In ocean racing, it is invariably the big, impressive and fast boats that get the limelight. One thinks of Comanche in the Sydney to Hobart and the Newport to Bermuda race this past year.
However, this year in the Pacific Cup, there were 65 boats and most were low-key family and friends programs. From 65 entries, only a handful might be classed as full on, win at all costs, no expense spared programs. For the other 55 or so regular sailors, preparing their family boat for a 5,000 mile round trip, durability and utility, and so value, play a significant role. One such owner is skipper and father Mike Johnson of San Francisco.
Mike has had a long career in the boat game including 11 Trans Pac races and a total of 18 Pacific passages, so he has some ideas on what is needed ‘out there’. After all these trips, this year’s Pacific Cup was to be Mike’s first on his own boat, a Beneteau 40.7, which he purchased with the express intention of sailing with his family.
For the Pacific Cup, the crew was Mike, his wife and two daughters, recently graduated from high school and college (plus their boyfriends) and an seventh crewmember, a long-time shipmate of Mike’s rounded out the crew. One of the key goals for Mike was to share with his daughters what dad has been up to all these years
Mike’s friends and family goal settled on only point-to-point style racing, and not windward-leeward courses where the emphasis is on skilled crew for turning the corners and high cost, low durability laminated sails. In order to maximize the value, the utility of the sails, Mike contacted the Hood Sailmakers Sausalito loft, run, it seems forever, by Robin Sodaro to talk about sails, budget, goals, utility, durability and performance. In short, Mike needed what the rest of us all seek: value.
Mike liked the idea of the Vektron material and it’s benefits, and so selected this unique fabric for the mainsail and the headsail. He also ordered a Code Zero in a specialized Code Zero fabric.
Both the working sails were fairly normal with respect to what Robin might have recommended to any sailor with the same demand for durability, performance and value, racing or not. The mainsail had two reefs, four battens including two full-length battens at the top, running on a Tides Marine Track, an overhead leech line so as not to have to hang off the side of the boat to adjust the leech cord, a cunningham, loose foot, sail numbers and draft stripes.
The jib was similar in its normalcy: UV cover, (in UV Dacron-It is much lighter than the Sunbrella) 4 leech battens installed parallel to the luff, foam pad and draft stripes. Both sails are very typical for the boat, the sailor, and the program.
As is increasingly common these days, Mike retrofitted a bowsprit so as he could set asymmetrical spinnakers, making life less demanding for the Corinthian crew. Unfortunately regardless of the sails, sailboat racing is always, well sailboat racing.
After leading his 11 boat cruising class for the first four days, within 15 minutes of first setting the Code Zero as the wind freed enough to do so, the bobstay on the sprit parted and the sprit broke.
Undaunted, he continued under main and jib. Interestingly enough, he discovered that it was faster to rollup the jib and so was able to sail dead downwind with just the mainsail. This was no doubt helped by the fresh winds, hovering in the high 20’s for the bulk of the race. After a couple of days of sliding back through the fleet, they recovered to finish a respectable third in class.
The ladies flew back, and Mike sailed back to the mainland after the race. After close to 5,000 miles in short order, perhaps less than 6 weeks, Mike is still very happy with the sails and is lining up for the next offshore race with the family. This may, in fact, be just about the best value anyone with a sailboat can have, sailing with your friends and family-especially with your kids.