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.Read more
July 17, 2017, 1200
Dawn breaks pink at 0530 after an epic night at sea. This does not mean the winds and seas let up. If anything, the cross swell becomes tougher. We no longer care; we are exhausted, we are dirty, and O'ahu is in sight. It's all over now but the shouting, but soon there will be much of that. We count down the last hours, toss fruits and veggies overboard, and take to photography like Ansel Adams.
Due to our tight angle, we clear Makapu'u Light by just a few miles and forego the long sleigh ride down the Moloka'i channel. But it isn't like we missed out: we have just come 2200 miles through some wild winds and occasional 10' seas. We have sailed the old girl to the breaking point (and beyond in some instances). In short, J.D. Smith, we have had our fun. Now we want to see loved ones awaiting us on the docks.
A final, near-calamity awaits us just prior to the finish line. Five miles out, we begin to drop the durable symmetrical kite we have lived under for a week so we can fly our glamor girl "La Sirena" pinup sail at the photo-op-ripe finish line. Poseidon plays one last trick: the halyard has chafed badly at the top of the mast and won't pass through the block, preventing us from dropping the sail. Sheets slip loose, and suddenly the massive sail is flying free in front of the boat, a red ribbon billowing out in the stiff wind. High Keystone Kop comedy ensues. No one's pride is left unharmed. All hands pray to god we are out of camera range.
Finally, we wrassle the kite out of the ocean into which it has fallen and hoist our beautiful pinup girl. We barrel across the line making 9 knots and grinning like a passel of Cheshire cats. Transpac 2017, six months in preparation, two weeks in duration, and a lifetime of future reflection, is complete. Barbara Lawler, the runaway MVP of our team, drives the boat the last 3 miles and takes La Sirena past the famed red buoy. I do not know how often women sail Transpac boats over the line, but it is my high honor to relinquish this coveted moment to her. She's our planner, provisioner, mother, and one hell of a bad-ass sailor. Barb, we love and salute you!Read more
July 17, 1730
This will be the last entry by me of this adventure until we are on Oahu.
July 16: More of the same-nice breeze, nice ocean swells, beautiful starry night, vibrant Milky Way, shooting stars.
The mechanical water maker was pulled out of the ditch bag. We got 2.5 gallons of fresh water with two hours of manual pumping. That was used for cooking and coffee making, leaving the emergency water for drinking.
July 17: We broke the 100 NM mark at 1:30 a.m. Pacific time. We broke the 50 NM mark at 9:50 a.m. We had our first glimpse of Hawaii today at 10:15. It likely would have been earlier but for all the clouds on the horizon.
We had a pretty nice knock down a bit later in the morning. Vang blown. Traveler down. Spin sheet eased. Main sheet out. The clew shackle gave way again during the douse, eliminating the letter box option. Tack on, halyard dropped for a controlled takedown on the bow. We stood back up and unfurled the genoa, trimmed in the main sail and got back to racing.
We can almost taste the Mai Tai's.Read more
Winners and non-winners alike given warm Hawaiian welcomes upon arrival, any time of day or night
HONOLULU, HI – A large wave of finishers in the 2017 Transpac race have arrived in the Ala Wai last night and in the pre-dawn hours to start to fill up the slip spaces set aside in the Marina for the finishers, known as Transpac Row. From tallest mast to shortest, most of the race entries are moored here, bedecked with leis and ti leaves as symbols of Aloha hospitality from a culture that recognizes the special nature of having completed a long sea voyage.
After crossing the finish line, all boats are escorted to the narrow (sometimes treacherous) entrance to the Ala Wai Yacht Harbor, a safe haven from the Pacific swells. Donned in their flowered shirts, the crews stand on deck to be greeted like conquering heroes by the amplified sounds of native drums, slack key guitar music and a loud and resounding “Aaaahhh- looohhh – haaaaah” given by staff commodore Howie Mednick from the second deck of the Hawaii YC.
“We welcome you to Hawaii, and ask only that you do Drink well, Sing well, Eat well, Sleep well… and Drink well some more!”
