The originator of Transpacific Yacht racing, the late Clarence MacFarlane of Honolulu, corresponded with yachtsmen of San Francisco and Los Angeles prior to 1906 and succeeded in interesting several mainland yachtsmen in a race to Honolulu. On April 14, 1906, he sailed his 48' schooner, LA PALOMA, from Honolulu to San Francisco to join them in a race back to Waikiki. However, he arrived 27 days after the “Great Earthquake” to find the idea of a race from the Golden Gate out of the question. At the suggestion of H.H. Sinclair, he sailed to Los Angeles to join the LURLINE and the ANEMONE for the first Honolulu Race which started from San Pedro on June 11, 1906. Since that memorable date, there have been 44 Honolulu Races; of these; 39 have started from San Pedro, two from Santa Barbara, and one from Balboa, San Francisco, and Santa Monica. This biennial race has proved to be one of the most popular sailing events in the world.
The first Tahiti Race, sailed from San Francisco in 1925, was the longest race ever sailed by yachts. Four boats raced 3,687 miles. In 1953, the second race to Tahiti started from San Pedro. A total of 72 entries have participated in this race to the south seas; the largest fleet raced in 1970 with 14 boats. The elapsed time record of 17:07:57:57, set by TICONDEROGA in 1964, stood until broken by KATHMANDU in 1994, with a new time of 14:21:15:26.
Although the Transpacific races originated in the same year as the Bermuda Race, the Transpacific Yacht Club agreed in 1936 to hold its Honolulu races during odd-numbered years, establishing a precedent which has been followed since the 1939 race. Prior to 1930, the Honolulu and Tahiti races had been staged by various yacht clubs on the West Coast and Honolulu. In the summer of 1928, a group of Transpac Race participants conceived the idea of forming a club to sponsor the races. This was the beginning of the Transpacific Yacht Club, which was formally incorporated in 1937.
Through the mid 90’s, a modified version of the IOR measurement rule was used for handicap purposes. Except for the first few hours, the race is largely off-the-wind and is, therefore, most favorable to light-weight, planing-type hulls that will sail far above their theoretical hull speed and rating. Bursts of sustained surfing speeds well over 20 knots are not unusual for relatively small boats. In an effort to compensate other types of boats, the Transpac Race applies penalties and limitations on ultra-light, one-purpose boats. In the 1989 race, a division was introduced for yachts rated under the IMS Rule. With increased IMS entries in the 1991 race, the IMS fleet was divided into two classes, A and B.
The 1991 race saw two major innovations: sponsorship by Kenwood Corporation, and a split start, with IOR Classes B and C and IMS Class B starting two days ahead of the IOR and IMS Class A fleets. This helped to compress the finish, which in a slow race would otherwise have likely been stretched over a longer period of waiting for those already in Honolulu. since 2001 a modified version of IMS and Americap have been used as the basis for the Transpac Race rating rule.
However, no rule is perfect and if the wind doth stop blowing after the large boats finish, they will win the prizes; but the tradewinds usually increase closer to the islands, and therein lies the challenge of the race.
Sailing the Transpac stirs a variety of emotions and lifelong memories. For some it's the rush of danger, for others a beautiful adventure, and for many it's both. Russell Coutts, an Olympic gold medalist and three-time America's Cup winner, said after sailing on the record-setting Morning Glory in 2005: "This is one of the best offshore races I have done . . . very strategic for the navigators mixed with some fantastic downwind rides. Definitely a race not to be missed."
Race veteran Jon Andron: "The daytime's mellow, the night gets lively, sometimes scary. As Dennis Durgan once said, 'The last three days of the Transpac is like riding a derailed freight train through the tunnel of love.'"
Since 1949 the fastest in the fleet have traditionally competed for the unique Transpacific Yacht Club Perpetual Trophy---a 3 1/2 x 4-foot plaque of hand-carved Hawaiian koa wood---better known as the "Barn Door." Smaller boats unable to match the larger ones in sheer speed compete for a prize more reflective of crew performance: the King Kalakaua Trophy, a metallic model of a sailing canoe, for the best corrected handicap time.
The Transpac Race stands apart from other major ocean races as essentially a "downwind race," as determined by normal weather patterns in the eastern Pacific north of the equator. After two or three days of slogging on the wind, the fleet encounters the "Pacific High," a mammoth, wallowing blob of high pressure rotating clockwise between Hawaii and the West Coast of North America. As boats reach the lower edge of the high the wind bends aft and turns warm spinnakers go up, shirts come off, and sailors usually enjoy a pleasant ride the rest of the way. But sailing directly into the Pacific High's light winds is competitive suicide.
With improved weather information following World War II, competitors were able to note the position of the High and chart their courses along its lower edge on a southerly loop, sailing farther but faster to Hawaii. Later they optimized their boats for downwind performance. The current monohull record holder is Morning Glory, a Reichel/Pugh-designed maxZ86 owned by industrial software magnate Hasso Plattner of Germany. His boat led the way in 2005 with an elapsed time of 6 days 19 hours 4 minutes 11 seconds, knocking 19 1/2 hours off the record set by the third of Roy E. Disney's Pyewackets in 1999. The former vice chairman of the board of the Walt Disney Co. was only 2 1/2 hours behind on his fourth Pyewacket, also a R/P maxZ86.
Disney then retired from racing after his 15th and final Transpac over 30 years. At 75, his age matched the number of entries, the second highest next to 80 in 1979. Multihulls have not played a major role in Transpac, but there is an official record set in 1997 by Frenchman Bruno Peyron's 86-foot catamaran, Explorer, with a time of 5 days 9 hours 18 minutes 26 seconds. Along with the boats, the soul of the race is evolving with modern times.
There have been all-woman crews, as well as in 1997 a crew composed entirely of men with HIV and AIDS who carried a message of hope on the horizon for a cure for the disease, and in 2003 and 2005 a team of disabled sailors representing Challenged America of San Diego competed well on equal terms. The Aloha class, suggested by the late Hugh Lamson, was introduced in 1997 to accommodate boats that while older and heavier or blessed with modern interior comforts ranging from air conditioning to big-screen TVs and freezers, still wanted to race to Hawaii.
Age hasn't mattered much. Crews have averaged as old as 68.17 (Bubala in 2005) or as young as 22.57 (Andron's Argonaut in 1969, sailing his father Mort's Cal 40). The crew included Jay Araujo, the 38-year-old navigator. Andron was 22, his brother Geoff 24. The others were Gary Weisman and Jimmy Smith, each 17; John MacCoshan, 18, and Bob Sanford, 22. Without Araujo, the average age was exactly 20. They won the King Kalakaua Trophy. Andron said, "We were convinced that it was impossible for anybody to beat us. We were kids and that was the attitude we had." Morning Light, the team that hopes to replace Argonaut as the youngest ever to sail Transpac, should have it so good. "I think they're gonna be terrific," Andron said. "It's a great idea." But first they should hear from some of the veterans so they'll know what they're getting into.
Morgan Larson, a world-class sailor in boats large and small, said, "There is no better feeling than surfing down the Molokai Channel towards the most famous finish of all the offshore races in the world. You pass Diamond Head under spinnaker, then pull into Waikiki and the big aloha welcome."
Dale Budlong offered a different impression: "Sometimes it's almost like sheer terror when all the instruments go out and you're in a squall in the middle of the night and you can't see anything and it's blowing probably 40 [knots] . . ."
Mark Johnson, reading from the log of his late father, Robert, on a race aboard Ticonderoga (affectionately known as "Big Ti") in 1965: "We turned down 1,000 miles from Honolulu, hoping to sail the edge of [a storm]. The wind built up to 50 knots, dead aft. We hit 20 knots plus. The crew were like maniacs, like dope addicts. Finally, the spinnaker exploded into confetti and the main ripped from leech to luff halfway up, and the madness was over."
Dave Ullman is reassuring: "You get used to sailing in 18-25 knots of wind, like it's nothing." John DeLaura, the fourth and most recent of "clean sweep" winners in 1993: "I always go back to the oceans. The sea doesn't scare me, even if it gets pretty rough out there"
Stephanie Baker was just a girl of 12 in 1957 when she sailed with her mother Martha, a single mom, and wrote in the ship's log: "In the morning there was lots of wind, but that was my favorite watch, when the sun comes up and the birds are flying." And then as Oliver Henrickson, a veteran of the 50s, said: "You can smell the island about a day before you get there. And it smells real good."
Gary Weisman, who sailed his first Transpac at 17 with Andron and his most recent in 2005 on Pyewacket: "The Transpac Race is the absolutely best way for a young person to spend the summer." An older person, too.
In 1977 the yacht Merlin, designed by Bill Lee, set an elapsed time record of 8 days, 11 hours, 1 minute and 45 seconds. This record would stand for 20 years. Ending Merlin's record, in the 1997 race Roy P. Disney sailing the familys Turbo'd Santa Cruz 70 Pyewacket finally broke the record by getting to Honolulu in 7 days, 15 hours, 24 minutes, and 40 seconds. Taking almost a day off Merlin's long lasting time.
In 1999 Roy E. Disney built a new Pyewacket, a 73 foot maxi ultralight designed by Reichel/Pugh. He then recaptured the record from his son with an elapsed time of 7 days, 11 hours, 41 minutes, and 27 seconds. The record fell once again in 2005, with Hasso Plattner's Morning Glory, a maxZ86 from Germany. Morning Glory was the scratch boat when it led a five-boat assault on the record for monohulls. She finished the race in 6 days, 16 hours, 4 minutes, and 11 seconds to win "the Barn Door" trophy, a slab of carved koa wood traditionally awarded to the monohull with the fastest elapsed time.
In the double-handed division, Pegasus 50, sailed by Philippe Kahn and Mark Christensen, set a new record of 7 days, 19 hours, 38 minutes and 35 seconds. They pioneered use of an iPhone, with Fullpower-MotionX GPS technology.
On July 7, 2009, Alfa Romeo II beat the Morning Glory record for best day's run set in the 2005 race, by sailing 399 nautical miles (459 mi; 739 km) in 24 hours. The next two days she broke her own best-day record by sailing 420 nautical miles (480 mi; 780 km) and 431 nautical miles (496 mi; 798 km). Also first to finish the 2009 Transpac, Alfa Romeo II set a Transpac race elapsed-time record of 5 days, 14 hours, 36 minutes, 20 seconds. However, because she must use "stored power" (a diesel engine) to move her controls, Alfa Romeo II, sailing in the "unlimited" class, was not eligible for the traditional "Barn Door" trophy, but instead was the inaugural winner of a new trophy dedicated by Trisha Steele, called the "Merlin Trophy". The new "Merlin Trophy" started a new tradition in Transpac awarded to the most advanced and radical boats allowed to race.
In 2017, multiple records were broken. Comanche set the new Merlin trophy elapsed time record at 5 days 01:55:26. Comanche also set the best 24 hour distance record at 484.1 nm, a new Transpac record, a 20.2 knot average speed. Mighty Merloe set the multihull elapsed time record at 4 days 06:32:30.
In 2008, Doug Baker, with his four-year-old Magnitude 80 speedster ripped about 3 1/2 days off Kathmandu's 1994 elapsed time record, sailing to Tahiti in 11 days 10 hours 13 minutes 18 seconds (average speed 13.0 knots). He said, "When you have a boat like this, any record is always your goal. It's an adventure, not just a race."
Occasionally the Transpacific Yacht Club’s race from Los Angeles to Honolulu has its odd-year biennial schedule coincide with the Pacific Ocean’s cycle of unusual weather called El Nino. Those that live in or around the Pacific know exactly what this means: the normal and predictable pattern of weather goes haywire for a year or two, a consequence of equatorial current reversals and the havoc this wreaks on weather patterns.
