The Pacific Cup Race, San Francisco to Hawaii

July 1996
The concept of racing Moonshadow in the Pacific Cup came about while sailing on the Bay with my friends Kathy and Andy Eggler one afternoon last summer. After a few beers, Andy commented “you know, this would be a great boat to sail to Hawaii in the Pacific Cup”. After a few more beers, I had engaged the concept. Just what I needed, another goal!
There was a lot that I wanted to do to the boat to get her ready for the race, but hell, it was a year away so I had plenty of time, so it was just party on as usual. Somehow it would all get done by July 10.
First I had to select the crew. Pacific Cup is billed as a “fun” race so I had to get fun crew. I alway say “its easier to find compatible people and teach them how to sail than to find good sailors and teach them how to be compatible”. I think I found the right stuff, but 10 or 12 days at sea will definitely tell all.
Here’s the rundown:
Wayne Goldman, chef. We connected through the Latitude 38 “Crew List”. Wayne did 6 weeks of the trip from Florida to San Fracisco. Great sailor, great fisherman, great cook, great friend and a lot of fun to be around. Wouldn’t think of doing the trip without him.
Mark Coleman, bosun’s mate. Mark took me out on the Bay for my first sail on a keelboat. Great college friend and fraternity brother. Mark was with me on Moonshadow from Puerto Valarta to Ensenada.
Jeff Erdmann, bosun. Jeff was the yacht broker in Fort Lauderdale who sold Moonshadow to me. He helped me immensely in making her ready for the trip to San Francisco. We became good friends and enjyoyed many boat conversations and “bowling” nights.
Cort DePeysyter, communications. We met in Sardinia, Italy at the 1984 Swan/Rolex Cup, became good buddies, and have remained friends ever since. Cort and I have gone on 5 St. Francis Yacht Club Stag cruises together over the years, and always had a great time together.
Andy Eggler, navigator. As I mentioned earlier, Andy inspired me to enter Moonshadow in the Pacific Cup and is the navigator. With five Pacific crossings under his belt, he should know the way.
Beth Bell, tactician. Beth has been sailing and racing most of her life. She is the director of the sailing school at club nautique (my boss) and a world class sailor. She’s probably the most serious about this race (we need it) and a heck of a lot of fun.
Day 1, Wednesday, July 10, 1996
Up at 6:30 am. Its finally race day. A year from concept to reality. Most of the preparation is done, so it should be a relaxing morning, right? Breakfast at 7:30 at Fred’s with the crew. We’re all psyched.
Back to Moonshadow and things start to get crazy. Lots of phone calls from well wishers and last minute information. Many friends and family of the crew in and around the boat. Lots of distractions. A few snags come up. We handle some. Others we can’t. Twelve forty-five, its time to shove off. If it ain’t done now, it ain’t gonna get done.
Wayne serves up some great chicken salad sandwiches as we sail across the Bay to the start line at St. Francis Yacht Club. All the things one gets nervous about at the beginning of a voyage start to come up for me. Is the boat really ready? Am I really ready? What have I forgotten to do or bring? Will the weather be O K? What’s going to break? Will I get seasick or hurt? What will I miss back home? I guess it doesn’t matter because we’re going anyway.
We take a conservative start (something one does when they race their home). We’re DAL (dead-ass last) as we beat out the Gate. Sailing to weather is not Moonshadow’s forte. We’ll make up time when the wind moves abaft the beam!
A few hours out, the wind all but dies. The sea is glassy. The sails just flog. I guess this is why they call it the “Pacific” Ocean. Its very disappointing, but none of the crew will lose their lunch out here. We make some last-minute calls on the cellphones and fire off some e-mail to get some systems tweaked.
Killer dinner of chicken and dumpling stew with a St. Supery merlot. Watches get long when one doesn’t have on enough way to keep the boat on course and the zeros keep clicking off the log. The only excitement is an occasional seal surfacing for air or a puff of wind that fills the sails and gets the boat up over 2 knots. This is going to be a looonnng race!
Day 2, Thursday, July 11, 1996
This morning the winds are still light and variable. Our plot puts us at only 50 miles offshore after 20 hours underway. We were all dissapointed as we used cellphones to call friends, family, and bosses to let them know that we would probably not be on schedule. Oh well, the worst day sailing is still better than the best day of working. Our dissapointment lessened when we learned the boats that left the day before were still within 15 or 20 miles of us. We’re still in the race.
