With this greeting and a resounding reply from an audience bedecked in their Aloha crew shirt attire, Transpac YC Commodore Bo Wheeler kicked off the 49th biennial Transpac Awards Ceremony held last night at the Modern Hotel Honolulu. The atmosphere was jubilant and celebratory, with a stage full of the most impressive display of perpetual trophies seen in any yachting event, accumulated by TPYC since the first race ran in 1906.
The tables full of gleaming silver and sculptures made of polished Koa wood is unlike any other seen in the sport, fitting symbols of achievement in one of the world’s longest, oldest and greatest ocean races.
Master of Ceremonies Chuck Hawley entertained the crowd with anecdotes and stories from each division, as well as the race as a whole.
“The last time I did this race, the Sleds were the fastest boats, and now they are being out run on this course,” said Hawley, referring to the new generation Pac 52’s, as well as Super Maxi’s like Comanche and Rio. “Regardless, unlike the last two years, this race was fun and it was fast. However there was one feature that everyone encountered whether slow or fast, and that’s the debris field. Nearly everyone has a story to tell, some with serious breakage, like Rio, and others just annoyances like back-downs. This is becoming a real problem.”
In fact, the dramatic story of Rio’s port rudder breaking was re-told at the end of the ceremony by Keith Kilpatrick, boat captain on Rio and last year’s winner of the Don Vaughn Award for the most valuable crewman on the first-to-finish monohull Barn Door Trophy winner. Kilpatrick said he was honored to bestow the award this year to his crew mate and friend Jeff Massano, who dove into the cramped aft compartment of Rio when she was taking on water from a broken port rudder shaft and rudder bearing to remove the broken pieces and stuff the hole with a sleeping bag to stop the leak until a more suitable repair could be made to get the boat back underway and racing.
“I told Jeff I wanted to go back and make the repair,” said Kilpatrick, “and he said he could get it done faster because he was 6 inches shorter and 15 years younger. I said OK.”
HONOLULU, HI – The 2225-mile LA-Honolulu Transpac Race, first run in 1906, is known worldwide and makes many bucket lists, including that of Afanasy Isaev from Krasnoyarsk, Russia. This historic city of 1 million is the third-largest in Siberia, yet a long way from any tidal water.
As such, how did a team of 15 crew on the 1996 Grand Mistral 80 Weddel get to this race and then take nearly 11 days to complete the trip? Well, it's a long story full of twists and turns, but a big part of this team making it here to Honolulu with an elapsed time of nearly 11 days is due to Isaev’s co-skipper, Vladimir (Kuli) Kulinichinko.
Many on the US East Coast big boat racing scene know Kuli, he’s been active in East Coast pro sailing since arriving over 20 years ago after having completed the Whitbread Round the World Race on Fazisi, the all-red Russian-designed and Russian-built aluminum boat that had heads scratching in the 1989-90 edition of the race when the other IOR maxis were much larger, heavier and ultimately faster around the planet. This unusually narrow light weight design had half the freeboard of their rivals, and looked like it would be – and proved it was - wet, wet, wet.
Yet on a budget that was a fraction of their rivals, this team made it around the planet more or less intact as an underdog favorite with a cult following, and when it did, Kuli jumped off and spent time as a sailmaker in Connecticut, got married to an American, and has been based in Florida ever since. Whenever there is a Russian-based team racing in the US, its likely Kuli will be involved as an important source of skill and a bridge between the two cultures. This was especially needed on this trip, since Isaev runs the Weddel program with paying guests, similar to some other amateur-based offshore racing programs.
“This was a tough trip, but we’re all here,” said Kuli. “We had a core group of us who knew the boat but not quite enough to sail her at 100% all the time. The mainsail broke about halfway across, and that’s what slowed us down. The sail broke clear across the girth, luff to leech.”
Kuli had to revive his skills as a sailmaker and said he spent 36 hours with the sail down repairing it to be useable enough to get them to Hawaii. Progress was slow, with the boat progressing at a glacially slow rate of 6-8 knots at times, but once fixed the team nursed the sail almost to the finish, and then it broke again, and the team finished under just a jib alone.
“We need to get this sail fixed again to the good enough to get to Australia,” said Kuli, where the team is planning to race in the Sydney-Hobart Race in December, as are several more entries from Transpac. Its likely Kuli will be needed here as well, since Isaev will likely be taking pay-as-you-go crew once again.