Patterns are important when strategizing how to race 2225 miles across the north Pacific to Oahu’s to Diamond Head, so this was the major factor influencing the outcome of the 48th edition of the historic race. Some clever minds saw this El Nino pattern coming and reckoned this was going to be a windy race of record-breaking proportions, like in 1977 when Bill Lee’s MERLIN smashed the old record to not only establish a new one that stood for two decades, but usher in an entirely new era of ULDB offshore designs.
Roy Pat Disney, for example, saw this coming, as did the team on Bob Oatley’s canting-keeled Reichel/Pugh-designed 100-footer WILD OATS XL, who was first-to-finish in the 2013 race to Honolulu as well as numerous Sydney-Hobart trophy runs back home in Australia. So they partnered up to bring the best knowledge from Disney’s veteran PYEWACKET team (with countless Transpac’s among them) to combine with the technical sailing prowess of the WILD OATS team. They reckoned that unlike 2013’s slow race for the fast boats, this year would be different, with high speed trade winds fueled by El Nino poised to propel them at the record speeds needed to earn not only the Merlin Trophy for first to finish monohull with assisted power, but the coveted Honolulu Race Elapsed Time Record Trophy (otherwise known as the Clock Trophy) as well. This beautiful work of art is only awarded to new monohull record holders, and was dedicated by Roy Pat’s dad Roy Disney for their own record-breaking run on PYEWACKET when they finally beat MERLIN's record in 1997. Other winners include PYEWACKET again in 1999, Hasso Plattner’s MORNING GLORY in 2005, and in 2009 when Neville Chrichton’s ALFA ROMEO set the current mark of 5 Days 14 hours 36 Min 20 sec.
The WILD OATS team were not the only ones sniffing a potential record: Syd Fischer’s RAGAMUFFIN, also from OZ, made the long trip up to LA to enter once again to do the same, having finished as runners-up to WILD OATS in 2013.
And there was even another first-to-finish entry ready to set a record as well, although one that was not eligible for the Merlin or Clock Trophies even though her elapsed time would likely be much faster than both WILD OATS and RAGAMUFFIN. Renaud Laplanche’s 105-foot trimaran LENDING CLUB was shattering course records throughout 2015, and Transpac was next on her list.
Among all the other 57 entries in this 48th race to Honolulu, the race records were likely going to be out of reach but a fast fun trip was anticipated.
Alas, Mother Nature did not get the memo. Much like in 2013, the first wave of Division 7 and 8 Aloha Class boats did get lucky by sailing off the coast from the start at Point Fermin in reasonable fashion, with enough of the “normal” westerly to clear Catalina and be over the horizon by nightfall.
A few days later the second wave in Divisions 4, 5 and 6 also got off the coast well in a standard sunny so Cal seabreeze, with some so excited to be on their way that they were caught over the start line early and had to be recalled.
And meanwhile 500 miles ahead the first wave was making great time. The weather forecasts before the start of low pressure centers and possible hurricanes in the race area seemed like worst-case scenarios at odds with the boats making great progress down the course, some already 25% down the track towards Hawaii.
But then the weather model scenarios started to converge towards a common solution that few would like: a developing low in Mexico would move north and bring moisture and instability to the normal northwesterlies along the coast, and even extend far enough offshore to affect who may have strayed too far south of the rhumb line.
This was enough for the LENDING CLUB team to give up on the chance for a race record and opt instead to leave a few days early for the chance at a course record. This was achieved in impressive style: at a staggering time of 3 days, 8 hours and 9 seconds, the ex-GROUPAMA claimed yet another course record with an average daily run of 590 miles and average speed of 24.6 knots. Skipper Ryan Breymaier reckoned that they had even more in them but they intentionally throttled back at times to avoid floating debris that plagued them in the 2013 race and would continue to hinder others who would soon be on their way behind them.
This problem of debris in the north Pacific has become so bad that one of the race’s supporters, the Ocean Clean-up, offered substantial compensation to boats that participated in what was billed as the “world’s largest scientific experiment”: a survey made by a dozen or so boats reporting on what they observed on their return trips back to the mainland. This information was valuable to marine scientists in helping to refine their modeling of where the worst of the debris field lay, how it would continue to drift and what measures could be taken to collect and remove it by the ton.
So, with debris and non-ideal weather ahead, the teams on the fastest boats starting at the end of the week were probably not surprised by seeing thunderstorms, lightning and rain showers while they started their race on port tack due to the southerlies associated with the low pressure system. The weirdness plagued this group the first few days as they struggled to get away from the coast and the unstable weather, some straying well north just to avoid this system and others gambling on staying south in the hopes of getting a boost of breeze created by two intersecting systems seen in some of the weather models.
In general this latter strategy did not pay off well, and those that wound their way down the middle track and sailed the shifts did well in their classes. The record-seekers trip towards Alaska had them in enough breeze to log some impressive daily runs, but this was not enough to overcome the huge increase in distance they sailed north to avoid the potholes in the road to the south. Of this group WILD OATS XL was first to finish for the Merlin Trophy and a Division 1 win, but no Clock Trophy this time.
Playing the middle road well was James McDowell’s venerable Santa Cruz 70 GRAND ILLUSION, whose navigator Patrick O’Brien was hailed as the architect of their 3-time success at winning not only Division 3 but the King Kalakaua Trophy for best overall in corrected time.
And at 100-feet but with no canting keel nor powered winch systems, Manouch Moshayedi’s Bakewell-White-designed Rio 100 was 25 feet longer than her nearest rival in this category and thus almost assured of the Barn Door trophy, one of the most historically recognized prizes in ocean racing.
Other class winners included Chris Reynolds’s TP 52 BOLT in Division 2, Greg Slyngstad’s J/125 HAMACHI in Division 4, Eric Gray’s Santa Cruz 50 ALLURE in Division 5, John Chamberlain and Dean Fargo’s Swan 651 SECOND WIND in Division 6, Harry Zanville’s Santa Cruz 37 CELERITY in Division 7, and Tracey Obert’s BBY 59 MARJORIE in Division 8.
Even after having braved the strange weather patterns on the course, one other odd feature of this race was also attributable to El Nino: large southerly swells that provided great south shore surfing in the islands but also closed out the channel at the Ala Wai Harbor. TPYC finish line officials held off several night time finishers from entering the harbor until dawn when the surf subsided and it became safer to see the channel and the waves to time the entrance between sets.
Imagine racing several days and over 2000 miles to be within sight and smell of Waikiki, but unable to get there… not easy and another unusual ocean racing challenge.
In summary, the 48th race to Honolulu may not have been one for the record books, but still had all the best features of every Transpac: a solid turnout of boats from not only the Pacific but around the world with crews seeking adventure, camaraderie and offshore sailing excellence.
Fifty-six monohulls and two multihulls hailing from six countries around the Pacific and two from Europe entered the 47th biennial edition of the Transpacific Yacht Club’s race from Los Angeles to Honolulu, with all but two completing the 2225-mile course. The race was characterized primarily by light and irregular wind conditions for the fastest boats, so no course records were broken this year. However, steadier weather for the smaller and slower entries gave them an advantage to claim trophies awarded for overall results in corrected time.
The slowest 14 entries in Divisions 7 and 8 set off west in perfect seabreeze conditions on Monday, July 8th, crossing the starting line set off Point Fermin at 1300 local time, with the first mark of the course, Catalina Island’s West End, within easy reach before nightfall. This group would enjoy great weather for their trip, and yield the best overall results in the race.
The second wave of 21 entries in Divisions 4, 5 and 6 started three days later on Thursday, July 11th under quite different conditions: rainy, overcast skies and a light and fluky southerly breeze had teams not only starting the race on port tack, but gybing downwind at times to get to the West End, a highly unusual scenario for this race. These light conditions plagued this group for another few days, allowing them little progress towards hawaii, while the lead group were enjoying steady northerlies and extending themselves hundreds of miles ahead of this second group.
The last and largest wave of the fastest 21 monohulls and two multihulls in the race started two days later on Saturday, July 13th, under sunny skies and a light westerly seabreeze that was strong enough to have the fleet around the West End by nightfall, but not much further. Most of the entries in these divisions would sag far off to the south – and thus sail many extra miles – in search of favorable breeze, so there was never any serious threat to the existing course records, despite some very strong contenders.
Among these was Australia’s legendary offshore veteran Syd Fischer and his team on the canting-keeled Elliot 100 RAGAMUFFIN 100. Italian Giovanni Soldini’s MASERATI could have also been a threat, had there been more wind to power up the Volvo 70 to her full potential.
Even the multihull record remained safe, in part due to the light weather, but also due to a tremendous amount of floating debris remaining in the north Pacific left over from the 2011 Fukushima earthquake and tsunami in Japan. Besides numerous debris reports among many entries, the boat most affected was John Sangmeister’s trimaran LENDING TREE. In two separate impact incidents, damage sustained to the boards on the modified ORMA 73 helped deprive LENDING TREE team the 2 hours 34 minutes they needed to break the fully-crewed multihull race record. Nonetheless, a finish time of 5 days 11 hours 52 min 33 sec was still impressive given the non-ideal weather, and illustrates the tremendous speed potential of these new-generation offshore greyhounds. Despite the foil damage, her time was still 21.5 hours faster than RAGAMUFFIN, the fastest monohull on the course and winner of the Merlin Trophy, and another day faster than Barn Door Trophy winner WIZARD, David and Peter Askew’s R/P 74.
The divisions that enjoyed the most competitive racing were those tightly-grouped in size and style: the seven Flying 52’s among the nine entries of Division 2 and the now-classic ULDB 70’s in Division 3. Sagging well south of the rhumb line in search of breeze, Isao Mita’s mixed Japanese and Kiwi team on his TP 52 BEECOM led the pack most of the race and were first to Diamond Head to claim a first place in HPR scoring. But only an hour and a half later Thomas Akin’s R/P 52 MEANIE crossed the finish line to win the division in ORR scoring by only 4 min 32 sec in corrected time – a pretty close margin after 8.2 days of racing!
The ULDB class of five entries in Division 3 was also tight, producing racing reminiscent of when this class was in its heyday in the 1980’s and ‘90’s. With an experienced team who had dozens of past Transpac races to their credit, Roy Pat Disney’s Andrews 70 PYEWACKET defeated Per Peterson’s runner-up Andrews 68 ALCHEMY by only 32 min in corrected time after over 8.6 days of racing.
Yet even closer in corrected time finishes and perhaps ironic given their slow, scattered start, Chip Megeath’s R/P 45 CRIMINAL MISCHEIF won among a mix of 42-46 foot fast boat types in Division 4 by a corrected time margin of only 3 min 47 sec over the runnerup, Bob Pethick’s Rogers 46 BRETWALDA3.
In contrast, Gordon Leon’s Farr 40 FOIL crushed their five Division 5 rivals by over 3 hours in corrected time, and Jack Taylor’s Santa Cruz 50 HORIZON did even more to their eight SC 50 and SC 52 competitors in Division 6, winning by some 5 hour 26 min in corrected time.
An example of trans-oceanic match racing was that between two Japanese rival teams in Division 7, Yuichi Takahashi’s First 40 TEN QUARTER and Hiroshi Kitada’s X-41 KIHO. The two were absolutely stuck to each other, never more than a few miles apart throughout the race, including being only 11 min apart at the finish line. But TEN QUARTER'S more favorable rating pushed her ahead by 3 hours 36 min in corrected time to win the six-boat class.
