finish the final race in 7th which was good enough for third overall. Bersch/Shenstone end 4th overall and Twardowski/Lazarro who have a very strong last day gain 20 points on the boat in front and finish 5th overall. Congratulations to the winners and all of the competitors for a great event.
The 2014 Pacific Rim Championship came down to the last race. It was close and fair racing throughout but that is really only a part of what makes this event so great. Kaneohe Bay is a spectacular venue for skiff sailing with warm winds and emerald green and azure blue water. The competition is tough but fair and friendly. Racers freely share information in a daily post race debrief along with the requisite Mai Tai’s of course! Those who have sailed here can’t wait to come back. Those who have never made it before, stop reading this long report and start planning to come in two years when Kaneohe Yacht Club will hopefully invite us to come back.