The Santa Barbara to King Harbor race is one of the most fun long distance race in Southern California and very well attended with usually 100 boats participating. The race is an 80 nm downwind course, from Santa Barbara, around Anacapa Island and finishing in Redondo Beach. With a start on a Friday and a cut-off time on Saturday, 4pm, racers can still enjoy the weekend with family and friends.
Open Sailing decided to deliver the Pogo 2 by motoring to Santa Barbara rather than trailering. We left on Wednesday around 10pm to optimize our average speed with flat seas and calm wind during the night. With our little 3.5HP outboard, it took us about 14 hours (as planned) and finally arrived at port on Thursday at noon. With the rest of the day to nap and get some rest, it was a wise decision. The Pogo 2 being only 21 feet and small draft, we were lucky to have a prime spot at the dock, near the yacht club with hundreds of sailors walking by and admiring the boat. We got the best comments such as: “where is the rest of the boat?”, “what happened to your main sail?” (joking about how our square top main looks it has been cut-off, as opposed to a regular pin-head sail). It was great to show the boat off and we were excited and proud to give a tour to the many visitors intrigued about the boat. With such a huge exposure at the dock, we were now pressure to do well during the race. This being said, the Pogo 2 was once again the smallest boat racing out there and we were the only double-handed crew. The competition was going to be tough.
The weather at the start was overcast and foggy but the breeze was filling in. For some reasons, the race committee has entered our boat in PHRF C Class, with a start at 12:25pm. According to the SI, we should have started with Sprit PHRF, or even with Sprit ULDB. The Pogo 2′s OWC rating (Off the Wind Course) is 108 in Southern California. Even if the boat qualifies as a “Sprit boat”, our rating in these 2 classes was by far the slowest. Starting with PHRF C was making more sense, rating-wise, and in doubts and with no words from the Race Committee, we started with the PHRF C boats, whose ratings were more in line with ours.
With the Code 0 up shortly after the start, we sailed deeper than the fleet and managed to keep up with the boats in our class. After an hour sailing with the Code 0, and with the wind slowly clocking to our right, we decided to change sail and hoisted our mast head spinnaker. Our bearing to Anacapa Island was descent and we could hold off on our position with the rest of the fleet. After rounding the island, we decided to stay close to shore and only had a gybe a couple of times before we cleared the point of Anacapa. The rest of our fleet, all flying symmetrical spinnakers, sailed a straight course to Redondo Beach, and an hour later, we were well separated from our fleet, still believing that the breeze will be better inshore.
The wind started to fill in a little more about 2 miles from shore, and with less than an hour of day light, we gybed out. Unfortunately, the lift we were hoping on shore never showed and now on starboard gybe, our VMG to the finish was dropping fast. We gybed again, still waiting for the right lift to gybe out and sail headed to the finish. The breeze quickly filled in and the sun was setting down as quickly. Now moving fast and almost dark, we decided to throw a last gybe. Taking turns, we quickly got ready for the night with the right gear, life-vest and even had time for a warm dinner using our “JetBoil”. Now on starboard gybe with gusts in 25+ knots, the Pogo 2 powered up with a good bearing to Redondo Beach. Sailing about 150-160 degrees off the wind, the boat was catching waves, accelerating and surfing until we could catch another wave. We hesitated to take the spinnaker down and hoist the fractional spinnaker. However, with following seas and strong puffs, it would have been a rough change of sails. It was dark and we decided to keep the big spinnaker up, hoping for the breeze to back down within an hour. The ride was wild. Both in the back of the boat, ready to ease out in the puffs and surfing the waves in the dark. We were taking turn at the helm frequently, staying fresh, optimizing our speed and point of sail to the best VMG. The Pogo 2 was sailing at a steady 12 knots of speed for a couple of hours, with top speed near 14 knots. We were comfortable but aware that carrying too much sail area would result in an immediate round up. Paying attention to the gusts still in the mid twenties was key. The forecast was for a lot less wind and at 10pm, we were still sailing in more than 20 knots, making great speed to the finish. Unfortunately, we realized that the breeze was probably steady offshore as well and our tactical decision to sail a longer distance to be inshore was probably not to our advantage. At that point, and pushing the boat in the dark, we just had fun and were thrilled about sailing in the breeze in the middle of the night rather than suffering in 2 knots of wind!!
As we sailed in Santa Monica Bay, the breeze changed a little. Now sailing in 15 + knots, we had to sail slightly higher angles to keep the speed up and above 10 knots. Other boats were crossing ahead and behind us. It was great to see that were not alone but had no idea who to race, except for the clock.
At 10pm, our ETA was around 11pm. However, as planned, the wind went lighter again and we finished in less than 10 knots of wind, giving away time and distance to symmetrical spinnakers boats. We finished with another 2 boats (a Beneteau 36.7 and a J29), reaching to the finish line. It looks like everyone had a great race. It was 12:27am when we crossed the line and the wind had picked up again. We decided to spend the night in Redondo Beach for an early delivery back to Marina Del Rey in the morning in less wind.
After breakfast at the King Harbor Yacht Club, a few sailors (from different classes) came to us and inquired about why we sailed with the PHRF C class. Pointing at the rules in the SI, we approached the race committee who agreed they should have put us in a different class. With an 8 foot articulated bowsprit, the Pogo 2 definitely qualifies as a “Sprit Boat”. We naturally thought that we should have raced with “PHRF Sprit”. Looking at the results, and if we had been in that class, we would have finished 1st place, correcting on J124, J122, J120, J109,….WOW! However, because of our ULDB factor (above 3.25), the race committee modified the results and put us in the “ULDB Sprit”. We still finished 2nd place in this class, behind the V830 (a 27 foot rocket ship) and in front of a J125. Still a great performance, but hard to tell if the Pogo 2 really belongs to that class of boats.
Regardless, the Pogo 2 did very well. Not only we were double-handed but we were also a lot shorter than any other racing boats out there. From start to finish, we were able to deliver the boat without any problems, we also spent 3 nights on the boat, ate warm dinners and breakfasts. We even had a 12 pack of beer in the cooler! We felt as comfortable than any other big boats out there and the performance of the boat during this race shows well that Mini Transats and the Pogo 2 have a great future in North America.
Enjoy the photos and the video to be published soon!