The most dramatic story of this race was that of the Division 8 and overall race winner: Matt Brooks’s classic 1929-built wooden S&S 52-foot yawl DORADE. Restored to racing condition, and with a long build up of training and optimization for this race, Brooks and team also benefited from the favorable weather enjoyed by Division 8 competitors to sail less distance to Hawaii, allowing her to repeat her win earned in 1936 with designer Olin Stephens on board.
Following the precedent set by Commodore Dale Nordin in 2008, in 2012 Transpac again accepted challenges for the race from Los Angeles to Tahiti. Initially it appeared that 5 boats might accept the challenge, but in the end only Steve Rander with RAGE and Karl Kwok with BEAU GESTE came to the foggy start line off Pt. Fermin. With the clock winding down to the start, 1300 from Point Fermin, Rage skipper Steve Rander was sounding nonchalant. “We’re just sitting around trying to think of anything we’ve forgotten,” he said. “I’ve done 23 Transpac crossings, all between the West Coast and Hawaii. Now it’s time for something different.” And if that something different, all the way to French Polynesia, turns out to be a race with only two boats entered? “You have to commit a long way ahead,” Rander said. With a veteran crew of longtime friends and family (“no rock stars”) the argument comes down to doing it now, regardless, “because if not, we’ll be too old.” So how does he feel now? “It’s still a race. We’re racing every boat that ever sailed to Tahiti.” And who wouldn’t like to sail to Tahiti?
To that question, you won’t find any doubters among the crew of RAGE's opposition, the mighty BEAU GESTE from the Royal hong Kong Yacht Club. Owner and skipper Karl Kwok is a longtime member of the Transpacific Yacht Club, and he has been on a tour of the great American and Caribbean races with his twin-ruddered 80-footer. Kwok’s target is the elapsed time record of 11 days, 10 hours set in 2008 by Doug Baker’s Magnitude 80, and however that comes out, racing to Tahiti is the most interesting way possible to get the boat a bit closer to home.
As BEAU GESTE approached the Equator, Big Mike Howard wrote, “having done a few miles on the ocean as well as Transpacs, I must admit this sprint to Tahiti is like no other sailing. 1900 miles down wind on port jibe in 20 -25 knots of trade winds with the bow pointing toward the southern Cross standing out brilliantly in the southern sky. The temperature outside is a pleasant but warm shirt sleeve condition. With the exception of the occasional flying fish hitting you at night in the side of the head, nothing could compare. It's a shame more of us who have sailed to Hawaii have not taken this opportunity provided by Transpac Yacht Club to visit another paradise.”
Unfortunately, the winds were not there for a record this year. After a few days of very light winds and slow sailing, BEAU GESTE got the bone back in her teeth and finished the Tahiti race in style. They sailed in to Papeete after 14 days, 5 hours, 9 minutes, 22 seconds.
Although the breeze was going light again at their finish, steve rander's Rage held on to her corrected time win overall. Trophies were presented at the Yacht Club de Tahiti,and warm Polynesian greetings welcomed each boat at the quay in Papeete.
Transpacific YC looks forward to more Tahiti races in the future. The MAGNITUDE 80 record is there to challenge, and one of the world’s most dramatic passages to tropical seas.
Interview with TPYC Commodore Bill Lee in 2011.
Transpac (TP): Congratulations on your appointment as TPYC Commodore. Any big news for the 2011 race???
Bill Lee (BL): We are looking forward to a great race is 2011. To make things easier for first time and returning entries, we have made two changes. First, a sat phone can be carried in place of a SSB if it is left on full time. Second, the celestial sight is optional rather than required -- serious navigators can enter their sights in a contest. On the organizational end, the NOR has already been issued, discussions are in place with sponsors, and the Honolulu Committee had their first meeting. At this point, everything is falling together.
TP: How many Transpac races have you competed in??
BL: I have raced 5 Transpacs and one Multihull Transpac. My first Transpac was in 1971 on the Cal 37 Quasar owned by Art Biehl. They had been second to Jon Andron on Argonaut in 1969 and Art was focused to win this one. Our crew included George Olson who went on to build the Olson 30 and 40s, Don Snyder who was our winning navigator in '77, and Larry Wright who went on to be a serious Express 37 racer on San Francisco Bay. We had a great time, but unfortunately '71 was a slow year both for wind and for us.
TP: Of all your yacht designs, which one would you say is your favorite??
BL: Merlin of course. More people have had more fun sailing fast on Merlin than any other boat.
TP: Tell us about a historic turning point in racing across the Pacific.
BL: Certainly the most dramatic year for me was 1977. There were 5 first to finish contenders, two battlewagon maxis and three flyweights, Windward Passage, Kialoa III, Ragtime, Drifter and Merlin. We knew it would be good racing because in 1971 Windward Passage and Ragtime had finished within 5 minutes of each other. This was the battle between the old and the new. The heavy boats with big rigs vs the light boats with little rigs. All in the days of amateur crews, real food, Dacron sails, and celestial navigation for real. Tune in next time for more of the story.
TP: What words of wisdom would you provide for a "First Timer??
BL: Unless you are the owner, a first timer needs a crew slot on a boat. If you are really good, of course, you get an invite on a serious competitor. But what if you are a more recreational sailor looking for a great adventure? Ask around your yacht club. Maybe there is an owner who would like to go, but lacks crew, organization, new sails, energy to prepare the boat, and a team to get the boat back home. A group with varied skills can often help an owner. The handicapping system treats a wide range of boats fairly, so while a Cal 40 isn't a TP52, all have a chance to be competitive in the race.
TP: When you hit the dock in Honolulu. What's your preference, cold beer or Mai Tai?
BL: Mai Tai of course. But for serious Mai Tai connoisseurs, beware of MC4, a special formula which our hosts researched and prepared for us one year. Also be aware that for serious Mai Tai evaluation the least desirable finish time is 0600. You have been up all night, you hit the dock at 8AM and get started, but before you know it, the hot sun is beating down and the breeze has yet to fill. They taste so good, but halfway thru the second drink the men in white coats take you to your hotel in a wheel barrow.
TP: Thanks for your time Bill.
BL: My pleasure!
There is good reason for the staggered starts that Transpac has used since 1991, but the luck of the draw can be painful. It was like that, short straws all around, for the July 4 starters in 2011 in Division 6 and Aloha. A promising forecast, a promising departure and then...
And then they were stuck on the doorstep, not quite gone. Past Los Angeles YC Commodore Eric Gray would go on to win the Aloha division with an aggressive racing crew aboard his cruising Morris 46, GRACIE. his take: "We looked at zeroes at times in those first two days. Eventually, we found the wind 100-150 miles off Santa Cruz Island, and we worked it until we got a chute up. From there we just sailed it on in. We thought it would be a 14-day race, and if you subtract those first two, it was a 14-day race.
Contrast that to the fortunes of the big guys in the second of two starts, July 8, who went off with a breeze in the low teens and an ocean in front of them where the Pacific high was re-forming in a considerably more-disciplined fashion. At that point, those unlucky earlier starters were spread 200 miles, north to south. some navigators were playing the north on strategy. Others were there because one helmsman after another had just kept the boat moving in whatever direction it would go. how badly that could turn out would be demonstrated by the Santa Cruz 37, CELERITY, whose owner, Harry Zanville, would report mid-race, "no wind. sat slatting in the rain for an hour, maybe two. Deck is clean."
But, oh, the big guys. They romped all the way. Two boats had been modified to go head-to-head for the Barn Door. From the East Coast, on a mission, came Hap Fauth with his Reichel-Pugh designed BELLA MENTE, lengthened five feet to an LOA of 74 feet. Much more locally, Doug Baker had returned to the Alan Andrews-designed MAGNITUDE, now known as MAGNITUDE 80, and rebuilt it from canting keel to fixed keel to make it eligible to win the Barn Door Trophy. Baker had originally commissioned MAGNITUDE, and passed it on. Then he chartered it back for the race. Who would have the edge?
That was a wide open question. BELLA MENTE by her fourth day out had passed the earlier starters and nabbed the overall lead for first-to-finish. MAGNITUDE 80 followed, right at her heels, keeping Fauth and company nervous. But MAGNITUDE couldn't seem to pass and make it stick.
The big boys brought big breeze to the rest of the fleet, and at that point, to some people, the rhumb line smelled as good as mother's cookies. With transponder-position reporting on delay until the first boat approached the finish – to keep it a navigator's race, per tradition – the midrace was a nailbiter all around. There were a few who knew they had already lost, barring a miracle, and many who knew they could still win, or thought they could.
Then everything changed again. The breeze dropped, and being in the smart lane on the north-south line went from very important to Very Important. Overnight, Division 2 resorted itself, with Jorge Ripstein's TP52, PATCHES, popping out to a lead over Dr. Laura Schlessinger's more-northerly KATANA. KATANA navigator Eric Bowman had positioned the brand new Kernan 49 to take advantage of a shorter track in the big breeze of two days before, but this was a new chessboard. Chip Megeath's CRIMINAL MISCHIEF moved into second in Division 2, reminding all that Megeath's RP45 had enjoyed great success on the ocean, winning its division in the 2009 Transpac and 2010 Pacific Cup. This time, however, it would be PATCHES' turn to show how it's done. And to think, PATCHES was a last-minute entry. The instrument systems had been in surgery at Transpac Village just 14 hours before the start.
James McDowell's SC70, GRAND ILLUSION, which had taken a grip on the handicap lead early on, continued to run 1-1, first in sleds and first overall, at 1,200 miles to go. Simon Garland's Hobie 33, PEREGRINE, meanwhile continued to lead the early slow-starters from a position well to the south of the fleet, and she was looking better hour by hour.
And to no one's great surprise, it was at about this time that Jack Taylor's HORIZON made an entrance at the top of the SC50 leaderboard, a position that HORIZON would carry all the way to Diamond Head.
But it wasn't not all blood-and-guts competition. In his halfway celebration, skipper Michael Lawler of Aloha entry TRAVELER handed 'round some gag gifts, and then, in his words, "I took a knee and gave one last gift. To Barbara. It came in a small jewelry box. I offered it to her and said, "Barbara Lynn Burdick, will you marry me? She said 'yes.' " And it was not just any ring. Think stainless steel one-inch hose clamp, which fit the lady's ring finger perfectly (with a little screwdriver adjustment). It also came with the promise of a shopping expedition in Waikiki, and it had to happen this way, Lawler said: "We met on the dock at the Hawaii Yacht Club following the 2005 Transpac, and we have spent much of our six years together, on board TRAVELER, sailing the world."
The 2011 race was the second Transpac in which boats with canting keels and powered winches were not eligible for the Barn Door Trophy, which explains Baker's decision to convert MAGNITUDE to a fixed-keel configuration. In turn, the inability to overtake BELLA MENTE explains the decision, two days out of Honolulu, to try – well, something. Navigator Ernie Richau broke away to the south, out of cover, to roll the dice. It almost worked. MAGNITUDE, being very light, with a flat set of run polars, could sail deep without giving up a lot. At one point MAGNITUDE gained 40 miles on the lead and at another point was equidistant from the finish. BELLA MENTE, meanwhile, kept closer to the layline, with a better gybing angle to the channel and the odds on her side.
The Barn Door bottom line played out in the gray dawn of July 15 as BELLA MENTE crossed the finish line 6:42 ahead of MAGNITUDE 80. Lorenzo Berho's PELIGROSO rumbled in a day later to take second on corrected time.