The wind is playing havoc with our courseline. We get headed and we tack. We get headed and we tack again. This goes on all day. Our course line looks like road winding through the Sierras.
Late in the day, the breeze finally starts to freshen. We get excited when we hold steady 3’s! Gradually, we get 4’s and 5’s. Jeff is driving when we break 6 knots-we’re starting to move now!
On midnight watch, Jeff and I witness a pod of 8-10 dolphins converge upon Moonshadow. As they race through the water, their dorsal fins cut the surface, lighting off a trail of bio-luminescence. Not being able to see the figures of the dolphins, it looked like we were being attacked by a cluster of guided torpedoes. With no moon or stars, it’s dark out-really dark. As Andy says, “it’s dark like inside a cow”.
Seas are relatively calm, Mooshadow is moving along nicely, and it’s easy to get some good sleep.
Day 3, Friday, July 12, 1996
I awaken to the lovely sound of water rushing along the hull. The wind has picked up and so has Moonshadow’s speed. After the morning check in we get the dissapointing results. We place 53 (out of 63) in fleet and DAL in our division of 9. Well, at least we’re dry, comfortable, well fed, and having fun.
The wind continues to build and veers to the north. We set the asymmetrical spinnaker and start kicking it. The asymmetrical has a little half moon on it so we dubbed it the “shithouse door”. We’re nailing 9’s and 10’s. The breeze lightens a bit so we unfurl the staysail to keep up boat speed. This sail combo seems to work pretty well. We’re close reaching to beam reaching and still staying a bit north of the great circle route to Hawaii. Beth wants us to make some more westing before we crack off and go south. I can’t remember when I’ve had so much fun driving the boat. The crew can’t wait to go on watch and nobody wants to give up the helm. Who was it that said “fast is fun”?
Life can be a bit of a challenge at 20 degrees of heel. Most of the crew take their first shower since we left. A little tidying up of the boat, and everything looks (and smells) better. Wayne serves up some killer chili for dinner. We all line up along the leeward settee, hand gimballing our bowls. What do you mean you forgot the beano! Photos will be sent to Latitude 38.
Leeward berths are going for a premium. Wayne falls out of a windward berth and becomes the first “cross-berther”.
Lots of good nature and joking among the crew. This is what the fun race is all about!
Day 4, Saturday, July 13, 1996
Up at 7:30 am. after a good restful evening. Wind angle and speed are about the same as last evening. Moonshadow is still cooking along in the high 8’s to low 10’s. We still havn’t broken the elusive 11 on this trip.
When we get the standings for the day, our excitement level picks up a few notches. We covered over 202 miles in 24 hours and have moved up to 36th in fleet and 6th in our division. We’ve stayed north so far to avoid sailing into a weak high to the south. It looks like the high to the north of us dictates that we sail the great circle route. I’ll come back to that subject later.
Jeff and Mark have been appointed bosun and bosun’s mate. The crew calls them Mutt and Jeff, because they are both from out of state and weren’t able to make many of the practices. Their primary goal is to seek out and destroy chafe wherever it may rear its ugly head. Their motto is “chafe is our enemy”, and they have dubbed themselves the “chafe brothers”. They even made up hats with the “no chafe” logo to let everyone know they mean business! Photos will be sent to Latitude 38.
Each evening at 7 pm, there is an informal chat session on the single sideband radio among the boats participating in the race. We dubbed it the “children’s hour” Our contribution to the net is “The ten reasons why we are sailing the great circle route”
10. San Franciscans need to aclimate slower.
9. So we don’t have to use our refrigeration.
8. We forgot our bathing suits.
7. To finally prove that the earth is in fact round.
6. To discuss wheather or not GPS computes great circle or rhumb line.
5. So the morning aerobics on the foredeck are more challenging.
4. So the navigator doesn’t have to figure out which way is fastest.
3. Because we forgot the bottle of R H U M B.
2. Because we are still reading the boat owners manual on how to fly a spinnaker.
1. If we are going to be penalized 6 seconds a mile for carrying an asymmetrical spinnaker, goddamn we’re going to fly it!
Day 5, Sunday July 14,1996 (Bastille day)
I wake up at 7:30 am. The sun is peeking through my stateroom deadlight. Could it be that we’re finally out of the marine layer? The watch before me was having so much fun driving in the morning sun, they forgot to wake me.
