September 2007

Bishop Rock: Itís Going To Take A Lot To Beat This One

By Steve Kusik
Arizona Yacht Club

Shockwave and her crew have been enjoying a great summer of racing up and down the West Coast, from Santa Barbara on the Central California coast, to Ensenada down in old Mexico.

They have been collecting trophies from race to race as if they are old veterans of West Coast sailboat racing — when, in fact, they are mostly desert-lake sailors with a fraction of the ocean-racing experience that you would normally find at the yacht clubs that dot the California coast.

In the latest endeavor, Shockwave owner Mike Grijalva collected his crew for the annual Bishop Rock race Aug. 17-19. For everyone on his crew this would be their longest ocean race to date.

At just over 210 nautical miles, this race is a test of sailing skills, teamwork, and endurance. Billed as a marathon, Bishop Rock is a test for any sailor, no matter what his or her experience level is.

Just to give you an idea of how conditions can be for this race, it was mandatory for any crew on deck to be wearing their life jackets or to be “clipped in” with lanyards from sundown to sunrise.

The start line for the race was at Ship Rock just off of Two Harbors on Santa Catalina Island. From there, it was just over 20nm to Santa Barbara island; next was Bishop Rock itself, a leg of just about 75 miles, then on to Point Loma for the last 100 nm.

The race started off in about 8 knots of breeze, with variable wind directions. It took us about three hours to clear the west end of Catalina Island to reach the stronger breezes for our run to Santa Barbara island.

We rounded Santa Barbara Island just after sunset. Overnight we enjoyed steady wind in the mid-to-high teens that were pushing Shockwave to speeds of over 7 knots all night long.

As the sun rose Saturday morning, we were approaching Bishop Rock.  Just after we rounded, we were finally able to hoist the spinnaker and make for the finish line in San Diego.

At this point in the race, the breeze was in the high teens, and we were making good time to the finish. This would not last though.
By sunset, the breeze had backed off quite a bit, and by 10 p.m., we were in drifting conditions for pretty much the rest of the race. We finally crossed the finish line at just before 1030 on Sunday morning.

Out of the nine boats that were entered, Shockwave finished first in her division and second overall. Not bad for a bunch of guys from the desert!

For me, this race will go down as the best one in which I’ve participated — the challenge, the distance, late-night watches, and a bunch of great guys to do it with.

It’s going to take a lot to beat the weekend that we had doing our first long-distance ocean race.