From the point of view of HORIZON navigator Jon Shampain – remember, he had the advantage of the second start, with breeze – it was a straightforward race: "The high was so far north, at 40° or so, that we were on the great circle route for the first 24 hours. Then, as we bore off with the jib top, the code 0, spinnakers, we sailed a pretty classic route. When the breeze went light in the middle, we had to cross north of the rhumb line, but by then it was pretty much over in our class."
Which translates to, when you win, there's not so much to talk about
GRAND ILLUSION carried her 1-1 position home to Ala Wai and a grand, outdoor celebration to follow under the loom of the Diamond Head crater.
Tom Holthus' 2009 division winner, the J/145, BAD PAK, won Division 4 and was later named San Diego YC's Yacht of the Year.
Phil and Sarah Sauer's SECOND CHANCE, approaching the Diamond Head Buoy, found themselves diverting to give a second chance to a kayaker being swept out to sea, in deep, deep trouble.
Yoshihiko Murase rallied friends, family and crew to go out amidst the occasional tropical shower to greet the last finisher, Larry Malmberg's HASSLE, 17 days out of Point Fermin. Murase's line of BENGALs had to that point covered roughly 57,500 miles, delivering and racing, in the name of Transpac. There was even a ukulele serenade. In sum, 2011 was another great gathering of the tribe.
- Written by Kimball Livingston
The forty-fifth edition of the Transpacific Yacht Club’s race from Los Angeles to Diamond Head light got underway on Monday, June 29, 2009 with eleven of the total entry list of forty-seven boats starting the 2225 nautical mile race to Hawaii. This year Transpac created a new racing division that was composed of boats that needed waivers of the racing rules that prohibit movable ballast and require manual power. This Division (the unlimited division) of five boats included the two fastest and largest boats in the race (ALFA ROMEO, and MAGNITUDE) and though not eligible for the Barn Door were racing for the newly dedicated Bill Lee Trophy for fastest elapsed time.
The 2009 fleet was diverse, ranging from a Hobie 33 to the 100 foot ALFA ROMEO and the 78 foot tall ship LYNX. Other than those extremes the fleet was pretty typical of recent Transpac fleets and included 4 TP 52’s; 8 ULDB 70’s; 5 Santa Cruz 50’s and 6 Aloha Class boats.
Three double-handed crews participated in this year’s race. PEGASUS, an open 50 sailed by Philippe Kahn and Mark Christensen won the double-handed class, and in the process established a new double-handed record of 7 days, 19 hours, and 38.5 minutes knocking two and a half days off the old record.
As is sometimes the case, some of the staggered start days experience better wind conditions than others. This year, the Sunday (last) date worked out better for its starters. As a result, the first 16 positions in the overall corrected standings went to boats starting on Sunday. As is always the case there were periods of strong wind, but overall this year’s race wind conditions could best be described as moderate.
In the Aloha Class (Division VII) the spanish entry CHARISMA, a Sparkman & Stephens 57, posted both the fastest elapsed time and best corrected time to win that division. CHARISMA and her crew have for the last couple of years been traveling the world and competing in a number of classic offshore races. CHARISMA’s track took her north of what is usually considered an optimal course, but she was able to stay in decent breeze and it all worked out okay for her.
As always, the press and public’s focus was on the largest and fastest boats in the race, and no boat racing in the recent past has been bigger and faster than the New Zealand entry, ALFA ROMEO, owned and raced by Neville Crichton. ALFA ROMEO smashed the previous elapsed time record by 26 hours establishing a new race record of 5 days, 14 hours, 36 minutes and 20 seconds. When one compares the sheer size and advanced features of ALFA ROMEO, it is understandable how she could slash a full day off MORNING GLORY’s record and earn a place for its name on the TPYC new Course Record Trophy.
Of the boats with fixed ballast and using manual power no boat took home more trophies than John Kilroy’s modified TP 52, SAMBA PA TI. SAMBA finished in 7 days, 8 hours, 17 minutes and 11 seconds. In spite of incurring a 15 minute penalty for missing a mandatory check in, her corrected time was good enough to win the Barn Door for fastest elapsed time, the King Kalakaua and the Governor of Hawaii trophies for first overall corrected, the Harry Uhler Memorial Trophy for first in Division I and the TPYC Trophy for the first TP 52.
Another TP 52, FLASh, took second overall corrected, and third overall and first in Division II came the turbocharged SC 70 OEX owned and sailed by long time Transpac racer, Peter Tong. ULDB 70’s also corrected out to fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth, and ninth. not bad for boats that were built 20+ years ago.
In the five boat Division V, composed exclusively of Santa Cruz 50’s the battle was between HORIZON and ALLURE with HORIZON correcting out first although finishing 1 minute, 5 seconds behind ALLURE.
In Division III, the fastest boat among the Thursday starters, CRIMINAL MISCHIEF, had the best elapsed time and won its Division, but because of its start date could only correct out 17th overall, and in Division IV which was composed mostly of SC 52’s and J Boats, BAD PAK, a J/145 won the class. In Division VI, it was RELENTLESS, a highly modified 1D 35 winning the class with BLOODHOOUD, a Hobie 33 in second. Interestingly, both boats were sailing double handed and finished second and third behind PEGASUS within the double handed specialty class.
All in all, the 45th race to Hawaii was another exciting, record breaking, and closely contested Transpac Race.
- Jerry Montgomery, Staff Commodore
For Chris Welsh and RAGTIME a victory, for Doug Baker and MAGNITUDE 80 a record, and both accomplished what they set out to do in the Transpacific Yacht Club’s 13th Tahiti Race.
The memories will forever warm the souls of the 37 who sailed the 3,571 nautical miles to French Polynesia, defeating the Doldrums, crossing the equator, dealing with breeze sometimes big, often baffling, suffering drenching rain and dark nights but also marveling at dazzling constellations of stars from the Big Dipper to the Southern Cross, fore and aft.
MAGNITUDE 80 got the record — no surprise there — but the other three boats took well deserved bows. Boat for boat, RAGTIME and Bob Lane’s 17-year-old Andrews 63, MEDICINE MAN— both significantly modified from their original forms — also beat the record. Jim Morgan’s much smaller, 26-year-old Santa Cruz 50, FORTALEZA, corrected out second overall to RAGTIME and logged the race’s sixth best elapsed time ever (16:15:36:50), faster than all but KATHMANDU and SORCERY in their two-boat race in ‘94.
“We had a great fleet,” Baker said. “There were only four boats but they all finished, and in a race like that you could easily have a problem, so there’s a lot to be said for all of them, especially RAGTIME.”
Indeed, RAGTIME had a boatload of problems, including a worrisome wobbly keel to a torn main sail — blown-out sails were common among the fleet — to a ruptured gooseneck to a disabled engine, which cost them power for their electronics until they strapped a small, noisy auxiliary motor to a grinder post. It all created a challenge for an eight-person crew consisting entirely of Pollywog rookies, who included Genny Tulloch, 23, of MORNING LIGHT distinction and perhaps the race’s youngest participant ever, Daniel Caponetto, 16.
Welsh said, “I just wonder what would have happened if they’d chosen our route. When we made that first jibe [south into the Doldrums] we were the breakout boat. That’s what paid off for us. They were far west of us, but when we were going south we were matching them on latitude mile by mile. For a while they were in lighter breeze so we actually had a few six-hour runs where we put miles on them.”
Last summer RAGTIME sailed the 2,225 nautical miles in the Transpac to Hawaii in just under 12 days. Tahiti, half-again as far, took less than three days longer. But, Welsh said, “Compared to doing Tahiti, Hawaii is a walk in the park … yeah, 12 light-air days where the boat is flat and nothing broke and it’s all easy, versus 14 3/4 days, eight days of which we didn’t see sun or stars and it was blowing 25 to 30 knots the whole time, [and] the boat’s heeled over because you’re reaching really hard, so getting around the boat you’re a monkey the whole time . . . [and] everything in the world broke.”
Four boats was the same number as sailed the first Tahiti race 83 years earlier when the winner, L.A. Morris’ 107-foot MARINER, took much longer than any of these four: 20 1/2 days. And now, more than ever, it’s prohibitively expensive, time-consuming and demanding of crew members.
No wonder only 76 boats have ever done the race.
“They’d have 50 boats if it was easy,” Baker said
Baker gave proper credit to his navigator, Ernie Richau — "he did a great job, as always … very under-rated” — and to Bob Lane, his Long Beach Yacht Club colleague who initially suggested it was time to do the race again.
The race was organized by the TPYC and hosted by the Tahiti Yacht Club at the finish. It started in dense fog off Point Fermin at the edge of los Angeles on June 22 and everyone finished not in south Pacific sunshine but at night.
“If you like ocean racing, if it comes up again, this is something you should consider,” Baker said. “I mean, you only go around once. I’d never seen the southern Cross.”
- Written by Rich Roberts
The 44th Transpacific Yacht race to hawaii had 73 starters, the fourth most ever; the youngest crew (On the Edge of Destiny, average 19.8 years); the oldest crew of two (Tango, each 70), and the oldest boat (Alsumar, 73 years).
There also were boisterous sendoffs from rainbow harbor in Long Beach — now Transpac’s mainland home port — for each of the three starts, interspersed with the dedication of 11 historic monuments chronicling each decade of the race.
But once off the starting line at Point Fermin in San Pedro, what Transpac 2007 didn’t have was the wonderful trade winds the race is famous for, at least not until it was too late to think about records. Oddly, in a year when the moderately southern route under the rhumb line was blocked by a pattern of light wind pockets for boats starting Monday and Sunday, the window opened briefly for Thursday’s starters — including nine vintage Santa Cruz 50s and 52s — to enjoy the best weather of all, and the Deep south was the best way to go.
The weather was so unusual that even the esteemed navigator Stan Honey said, “The best way to look at it was that this wasn’t a Transpac.”
Asked what he might have done differently to get PYEWACKET the record, Honey could only say, “start on Thursday.”
Roy E. Disney, 77, un-retired and chartered his sleek PYEWACKET back from the Orange Coast College school of sailing and seamanship and modified it up to record-breaking potential but decided at a late hour not to sail on it. Just as well. Without proper wind, there would be no record, although co-skippers Roy Pat Disney and Gregg Hedrick claimed a third Barn Door for posting the fastest elapsed time by a monohull (7 days 1 hour 11 minutes 56 seconds).
There were five doublehanded monohull entries, including double Barn Door winner Philippe Kahn with co-skipper Richard Clarke first on elapsed and corrected time, and the two septuagenarians, Mike Abraham and Phil Rowe, second overall on TANGO.
It was a good year for Australians. Jeremy Wilmot, 21, was elected skipper by the Morning Light crew and led them to third place overall in Division 2. Nick Bice, originally hired to oversee PYEWACKET's modifications, also sailed on that boat and received the Don Vaughn award as outstanding crew member on the fastest boat.
The last boat to finish was Jorge Morales’ MYSTERE, a swan 42 from Dana Point, Calif., competing in Aloha B class. MYSTEREgot a six-day head start on PYEWACKET and finished seven days later. Morales arrived two days after the awards dinner but won a prize, anyway: the Tail End Charley trophy. he was not disappointed.
“It was a fantastic race,” he said. “We just missed out on the weather. When we had 29 knots of wind [near the end] the boat was fantastic. The last three days it was blowing a steady 20-24 knots, and when we’d got the squalls they weren’t as strong [as usual]. Coming down the Molokai Channel we were going into the 27s.”
Other competitors raved about the wonderful surfing late in the race but, alas, vintage swans, built for comfort, don’t surf much.
“Unfortunately,” Morales said, “it goes through water like a cow. It just refuses to get over it.”
The upside: After 20 days at sea, Morales said, “My water maker was the best investment ever.”