We thought we would be able to set the symetrical spinnaker but the wind is still at or just forward of the beam. We get the standings for the day. The good news is that we moved up to 32nd in fleet. The bad news is that we’ve moved to 8th in division. Our day’s run is fair at just over 179 miles. We’re north of most of the fleet, waiting for the high to move south. We plot the other boats in our division, and they seem to be coming up to our course line.
At about noon it seems that everybody is busy doing something. Cort’s log entry is as follows: Chafe brothers swabbing the deck, captain sending e-mail, navigator cooking bread, chef plotting results, tactician taking shower, radio man making log entry. Who’s driving? Otto of course!
After that, the day becomes very casual and the watches get pretty informal. We’re drinking beers, smoking cigars and in general relaxing and having a good time.
I glance at the fishing rod, it takes a huge bend, and then zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz, the line starts running out. I grab the rod out of the holder, and try to start reeling in. No way! This sucker is huge! After about 15 minutes of just holding on, I give Wayne a shot at it. We’ve got a couple hundred feet of line out and only getting a few inches reeled in with each pull. Someone starts feeding beer to Wayne to cool him down. He’s not making much progress, so Cort takes over. We let the sails luff to try to slow the boat down. No help. After a few more minutes of struggling, this monster finally shakes the lure loose. Oh well, there went our sushi appetizer and fresh fish dinner.
Shortly after we got another strike and reeled in a small skipjack. Yes, we did have sushi appetizers and a fresh fish dinner!
The evening watches were very easy. Lazing in the forward cockpit with Otto the autopilot steering a straight course, humming occasionally, and never complaining about anything.
Day 6, Monday July 15, 1996.
We cross the next time zone and set the ship’s clocks back an hour.
Today is the second anniversary of the day I purchased Moonshadow. Boy, have we come a long way together! A beautiful day of running under the spinnaker.
Day 7, Tuesday July 16, 1996.
Bad day.Accidental gybes, inoperative boom vang, unexplained opening of spinnaker pole jaws, ripped luff tapes on asymmetrical spinnaker. The crew is exhausted and hungry because of so many “all hands on deck” calls. We shorten sail, shorten watches, and try to get some rest to get back on track tomorrow. This is one of those days that you just want to forget.
Day 8, Wednesday July 17, 1996.
Half way to Hawaii! I wake up to the sun coming through my port light. Its about time we started getting some sun. The wind is up and we’re flying the 2.2 oz. spinnaker all day. The waves are up to 12 feet so we crank up the Beach Boys and start surfing. Twelves and 13’s are common. The best yet is just shy of 16 knots.Imagine, surfing your home down waves at 16 knots!
We finally break away from the marine layer and into the puffy clouds that mean we’re in the trade winds. Its a beautiful thing.
The days are getting a bit more relaxed as we tend to stay on one gybe for the entire day. Tonight is the half-way party, and Wayne is in the galley all day.
Dinner is unbelievable, an 18-pound turkey with all the trimmings! After dinner, we choke down the chute and gather in the cockpit for champagne and cigars. We open gifts from family and loved ones back home that somehow mysteriously made their way on board. Lots of gag gifts and lots of giggles. Also, a couple bottles of Pusser’s Rum and an excellent bottle of port and some caviar!
In honor of Andy, Wayne dons a cow costume. He is hilarious with his udders sticking out. Andy starts a spontaneous outbreak of yodeling!
The midnight watch is a spectacle. We break out of a squall line and the entire sky opens up with an explosion of stars. I havn’t experienced a sky like this since the trip from Florida. Lots of shooting stars while smoothly sailing under the spinnaker. Otto is doing a great job on the helm.
Day 9, Thursday, July 18, 1996.
Another beautiful day of downwind sailing under the spinnaker. Douses, sets and gybes become a smooth routine, with everone dialed into their job. We started with country singers and are ending up with rock stars!
Something strange is happening! The guys on another boat “Fast Company” are playing with us. They know everything we’re doing. They know where we are, what we’re eating, what we’re doing on board, even when we hang out our laundry. We have a clue that they are intercepting our e-mail. How could this happen? I thought our transmissions were confidential. There is a mole on board! A couple of days ago they tried to lure us south with talk of stronger winds. This is really wierd.
Our standings in the race havn’t changed much. We are 8th in division and 26th in fleet. We’re making 240 miles a day over the water and over 200 towards the finish. Not bad for a big ol’ cruiser.
