There are basically four stages to the race.
We will start inside the bay right outside St. Francis Y.C. The starting line runs between two buoys in the water and every one must cross the line in the same direction to start.
Most race starts are upwind starts (meaning you'll sail into the wind). Before the start, boats will sail back and forth behind the starting line setting themselves up for the starting sequence. The starting sequence is a series of audible signals (horn or gun shot) and visual signals (raised and lowered flags) and all the boats will jockey for position on the start such that they 1) cross the line at the precise moment of the start 2) are going full speed and 3) are positioned to benefit from the wind and race conditions more than any of other boats.
Since this is a very long race the start will be less aggressive than usual leaving less chance for collisions or anything else that can jeopardize the trip.
After we start we will head out of the gate to clear the coastal winds and sail on a fairly westerly heading. Eventually we will turn further south, sailing on a 'reach,' in order avoid a dead area in the middle of the Pacific often referred to as 'the Pacific High.' Our heading at this time will determine the remainder of our race strategy to a large degree as it will dictate our position in...
Like all other boats, we will pass what is known as a ridge in the weather pattern and then turn to a south-westerly heading. This part of the race is called ‘slotcars’ because most boats will sail on a similar tack without much north/south movement until we hit the tradewinds and start...
The last part of the race is a more or less westerly to Hawaii . Once the boats hit the tradewinds, it's a straight shot to Hawaii with the shortest distance often being the only strategy. There’s a great article by Stan Honey on the Pacific Cup website that covers this and more.