It was an impressive fleet of 75 boats that lined up for the start of the Centennial Transpac Race, the second largest fleet in the history of the race. The fleet ranged from all three existing MaxZ86’s in the world and the 90-footer GENUINE RISK at the big boat end, down to the 31 foot THE CONE OF SILENCE and the Hobie 33 SOAP OPERA at the small end. In between was a very competitive fleet that included three TP52’s, 14 Cal 40’s and MERLIN and RAGTIME; both competing in their 13th Transpac Race. A strong contingent ofeight foreign boats were entered along with seven double-handed teams.
Of these 75 entries, only two boats failed to make it to Hawaii – PENDRAGON 4 and CALIFORNIA GIRL both encountered problems early in the race and made quick and uneventful returns to the mainland. Of the 73 boats that completed the course, they established new records for both the fastest and slowest passages. The MaxZ86 MORNING GLORY broke PYEWACKET’s old record by over 19 hours with a new record of 6 days, 16 hours, 4 minutes, 11 seconds, which works out to an average speed of 13.9 knots over the course. Four other boats, PYEWACKET, GENUINE RISK, MAGNITUDE 80 and WINDQUEST also bettered the old record. At the other end of the speed spectrum, CAMIlLLE, being double-handed by Jim and Ann Reid, took 22 days to finish the course, missing the awards dinner by 4 days.
Some of the boats that elicited human interest attention were the team of disabled sailors racing B’QUEST and the crew of the Cal 40 BUBULA that was composed of guys ranging from 66 to 72 years of age.
The first of the three staggered starts was for Division V, the Aloha Class boats, and the Cal 40’s. Four to five knots of breeze greeted thestarters and at 1:00 p.m. on July 11, 33 boats crossed the start line. The wind did not improve significantly over the afternoon and evening and by roll call next morning, the July 11 starters had made only 30-40 miles on the course. July 13’s roll call found the boats having logged between 100 and 130 miles for the previous day, but by the July 14 roll call, the July 11 starters were into the breeze with some of the larger Aloha boats logging 200 plus mile days.
July 15 found the Division III and IV boats again being greeted by light winds at the start, but by roll call next morning, most of them had checked in with distances made good of 100 to 130 miles for their first 19 hours of racing, and by roll call of July 17 were well and truly on their way.
July 17 was the last of the staggered starts with 20 boats hitting the start line in 10 knots of breeze. It was a spectacular sight with those Division I and II boats hitting the line together accompanied by a large and enthusiastic spectator fleet. By July 19, the Cal 40 RALPHIE, who had worked to the south the previous two days, reported her position to be 50 miles closer to Hawaii than the next boat in the Cal 40 class, RADIANT, and she was to retain her lead over the rest of her class all the way to Diamond Head, finishing 10 hours ahead of the next two Cal 40’s, PSYCHE and ILLUSION. While the smaller boats continued to battle it out, MORNING GLORY and PYEWACKET were changing places north and then south, but by day four of their race, MORNING GLORY had worked out to a 70 mile lead on PYEWACKET, and although PYEWACKET whittled that lead down over the rest of the course, MORNING GLORY held on to set a new record and to finish some two hours and 28 minutes ahead of PYEWACKET.
In the other Divisions there was also some great racing taking place. Of the four TP52’s, they took 1st, 2nd, and 3rd overall, with ROSEBUD besting PEGASUS on corrected time although finishing 3 hours, 11 minutes behind PEGASUS. ROSEBUD’s win marked a significant and rare double. having also won the Bermuda raceshe became the first boat to win both the Bermuda Race and the Transpac since DORADE accomplished this double victory in 1936. TRADER corrected to third overall. It was also a good race for the 70 sleds, with CORUBA at 4th overall, and with SKYLARK 6th behind RALPHIE, that corrected out to 5th overall. In Divisions III and IV it was REINRAG2 again winning Division III, as she did in 2003, and TABASCO correcting out over the second place boat in its division, Division IV, by 16 hours.
In Division V and the Double-handed class, the Hobie 33 SOAP OPERA sailed by two first timers from Texas, won handily, and in Aloha A, BETWEEN THE SHEETS repeated her win from 2003 by beating the 68 year old yawl, ODYSSEY, by 8 minutes. In Aloha B, SO FAR, a swan 48 from Chicago, comfortably corrected out over her competitor.
All and all, it was a pretty mild weather race, with several spotty areas of light winds. Everyone, however, was treated to some white knuckle sailing down the Molokai Channel to the finish, with several boats experiencing handling difficulties as they approached the finish line.
Just as this race marked the end of Transpac’s first century of racing, it also marked the retirement of Roy Disney, who after 15 consecutive races, announced that he is retiring from racing. It also marked the retirement of Grant Baldwin as the voice of Transpac, having been aboard the communications vessel for every race since 1979.
- Written by J/S Commodore Jerry Montgomery
Despite 57 boats – the most starters since 1985 – Transpac 2003 was less a race for records than milestones. Software entrepreneur Philippe Kahn, sailing a turbocharged PEGASUS 77, collected his second consecutive Barn Door in a two-boat battle with Roy Disney’s PYEWACKET, but again didn’t have enough wind to threaten Disney’s elapsed time record for a monohull set in 1999 (7 days, 11 hours, 41 minutes, 27 seconds). PEGASUS 77’s ET was 7 days, 16 hours, 31 minutes, 17 seconds.
That left room in the spotlight for other ocean adventurers that made the 42nd Transpac a tale of diversity, nostalgia, perseverance and victories of the human spirit. The fleet included an all-time high of nine foreign entries, a clear sign of Transpac’s global expansion in the 21st century and, along the way, PEGASUS 77, one of four entries listing Hawaiian home ports, did log a race record 24-hour run of 356 nautical miles, topping MAGNITUDE's 1999 record by three miles.
But there also were 10 Cal 40s – Transpac’s first class ever for a single type of boat – celebrating their 40th anniversary, harking back to the 60s when they dominated three Transpacs on corrected handicap time. And, for media punch, no arrival at Waikiki rivaled the prime time finish of Challenged America’s entry, the Tripp 40 B’QUEST, which had won the hearts of race followers. The first crew of disabled sailors in the race’s 97-year history was met not only by reporters but by four local TV crews, just in time for the early evening news. One did a live remote telecast – a possible first for Transpac
Urban Miyares, a blind Vietnam veteran who co-founded Challenged America in San Diego 12 years ago with Transpac as the ultimate goal, was a watch captain on B’QUEST. The crew also included paraplegics and a one-armed veteran. The only able-bodied crew member was skipper Joshua Ross.
Bill Turpin and his ALTA VITA crew from Santa Cruz, California, received the King Kalakaua Trophy for first overall, clocking the fourth fastest corrected handicap time ever, 7 days, 12 hours, 20 minutes, 29 seconds. Another Transpac 52, Karl Kwok’s BEAU GESTE from Hong Kong, finished 48 minutes earlier but owed ALTA VITA time for a stronger downwind configuration favorable to Transpac. ALTA VITA’s elapsed time for the 2,225 nautical miles was 8 days, 17 hours, 1 minute, 25 seconds. Key to ALTA VITA’s success was Jay Crum, the navigator, sailing his 12th Transpac.
BEAU GESTE, second overall with Gavin Brady and other world-class New Zealanders among the crew, corrected only 66 minutes better than ILLUSION, the fastest of the Cal 40s. That class was organized by Wendy Siegal, owner of the 2001 Aloha winner WILLOW WIND. ILLUSION's owner and co-skippers, Stan and Sally Honey, and their veteran crew of Skip Allan and Jon Andron, received the first of several standing ovations at the awards dinner.
Honey was navigator for PYEWACKET’s record runs in 1997 and 1999. “It’s much more work than sailing on PYEWACKET,” he said. “But I hope the message that gets communicated to the sailing community is that you can take a good old boat with a good old crew and be competitive in the race.”
ILLUSION led the race on handicap time until the last two days when stronger winds favored the larger ultralight boats.
Roger Kuske’s 62-foot cutter LADY BLEU II, an Aloha class boat from San Diego, was the first boat to finish because of its five-day head start, but Ross Pearlman’s BETWEEN THE SHEETS, a Sun Odyssey 52.2 from California, was the overall and Aloha A winner on corrected time, with BARKING SPIDER winning Aloha B.
As a result of the staggered starts, the first boats to cross the finish line were the Division V and Aloha A boats. The first four finishers all blew up spinnakers coming down the Molokai Channel to the finish. The finish conditions for this group were a far cry from the light start when a southerly current and light breeze resulted in some boats taking 20 minutes to clear the start line.
The outcome of the PEGASUS 77–PYEWACKET contest was determined early on, not by boat speed but by strategic differences of opinion keyed to PEGASUS 77’s navigator, Mark Rudiger. The PYEWACKET crew was stunned by the second day’s morning roll call and position report that showed PEGASUS 77 100 miles south of them. Then, when the shift they were expecting failed to produce a lively breeze, PYEWACKET had to eat its error and give up many miles to find better wind south. That’s when PEGASUS 77 came slightly north to slide into a controlling position directly in front.
PEGASUS 77’s Mike Mottl was chosen by his mates for the Don Vaughn Memorial Trophy as the most valuable crew member on the boat with the fastest elapsed time.
Other winners included hawaii’s own Dan Doyle and Bruce Burgess, TWO GUYS ON THE EDGE, the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society Gary Jobson Perpetual Trophy for first doublehanded on corrected time; Anthony Barran’s ILC 40, TERA’s XL, Northridge, California, Fast 40s; Division III winner Tom Garnier’s J/125, REINRAG2, Portland, Oregon, J/Boats (not including J/160s); Division IV winner Chris Busch’s 1D35, WILD THING, San Diego, Pocket Rockets Award, and John MacLaurin’s PENDRAGON 4, Marina del Rey, Fast 50s. In Division V, WIND DANCER, a Catalina 42 from Ventura, California, won its division and MAITRI won the three-boat J/160 class.
REINRAG2 recovered from mid-ocean repairs of a leaking rudder bearing to win Division III by three hours over Peter Johnson’s J/160, MAITRI, of San Diego. John Davis’ PIPE DREAM, a Choate/Feo 37 in Aloha B from Seal Beach, California, received the Tailend Charlie Trophy as the last boat to finish.
Kim and Lou Ickler, who managed the race headquarters, were awarded the Claire Lang Memorial Trophy for volunteer service.
- Written by Rich Roberts
A battle of wits and wind found Philippe Kahn’s PEGASUS claiming line honors in the 41st Transpacific Yacht Race in a three-boat duel with Roy E. Disney’s record holder, PYEWACKET, and Bob Mcnulty’s new Reichel/Pugh 73, CHANCE.
Because of light winds early on, PEGASUS, an R/P 75, didn’t threaten PYEWACKET’s record of 7 days, 11 hours, 41 minutes, 27 seconds set in 1999, but its time of 8 days, 2 hours, 34 minutes, 3 seconds was the 10th fastest on record and earned Kahn the Barn Door on only his second try. PYEWACKET, R/P 74, finished 63 minutes later, about an hour and a half ahead of CHANCE.
Other notable prize winners included seth radow’s new Sydney 40, Bull, from Marina del Rey, first overall on corrected handicap time and first in Division IV; Wendy Siegal’s 36-year old Cal 40, WILLOW WIND, in the Aloha Division, and Howard Gordon’s Open 50, ÉTRANGER, San Luis Obispo, with a double-handed record of 10 days, 4 hours, 4 minutes, 1 second. PEGASUS, Bull, and ÉTRANGER were all built in Australia.