Andy cooks up a killer dinner of bratwurst and mashed potatoes with bacon and onions. After dinner we spot a number of targets on the radar screen. We hail them and find out they are a convoy of nine Japanese destroyers. I hope they don’t use us for target practice!
Day 10, Friday, July 19, 1996.
Another shitty day in paradise! Fifteen-knot trade winds, 2-3-foot seas, Otto driving the boat with the 3/4-oz. spinnaker fliying. More wierd messages from Fast Company. What’s up with this? This afternoon we start plotting some phony e-mail to get these guys.
Andy makes up a great rum punch for Friday evening happy hour. Wayne serves up a excellent curried chicken dinner. Life just doesn’t get much better!
Fast Company hails us on the radio after dinner. They know too much! They start asking for each of us, one by one and telling us what they know. This is just too bizarre. We start going back and forth with them. They ask for me and I get on the radio. After a few minutes of sparring, I notice Jeff taking video of me. The voice on the radio asks if I’ve ever heard of candid camera and just then Mark appears from the aft stateroom with a hand held VHF. He is the voice of “Fast Company”!! We all laugh hilariously and talk about it for hours. As far as a practical joke goes, It’s one of the funniest I’ve ever experienced. I won’t be able to face the real crew of Fast Company without giggling.
Its a beautiful evening marked by a starlit night and a few mild squalls.
Day 11, Saturday, July 20, 1996.
I rise at about 7:00 am and go up on deck to find we have two mahi-mahi on the lines. We lose one and land one. I clean and filet a 15 pounder before I’ve had my first cup of coffee!
Wayne makes up ceviche tacos for lunch, and I make sushi for dinner appetizers. Wayne carries on with the Japanese theme for dinner and we polish off a large bottle of nigori sake.
It’s starting to get more squallly at night. The midnight watch gets hit by a pretty strong one that overpowers the autopilot and we have a major roundup. Moonshadow goes over at least 60 degrees. I’m launched across the stateroom and slammed against the starboard locker. Jammed a finger on my left hand but otherwise O K. I run up on deck. Beth is at the helm, but having a difficult time seeing because of the heavy rain and the glare of the tricolor light on the mast. Mark and I give her guidance from under the dodger. We try to keep the boat as square to the wind as possible to reduce the apparent wind until we get through the squall. Nobody seriously injured, nothing broken-we survive another one!
Day 12, Sunday July 21, 1996.
At 8:00 am, we have a little more than 200 miles to go. As you can see, the race standings have become less and less important. We’re all having such a good time that we don’t want the trip to end.
The wind has really clocked around and is now out of the southeast. It keeps heading us to the point that we’re on a headstay reach. The winds are light and we’re only making 7’s and 8’s. Its pretty squally all day but they aren’t packing much wind or rain.
Its Jeff’s 40th birthday so Wayne and Andy cook up a chocolate cake and we have a little party after dinner.
On watch I ponder the trip. Most of what I worried about didn’t come to pass. The passage has been more comfortable and a lot more fun than I could have imagined. I’ve learned so much along the way. I’m way less intimidated by flying a spinnaker on Moonshadow. I think about all the fun times and laughs we’ve had along the way, like the Fast Company incident, or Wayne in the cow costume, or Andy counting out the number of drinks in the round. I take pleasure in the friendships that have grown along the way, bonds that will last the rest of our lives. Damn, its just gone by too quickly. I look forward to the return trip, and the serenity and detachment that comes from being at sea on a long passage.
Day 13, Monday, July 22, 1996.
I get up at about 6:30 am, hoping to see Oahu looming on the horizon. It’s overcast and the visibility is poor so land ho isn’t for another hour or so. The wind keeps getting lighter and lighter until we’re down to 1/4 knot.
We had hoped to cross the finish line with the spinnaker, lookin’ good, but no luck. We close-reach in with white sails and cross the finish line at about 8:15, 9th in division and 48th in fleet. We didn’t win the race but we won’t lose the party! The champagne corks pop as we strike the sails. We’ve sailed from San Francisco to Hawaii in a little less than 12 days! Moonshadow and crew are all in good shape.
We are escorted to the Kaneohe Yacht Club through the Sampan Channel, and greeted by Diana and the welcoming committee with leis, kisses, and very strong mai-tais. We made it! Its been an incredible trip!

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