Boats then proceed to their assigned slips, get boarded and inspected for rules compliance, and then are released to the awaiting leis and hugs of family, friends and well-wishers. Regardless of the time of day or night, every crew is given an Aloha Party of food and drink, some more traditionally Hawaiian than others, with the unshaven and weary crews growing their smiles with each re-told story and re-acquaintance with terra firma.
This is a unique feature of the Transpac race among the world’s ocean races: nowhere else will you find this intimate and embracing level of hospitality and respect. Finishers of the Volvo Ocean Race and Vendee Globe will experience their re-entry into life ashore under the glare of TV lights, crowds and microphones, whereas at Transpac it will be under the flickering flames of a tiki torch and the inner glow from a Mai Tai.
The lore of this hospitality reaches far and wide, as evidenced by not only entries who come every two years from around the Pacific Basin, but also those who come from the other side of the world. This year two entries from Europe were here to have the Aloha experience.Read more
Light air patch plaguing the middle and back of the fleet are sealing off the remaining corrected time titles
HONOLULU, HI – In a race that has featured more elapsed time records set than any in recent memory, its ironic that in the 2017 Transpac race the bulk of the fleet has still to finish due to some light-air conditions in the middle of the course. At Noon local time today, only 22 of the 55 boats entered in this year’s race have finished, although several are due into the finish in the next several hours.
This is in contrast to the last two cycles of this biennial 2225-mile ocean race where the early starters had more favorable conditions and it was the later faster boats that struggled in light air.
As such, the faster-rated boats in each Division are faring well in corrected time by being positioned ahead of a large area of lighter winds that has been affecting the last half of the fleet. Today Larry Andrews’s Summit 40 Locomotive finished in the morning to be the first to cross the line in his Division 5, and his lead in corrected time is virtually unbeatable based on the current positions and speeds of his rivals on the course: he owes time to only one boat in his class (John Sandrolini’s Beneteau 47.7 La Sirena), but they are 171 mi away and cannot get to the finish line fast enough to overcome the time allowance.
Yet Larry was not really focused on this in the morning at his Aloha Party at Hawaii YC, where he and his crew were enjoying the hospitality of his hosts and grateful to be on terra firma once again.
“I lived here in Hawaii for a while many years ago, and saw boats coming in from the Transpac race and vowed I would do this myself someday,” he said. “Its many years later, but I’m really happy to be here now and fulfill that dream. In my business life I put good people in charge and let them run things the way they know how, and I have been lucky to do the same with this project – we have a great team.”Read more
July 15, 2017, 1200
Good morning to all our loyal readers!
We are about 200 miles from the finish, at least as the crow (or more appropriately seagull) flies. We will have to sail a bit further than that, but are making good time and looking for a finish before noon tomorrow HST.
Overnight, we had good winds and made good time and recovered some of the lost distance on our competitors, but it does seem that we will run out of race course before we can catch them.
Yesterday, we were treated to a visit from the Flying Corzini. First, he checked out our main sail for wear, then checked out the lower spreaders for stability, and finally, went to the top of the mast for an inspection of all of the gear there. He also got some great video of the boat sailing from that view. After that, he was back to Sarasota Florida, where all circus acts go to retire!
Yesterday was a long day of mediocre winds, fair, but not great boat speed and hot clear skies. Many of the crew fought the boredom by finding boat tasks to do. Dan chose yesterday to tape cords all over the nav station to make the communications equipment we have been using for the past 12 days more efficient (about damn time)! As we have been keeping a keen eye on our electrical consumption, Dean decided to determine the electrical draw on most of the components on the boat. This was done by switching each one off and then back on and recording the difference. This process was going well, until he switched our navigation system off and when it came back on, the electronic compass that the system (and especially the autopilot) uses for boat heading, did not come back on. This discovery was followed by a tap on my shoulder while I was napping and having a weird dream, and "Houston I think we have a problem". Good news is that the next few hours occupied two or three of us finding and trying to diagnose the problem. It appears that the compass chose the exact moment that Dean switched it off to die - what timing? Oh well, we have a work around until we get to Honolulu. All of this speaks to turning the lights off in a room when you leave it - just say’n!Read more