Bull, featuring an angry, smoke-snorting male bovine on the hull, was owed about 65 hours in handicap time by PEGASUS and beat the clock by 1 hour, 32 minutes, 8 seconds with a pre-dawn finish winning the King Kalakaua Canoe trophy that recognizes the crew that theoretically sailed its boat nearest to its potential.
David Janes’ new Transpac/Andrews 52, J-BIRD III, Newport Beach, beat all the larger boats straight up in Division II, although James McDowell’s Santa Cruz 70 GRAND ILLUSION, HAIKU, Hawaii, corrected out. Brent Vaughan’s chartered Andrews 53 CANTATA won in Division III.
Altogether 11 boats – a third of the fleet – finished the same day. Those included RAGTIME, the 1973 and 1975 Barn Door winner under charter to Maui resident Trisha steele and Owen Minney of Newport Beach. The sleek black wooden boat was sixth among eight boats in Division II and still shared the record for most Transpacs at 12 with another two-time winner, MERLIN – now a colorfully rebuilt MERLIN’s REATA – and steele was the third generation of her family to do the race. Only the top three maxi-sleds finished faster than MERLIN's REATA.
The smallest boat was Dan Doyle’s sonoma 30, sailing doublehanded with Bruce Burgess and making its third Transpac start but first finish with the owner aboard. TWO GUYS ON THE EDGE won the doublehanded division and the third overall in Division IV, which included one other doublehander, WATERCOLORS, and six fully crewed boats.
“It was too nice a trip,” said Burgess. They never saw wind stronger than 17.6 knots until they found 25 knots in the Molokai Channel Thursday night – a common story in the Transpac.
As the last boat to finish, Michael Abraham’s WATERCOLORS, a Sabre 402 sloop from Newport Beach, won the Tail End Charlie award, finishing the day after the awards dinner. Abraham sailed doublehanded with former college chum Phil Rowe. Each was 64. They finished 3 minutes, 32 seconds shy of 14 days.
The contest among PEGASUS, PYEWACKET and CHANCE was a classic. “We were within sight of each other for seven consecutive days,” Disney said.
The most important thing PEGASUS’ crew learned was that their boat was just enough faster than the older PYEWACKET so that the smart strategy was to say in the same breeze with their rivals. “Everywhere we went, they went too,” said Robbie Haines, PYEWACKET’s sailing manager.
One factor was the addition of a second daily roll call at dusk. Compared to 1999 when PYEWACKET slipped away from ZEPhYRUS during the 24-hour gap, there was less opportunity for stealth. The critical time came on the next-to-last day when the three boats sailed into a squall. PEGASUS and PYEWACKET went one way, CHANCE the other. CHANCE sailed into a wind hole from which it never recovered. PEGASUS and PYEWACKET jibed five times to stay in the pocket of breeze, but PEGASUS caught the key puff and was gone for good.
PEGASUS’ Zan Drejes received the Don Vaughn award for the second consecutive race as the most valuable crew member on the fastest boat. His former employer was Disney. The crew also included Samuel Kahn, a.k.a. Shark, Kahn’s 11-year-old son.
- Written by Rich Roberts
With the Dow Jones Average hovering around 10,400 and with the memory of the record shattering ’97 race fresh in peoples memory, one would have expected a great turnout for Transpac ’99, but the sale of most of the sled fleet to the Great Lakes and the growing interest in one design inshore boats kept the fleet size down to 33 starters. Using staggered starts, as has been the case since 1991, eight boats in the Cruising Division and two Double-handed boats started on June 29, and eight 40 footers started on July 2. On July 3, Divisions I, II and III got underway in a light southeasterly that carried the fleet out on port tack to well beyond Catalina Island before the wind clocked and the fleet tacked to starboard with the majority of the July 3 starters leaving Santa Barbara Island and San Nicolas to port.
The July 4 roll call found most of the fleet sailing in 18-20 knots of wind with some of the July 3 starters reporting wind in the 25 knot range. At about 11:00 p.m. on Sunday, M PROJECT, a Division III entry, withdrew with rudder problems and headed back to the coast.
The only multihull in the race, DOUBLE BULLET, started on July 5 and for the second time in as many races failed to make it beyond the first day as she flipped over and was towed back to the mainland with her crew being rescued by a Coast Guard helicopter.
When the fleet clustered near the midway point, most of the boats were experiencing winds in the 20-25 knot range and reeling off big 24 hour runs. On July 7 the Division I Turbos reported day runs of from 325 to 330 miles, the 50 footers were in the 270-285 mile day range, the 40 footers made about 200 to 225 miles, and the cruising boats were moving well in the 160 to 190 mile range. Even the 30 foot double-handed entry, TWO GUYS ON THE EDGE, had a 200 plus mile day.
July 8 found a lightening of the wind, and PYEWACKET, who had trailed ZEPHYRUS IV up to this point in the race, moved ahead of the other turbos by taking a bite south, while ZEPhYRUS worked above the rhumb line. Among Division II sleds, GRAND ILLUSION, who had moved into first place overall on corrected time the previous day, continued to dominate. The Division III leader was GONE WITH THE WIND, a highly modified SC 50 from the Bay Area. Among the 40 footers, the battle was between GREAT SCOT and TOWER. The Cruising Division leader was HURRICANE with ESPRIT second in class.
The next couple of days saw good winds combined with squalls and very dark nights. There were great opportunities for gains by playing the favored gybe, and the boats that worked to the south seemed to fare better.
On the night of July 10 at 9:41:27 p.m. Hawaiian time, PYEWACKET crossed the finish line off Diamond Head light for a new elapsed time record of 7 days, 11 hours, 41 minutes and 27 seconds, shaving 3 3/4 hours off the record she set in 1997. MAGNITUDE finished a little less than 2 hours later, also breaking the old record and ZEPHYRUS finished another 3 hours later. Along the way, MAGNITUDE broke the 24 hour run record with a new record of 353 nautical miles.
The winner of the Governor of Hawaii Trophy and the King Kalakaua Trophy for fastest overall corrected time was the Division II winner, the 13 year old Santa Cruz 70, GRAND ILLUSION, that finished shortly before 1:00 p.m. on July 11. GRAND ILLUSION sailed the last 150 miles with a large horizontal rip in the mainsail with the sail being held together only by the leech cord.
Among the other class winners were GONE WITH ThE WIND (Division III), GREAT SCOT (Division IV), HURRICANE in the Cruising Class and TWO GUYS On THE EDGE in the Double-handled division. The last boat to finish, VAPOR, finished in 18 days, 8 hours after having been out of radio contact for virtually the whole race.
- Written by Jerry Montgomery, J/C Commodore
The 39th Transpacific Yacht race will forever be known as one of the Outstanding races in Transpac history. The race was again sponsored by the Kenwood Corporation, and attracted new, exciting entries, mirroring the latest develpments of yachting technology including: ZEPHYRUS, a Reichel/Pugh 75'; MAGNITUDE, an Andrews 70' Turbo, and VICKI, an Andrews 70' Turbo. As it turned out the race would ultimately be won, however, by repeating Transpac veterans, outstanding sailing, and excellent wind conditions.
Veteran record holder, MERLIN (sporting a canting keel), and refurbished RAGTIME were also part of the 38 entries for this race. Other noteworthy entries included: all woman crews on BAY WOLF and PEGASUS XIV; and SURVIVOR, an all-HIV positive crew, willing to challenge the sea. The race was started over a 9 day, 4 start, span to accommodate the vast differences in vessel speeds. The monohull starts were: June 28th Cruising Class from 35' to 52'; July 2nd, smaller racing entries from 30' to 60'; July 5th, larger racing entries from 60' to 75'. On July 7th, the multihull racers started and EXPLORER, having sailed directly from France without an engine, barely made it on time.
Early contestants started in light wind at Point Fermin, but the wind quickly built to a strong, steady 20 knots. This would be a good year – if it held. The early leader in the Cruising Class was Fred Frye’s SALSIPUEDES, a Tayana 52. By the second start, all the entries were praying for the winds to hold and the Pacific high to stay north. Immediately, Bob Lane’s MEDICINE MAN, a highly modified Andrews 56, started setting a record pace. SEA DANCER, SEAZ ThE MOMENT, and 2 GUYS ON ThE EDGE were forced to retire with varying problems. The third start, although slow, almost immediately followed with excellent winds. Unfortunately, three new Division I yachts, ZEPHYRUS, MAGNITUDE, and VICKI, all retired with mast failures within 48 hours. With a 3 day head start on the bigger monohulls, MEDICINE MAN, on record pace, would give the big boys a true greyhound to chase, turning in a 305 mile day.
Early leaders in the larger Division I class were the Turbos, Hal Ward’s CHEVAL (1995 Barn Door Defender), VICTORIA, and PYEWACKET, and MIRAGE, TAXI DANCER, plus venerable KATHMANDU in the S/C 70, Division II. By the time the multihulls started two days later, it was apparent this would be a record breaker due in part to a tropical storm off Mexico. The multihulls led by Bruno Peyrone’s EXPLORER, a huge 86' catamaran and Steve Fossett’s LAKOTA, a Jeaneau 60', the defending Champion, began an epic battle to catch the fleet, while DOUBLE BULLET retired shortly when she lost the top portion of her mast.
In fact, SALSIPUEDES, the cruiser, and MEDICINE MAN, with their respective head starts, were also racing for “first place at the dock.” On July 10th, MEDICINE MAN passed SALSIPUEDES less than 10 miles from the finish at Diamond Head and began the string of record-breaking finishes by bettering Merlin’s 20-year old record of 8 days, 11 hours, 01 minutes, 46 seconds, by 4 1/2 hours. SALSIPUEDES would finish under 28 minutes later, winning the new Overton Perpetual Trophy for best Cruising Class Corrected Time Yacht.
However, everyone was still watching the record pace of the Turbos, led by VICTORIA’s 337 mile record 24 hour run, LUNA BARBA at 319, MERLIN at 327, CHEVAL at 331, and PYEWACKET at 336. ExPLORER and LAKOTA each sailed the first half of the 2,225 mile distance in less than 3 days.
Indeed, the big cat, EXPLORER, would overhaul and pass the record-setting monohulls to finish in 5 days, 9 hours, 18 minutes and 26 seconds, in record time winning the new Rudy Choy Trophy for best multihull elapsed time by averaging 17.2 knots, followed closely by LAKOTA.
No one waited more impatiently than Roy E. Disney, veteran of 11 consecutive Transpac races, confined to a dock-side seat due to an auto collision injury, as his PYEWACKET, skippered by his son, Roy Pat, and navigated by Stan Honey, slid into the lead of the Turbo class. Ultimately, the new two day old monohull elapsed time record would be shattered by five more boats: MERLIN 8 days, 3 hours; LUNA BARBA 8 days, 1 hour; VICTORIA 7 days, 21 hours; CHEVAL 7 days, 20 hours; and best of all, averaging 12 knots, by Barn Door Trophy Winner PYEWACKET with a new Transpac record of 7 days, 15 hours, 24 minutes, 40 seconds.
KATHMANDU, chartered by Jaconi, Hitchcock & Thompson, both arrived and corrected out 17 minutes ahead of MIRAGE in Division II. With all the records being set, another veteran, Jerry Montgomery, would have the final laugh. He chartered the ancient S/C 50, RALPHIE, and along with owner John Latiolait, won the King Kalakua Trophy, presented by the Governor of Hawaii with a 9 day, 5 hour run, correcting out (7 days, 00 hours, 15 minutes, 51 seconds) on the entire fleet as well as over MEDICINE MAN and STEALTH CHICKEN in Division III. PEGASUS XIV recorded the first placing in the final standings by an all-woman crew, taking second to ACEY DEUCY, in Division IV. Veteran RAGTIME, a Barn Door Trophy winner in 1973 finished her 11th Transpac with her best time ever. It should be noted in addition to Disney (in almost every way a participant) Avery, Durgin, Haines, Honey, Jourdane, Sinclair and Tretter, seven Directors of the Transpacific Yacht Club, were on board various racers and the three flag officers, Jones, Edgcomb and Martin were at all the starts and finishes.
In all, it was a magnificent race that set high new standards for the future.
- H. Gilbert Jones, Commodore
The 1995 Transpac, as in the past, was sponsored by Kenwood Corporation. Hawaiian Airlines was the official airline. It was a traditional race to Honolulu with four innovative changes to respond to the yachting world. These included: deriving a Transpac rating system from IMS data for all entrants; setting the upper limit equal to the new ILC-70 configuration; inviting certain monohull and multihull vessels as “Guests”; starting a double handed class; and allowing Category B commercially sponsored entrants. The resulting mix included the ILC-70 of Larry Ellison, SAYONARA; a Whitbread 60, Neil Barth’s AMERICA’S ChALLENGE; two “Turbo-sleds”; and two “multihulls” in the fleet of 38. Twenty-one yachts exceeded 60 feet in length.
The starts were again staggered over 6 days, including the multihulls. Winds were moderate along the coast, but there was a large area of 0-5 knot winds 300 miles out. Early starters hit this wall, and ended up recording very slow going (MOUNTAIN OYSTER 43 km, ANTARA 51 km). The Pacific high seemed nearly fixed, due north of Hawaii. The effect was to preserve MERLIN’s elapsed time record, dictate light air sailing for most entrants, and to create rationing of water and supplies for some. SOlUTION, a SC-40, elected to withdraw after 8 days.
Once past the hole, the trades filled and grew to 20 knots, causing HATSU to lose her rig and withdraw. The race coverage (now on internet) quickly focused on the first-to-finish battle with the Turbo-sleds of Hal Ward, CHEVAL, and Roy Disney, PYEWACKET, jousting with SAYONARA, and guest WINDQUEST of the DeVos family. Over eight days of close racing CHEVAL built a 70 mile lead, and her 24 hour run of 322 miles just missed BLONDIE’s 1987 record of 323 miles. On the last jibe, 35 miles from the finish, a backstay broke and the mast followed into the sea. Avoiding the coast of Molokai (3/4 of a mile) the crew built a jury rig within 45 minutes and sailed the remaining distance at over 8 knots to finish in 9 days, 1 hour, 32 minutes to beat WINDQUEST by 1 hour, 22 minutes. MERLIN, in her 10th race, under charter to Dan Sinclair of Vancouver, B.C., became the first “International” yacht to correct out First Overall.
Nine standard 70' sleds had an extremely close covering contest. The first four, MIRAGE, EVOlUTION, ORIENT EXPRESS and MONGOOSE, finished within 53 minutes of each other. MIRAGE took the win.
Veteran JUMPIN’ JACK FLASH took Division 3 over a fleet of ten 50' entries, while DADDABOAT took First in the reduced Division 4. AIR STRIPPER, a J-35, took First in Division 5 in 14 days, 6 hours, 46 minutes over ANTARA, a Cal-40, Ms.“Tail-end Charlie”.
Mike Howard was awarded the Don Vaughn Trophy, and Mark Rudiger repeated as the Best Navigator. Crews included numerous internationally known sailors such as Paul Cayard, John Kolius, Ross MacDonald, Geoff Stagg, John Bertrand, Dave Scully, and Kimo Worthington.
Steve Fossett’s LAKOTA, a 60' Trimaran, set a new record of 6 days, 16 hours, 7 minutes for invited guest multihulls, beating Bob Hanel’s DOUBLE BULLET and showing the potential for future races.
- Craig Brown, Historian
The 1994 Tahiti Race may well go down in the record books as the World’s longest Match Race. While a dozen boats expressed early interest in the race, only SORCERY and KATHMANDU crossed the starting line in Los Angeles harbor at 1310 on June 24, 1994. SORCERY, a Mull 82, was skippered by Jake Wood, a veteran of five Tahiti races. KATHMANDU, a Santa Cruz 70, was skippered by Fred Kirschner, an avid ULDB-70 racer. The boats were closely matched in terms of official ratings but quite different in design, with SORCERY displacing about three times as much as KATHMANDU. Both skippers were highly motivated to beat the course record (17d.07h.57m.55s.) set by TICONDEROGA in 1964.
For the first few days SORCERY was about a mile ahead, each boat reeling off 260 mile days. On the second night out, SORCERY jibed south, while KATHMANDU stayed on starboard tack heading West. The boats separated by as much as 300 miles. There was better wind farther West, and KATHMANDU opened up a lead it never relinquished. For KATHMANDU, the race was mostly a headsail reach with #2 and #3 genoa, and the chute was used for only 72 hours. KATHMANDU blew out her mainsail three days before the finish and sailed without it for 24 hours while being repaired. KATHMANDU crossed the finish line off Pointe Venus on July 9 after 14d.21h.15m.26s. (time allowance was based on a formula developed by Tom Wilder and Olin Stephens), averaging 10 knots, and SORCERY on July 10 after 16d.0h.49m.12s., but not in time to save her time allowance of 14.1178. Although both boats beat “Big Ti’s” record, KATHMANDU established a new course record taking 2d.l0h. off Ti’s record.
The 37th running of the Transpacific Yacht race was actually four races in one. Due to the large disparity of boat speeds within the fleet of 42, it was decided to stagger the start over a four day period to try to equalize the finishing dates. The results were mixed due to mother nature and the Pacific high playing a fickle hand with most entrants. Kenwood Corporation, again, sponsored the event.
The fleet had been opened up to a wide variety of yachts by including PHRF as well as IOR and IMS ratings. Ultimate results IOR 17 (13-70' sleds), PHRF 16 (including 9 sleds) and IMS 9.
The fleet included MORNING GLORY, an Ultra-Hi-Tech Reichel-Pugh 50 designed to IMS; a traditional Cal-40, ANTARA with an all-woman crew; and RAGE, a cold molded Wylie 70 of a radical rake.
The first start on June 30th at Point Fermin had light winds that pointed out the vast differences in yacht design. PATRIOT, an IOR 40' one-tonner, took a fast start with J-35s close on her heels while HMS ORIOLE, a 72 year old Canadian naval vessel of 102' overall, could not start for nearly an hour. Once all entrants were on the course, the Pacific high remained to the far north resulting in rhumb line being the favored course. The faster vessels, led by SILVER BULLET, quickly overtook the slower boats with a good race for first-to-finish with MORNING GLORY, which had a 24 hour head start. Uncharacteristic of previous Transpacs, many vessels found the favored course a close reach under head sail. Even though light conditions prevailed, three vessels experienced breakdowns requiring withdrawal near the California Coast. The thirteen 70' sleds had an excellent race. SILVER BULLET won on first-to-finish at 9 days, 9 hours, 11 minutes, 17 seconds and corrected over ORIENT EXPRESS and VICTORIA. MORNING GLORY had an excellent boat-for-boat race with PERSUASION for IMS A and sweep of corrected times; but ended up finishing 1 hour 35 minutes after SILVER BULLET. RAGE corrected out over MERLIN for PHRF A while ORIOLE came back to first in PHRF C. Bob Lane with a new MEDICINE MAN captured IOR B, and JUMPIN’ JACK FLASH took PHRF B over eight 50 footers, while “Tail-end Charlie” was VENDETTA of Wellington, New Zealand.
An emphasis on professional yachtspersons on major boats was in keeping with present trends, including Chris Dickson (VICTORIA), Dee Smith (MORNING GLORY), John Jourdane and Mark Rudiger (SILVER BULLET). Jeff Madrigali (SILVER BULLET) was the winner of the Don Vaughn Trophy.
Transpac ’91 had 42 yachts departing this year for the islands in the form of two separate starts on two different days. Eleven yachts started the race on June 27th in very light air and 31 yachts started the race of June 29th with a stiff westerly blowing at about 15 knots!
The reason behind the double start was to try and have all of the participants finish a little closer together in Hawaii.
There were 12 IMS Class Yachts and 28 IOR Class Yachts in total. As in the past couple of years, the larger and faster sleds in the form of both 50’s and 70’s created the larger classes. In all, there were 20 large sleds, and 11 fifty footers.
The weather for Transpac ’91 was relatively light air, overcast with lots of rain the entire race. The average wind velocity was 10 to 15 knots with calm seas. Many of the competitors reported no wind for hours on end.
The Santa Cruz 70 CHANCE, owned by Robert Mcnulty, led the race in the IOR Division wire to wire. They started first, sailed to the West End of Catalina in two hours and one minute and finished first, 9 days, 21 hours, 59 minutes and 35 seconds after starting. The next boat to finish was SILVEr BULLET, some two and a half hours later.
MERLIN, the Bill Lee designed 67 foot record holder for the race, was remeasured under the IMS rule for this year’s race and was first-to-finish in their division with an elapsed time of 10 days, 5 hours, 18 minutes, and 8 seconds. RAGTIME was second to finish in the IMS division about an hour behind MERLIN.
WAVE RUNNER, the Custom 48, ended up winning on corrected time to be first in IMS-A and first in IMS fleet.
KOTUKU was first in IMS-B and second in fleet.
Recapping the race, basically the boats that sailed the shortest course (closest to the rhumb line) would have more wind, sail less miles and should win the race! That is in essence what all of the class and overall winners did.
For CHANCE it was a great victory as they were able to hoist the broom to the masthead signifying a clean sweep (first-to-finish, first-in-class A, first overall) which has only been done twice before in Transpac history! Once in 1936 by DORADE and once in 1971 by WINDWARD PASSAGE.
The Don Vaughn Memorial Trophy for the best crew member on the first-to-finish yacht went to Marshall “Duffy” Duffield.
In closing, a good time was had by all and most competitors are looking forward to Transpac 1993.
- Dennis Durgan
Much of the finishing excitement occurred during the night-time hours, in the glare of the Diamond Head searchlight instead of under the warm Hawaiian sun. The first excitement was four “maxis” charging down the channel in their final sprint for first-to-finish, crossing the line within a span of less than thirty-seven minutes! The elapsed time intervals between yachts were: 17 minutes (between 1st and 2nd), 7 minutes (between 2nd and 3rd), and 13 minutes (between 3rd and 4th). The finishing order of those four was SILVER BULLET, BLONDIE, TAXI DANCER and MONGOOSE.
Before dawn another four maxis were ready to party at Ala Wai. They were: CHANCE, DRUMBEAT, RAGTIME and EVOLUTION. This may make it sound like a maxi-dominated race; however, as has happened many times before in modern Transpac history, one of the smaller IOR classes saved her time and won the canoe. She was also a night time finisher, NOTORIOUS.
The third night time event off Diamond Head was a tragic one: Only a few hundred yards before the finish line, MEDICINE MAN, a Class C yacht which appeared to be in contention for 1st or 2nd overall on corrected time, went on the reef off Diamond head. All six persons aboard were rescued, but did not escape injury. The next morning a tug was able to pull MEDICINE MAN off the reef and tow her to the repair yard at Ala Wai Yacht Basin.
A post-race event which made headlines was the loss of PANDEMONIUM’s keel on the way back to San Francisco and the fortunate rescue of her delivery crew. About a year later her hull was sighted, drifting upside down toward Hawaii, but it has not so far been recovered.
- Commodore Frank K. Mallory
Transpac ’87 had all the classic elements: an extremely competitive 55-boat fleet, hard sailing the first few days, incredible mid-Pacific surfing, several new records set, a dramatic rescue, and close finishes. The only thing lacking was wind in thefinal days of the race.
After sorting out from an aggressive light-air start July 2, the fleet got around Catalina’s west end in a building westerly that increased all night. By the first morning’s roll call the boats were setting a blistering rail-down pace that increased over the next five days.
Major interest was on the Class A fleet which comprised of eleven ultra-light maxi sleds. Gunning for MERLIN’s 1977 record, the 70-raters had an incredible race. They were soon ahead of MERLIN’s 1977 track and, as the tradewinds increased into the 25-30 knot range halfway through the race, it seemed all of them would break the record. During this two days of heavy tradewind sailing, the maxis surfed at speeds up to 23 knots. They all shattered MERLIN’s 1977 day’s run record of 304 miles. Pat Farrah’s BLONDIE created a new Transpac record by scoring three consecutive 300 mile days. The Santa Cruz 70 posted runs of 306, 323 and 300 miles. During this period of hard sailing, none of the boats suffered serious damage.
By the sixth day out, the Pacific high expanded and the strong trades gradually diminished. The maxis sailed the last 600 miles to Honolulu in 14-18 knot winds. And a few days later, the rest of the fleet struggled with less than 10 knots of breeze. The first-to-finish race remained very close as the Class A fleet came within 400 miles of Diamond Head. Eight of the eleven maxi boats were still in contention for line honors, but as the wind made a persistent shift to the east, Donn Campion’s MERLIN worked north for a perfect angle to Honolulu. A definite dark horse against 10 newer maxis, MERLIN worked some magic when she flew past Diamond Head first, just after 10 p.m. HST, July 10. The 10-year-old boat missed her own record by just 64 minutes and became the third boat in Transpac history to score three elapsed time victories.
Don Ayres’ Nelson/Marek 68 DRUMBEAT was second to finish, an hour behind MERLIN, correcting out on the Bill Lee boat and winning Class A overall. The margin was close however. PANDEMONIUM, a Nelson/Marek 66 sailed by Bill Packer and Dennis Durgan, was third across the line 33 minutes behind DRUMBEAT. since DRUMBEAT owed PANDEMONIUM 27 minutes on corrected time, Durgan and his crew missed winning Class A by just six minutes.
Therest of the Class A fleet finished within six hours. Three days later, when thelast of the Class D boats failed to savetheir time on DRUMBEAT, Ayres was declared the overall winner of Transpac ’87. Class A boats swept thefirsteight places overall. PANDEMONIUM missed first overall to DRUMBEAT by that same six-minute margin making for the closest overall win margin in Transpac history. Light winds at the finish and a shortened handicap distance allowed the Class A boats to win for the first time since the ’75 race.
Class B was won by Charles Jacobson’s Santa Cruz 50 ALLURE, which broke the previous Santa Cruz 50 race record by more than nine hours. Bill Twist’s 47-foot IOR boat BLADE RUNNER won Class C despite an incredible mid-Pacific round-down that blew out three sails at once. Top boat in Class D was Rod Park’s one tonner JAZZ. For a few days a serious contender for the overall prize, JAZZ’s crew was let down by the wind 200 miles from the finish and ended up 10th overall behind the Class A boats and AllURE.
Transpac ’87 proved that MERLIN’s 10-year-old record of 08:11:04:45 can easily be broken if conditions are right. And the race also reaffirmed what Transpac veterans never forget: when the tradewinds blow, the race to Honolulu is sailing’s best.
- Brad Avery
NOTE: MERLIN’s first-to-finish run was briefly threatened a day out of Honolulu when a crew member fell off the stern as the boat was surfing at 12 knots. After immediately rounding up and dropping the spinnaker, the man was recovered. MERLIN was squared away and back up to racing speed in 18 minutes. For their well-executed effort, MERLIN’s crew was awarded the Steve Newmark Seamanship Trophy.
From the starting line off Point Fermin, everyone knew that Transpac ’85 was going to be different. A spinnaker start in a southeasterly is not the norm. neither was the expanded size of the Pacific high or reports of light winds along the tradewind route to Honolulu.
But the fleet of 64 boats reached out into the Pacific with hopes that the north Pacific weather pattern would work back to normal in a day or two. Instead, it got worse. The first five days of Transpac ’85 were the slowest since the 1939 race. The ’85 Transpac fleet was extremely competitive — nearly two-thirds of the boats were less than two years old. Most noticeable were eight new ultra-light maxi raters: CITIUS, KATHMANDU, BLONDIE, DRUMBEAT, CHEETAH, PANDEMONIUM, PRIMA and SWIFTSURE III. Added with Transpac veterans MERLIN, RAGTIME, and SAGA, this made for a very hot 11-boat first-to-finish class.
Seven Santa Cruz 50’s headed Class B, which also included two Santa Cruz 40’s, two Nelson/Marek 55’s, a Farr 55, a Davidson 52, a Barnett 52 and a few big IOR boats. But it was MAGIC, ex-SUNSET BlVD (previous class winner), that won this impressive class. Designed by Eva Hollmann, MAGIC was skippered by James Hoskinson of Cal Yacht Club.
Class C was very mixed. Boats ranged from sIr ISAAC, a 49 foot schooner, to previous class winners ARRIBA and TOMAHAWK, three 40-foot ultra lights, five IOR boats, and three out-and-out cruising boats. At the bottom of the class were three new Express 37’s. These untested boats put in a dazzling performance taking the top three spots with Kent Greenough’s SECRET OF NIMH winning.
Class D again produced the top overall boats. MONTGOMERY STREET, a 20-year old CAL 40 racing in her eighth Transpac — her seventh under owner James Denning, this time with son Dave Denning as skipper — won overall honors. The much-modified Richmond Yacht Club boat sailed the 2,225 mile course in 13 days, six and a half hours. Finishing two hours behind MONTGOMERY STREET for second in Class D and second overall was Dean Treadway’s Farr 36 SWEET OKOLE. TREADWAY and OKOLE were first overall in the 1981 race.
Most of the interest in the 1985 race, however, was riding with Class A. How fast were these new 70-raters? Could they break the record set by MERLIN in 1977 when she rated 90? The 33rd Transpac wasn’t going to give us the answers. Four days out, the downwind flyers weren’t a match for millions of Portuguese man-of-war that passed them by on a glassy sea. The maxi’s had split up with four boats heading south and the rest hanging on the rhumb line. For a few days the rhumb line looked good. Then on the fifth day, the southern maxi’s made 75 more miles than the northern ones. When the tradewind sailing finally began after six days of nursing zephyrs, the southern boats, led by Nick and Bob Frazee’s Nelson/Marek 69 SWIFTSURE III, remained 75 miles closer to Honolulu for the rest of the race.
While the tradewinds were certainly welcome, they didn’t blow hard enough to really break the big boats loose. And the few squalls that did appear were relatively windless — unlike the monsters of previous years.
With Keith Simmon’s Nelson/Marek 68 PRIMA less than five miles astern, SWIFTSURE III passed the Diamond Head buoy just before dawn after 10 days, 19 hours, and 21 minutes of racing. SWIFTSURE’s time was more than two days off MERLIN’s eight day, 11 hour record set in 1977. so 1987 will have to be the year for true 70-rater surfing competition. saved by the trades in the last half, Transpac ’85 won’t go down in history as the slowest race. It was, however, very competitive… and in a sense more difficult as yachts scratched for all the speed possible from the available winds. It was not the thriller everyone dreams of, but again… a race of pride and accomplishment.
The fleet that came to the starting line for the 1983 race to Honolulu was an exceptional one. Of the 66 entries, 50 had been built in the last four and one-half years — half of these 50 in the last eighteen months. So it was a very new fleet and therefore a quite competitive one. In the end, though, as has happened so often in the past, the deciding factors prove to be choice of course and the weather.
During the final week before the race, the Pacific high presented a very discouraging picture. As late as Thursday evening, when the U.S. Weather service representative gave his final report to the crews and skippers at the Instruction Dinner, he was apologizing for the prospective lack of wind and suggested that everyone take a hard look at the southern course.
By Saturday morning, July 2, prospects for wind in the Catalina Channel were still dismal, but there was one bright spot. A small craft advisory was posted for the outer waters from Point Conception to the Mexican border.
The start at 1300 PDT went off without incident, but it was 1750 before sAGA, the lead boat, rounded the West End—three hours behind the pace set in 1981.
From this point on, however, wind conditions for the race proved to be as favorable as anyone could wish. unfortunately, most of the skippers, still psyched out by the prerace forecast, fell off to the south after rounding Catalina. All this maneuver brought them was the disadvantage of sailing farther, but no faster. The few mavericks, led by BRAVURA, who refused to believe the weatherman, headed down the rhumb line. They were the ones that were going to collect most of the hardware.
Two boats, SAGA and NIGHT TRAIN, were knocked out of the race during the first 20 hours, but for the next several days the fleet encountered no problems. Then on Friday night, July 8, things began to happen. Four boats lost man-overboard gear. At 0300 sunday, KATHMANDU was dismasted. Three more boats were going to be knocked out of competition during the final days of the race — one by dismasting, two with lost rudders. In addition, there were many other instances of bent spinnaker poles, broken booms and assorted gear failures.
Practically all these mishaps took place during the night. The Trade Winds this year were not extraordinarily strong, 18-25 knots. neither were the seas exceptionally large. But there were an abnormal number of rain squalls, possibly because of El Niño, carrying winds of up to 40 knots at their center.
These weather conditions were quite manageable during the daylight hours. nighttime was an entirely different matter. With no moon, and no starlight under the continually overcast skies, sailing the boats became extremely difficult. The darkness was so intense there was no way of knowing the squalls were coming until they hit and by that time it was too late to do anything but hang on. Many helmsmen developed vertigo and became disoriented. some crews even put two men on the steering operation, one to watch the binnacle and call out compass headings, the other to watch the sails and steer.
Under the circumstances, it is not surprising that knockdowns and round-ups during the night became commonplace. Practically every boat suffered at least one and some had as many as five. several others had round-downs as well. The crews on the ULDB’s took a particular beating. In fact, some reached such a point of exhaustion they quit carrying spinnakers during the night.
LIBALIA TOO’s crew, through all this, turned in a damage control and jury-rigging performance that not only won them second place in Class D but the Steve Newmark Seamanship Trophy as well.
In spite of some wild nights, the 1983 race was a fast race; not quite as fast as 1981, but fast enough. Forty five boats finished in less than 12 days, a time period that marked for many years the watershed between a fast passage and an average one. BRAVURA’s elapsed time was only 47 minutes slower than her time in 1981 when she won First Place in Class B.
As noted above, the closer onestayed to therhumb linethe better one did. BRAVURA hardly strayed at all from this course based on the computer data from the daily position reports, she traveled only 2235 miles to cover the 2225 mile rhumb line course. CHARLEY, by contrast, logged 2302 nautical miles and her first-to-finish elapsed time was 15 hours slower than MERLIN’s in 1981. Part of this differential could be accounted for in the slow start of the 1983 race. But a far larger part was the result of CHARLEY’s longer course.
So the 1983 race proved once again that while the southern route to Diamond Head often pays off, the shortest distance between two points can also be the fastest.
The 1981 race was one of the great ones. There were enough thrills, chills, and spills to satisfy everyone—steady winds all the way, two men overboard, a rescued crew from a broken up catamaran, a record-breaking passage attempt that failed by 46 seconds, four disabled rudders, two dismastings, and the longest boat-for-boat, headto-head duel in Transpac history.
The start was scheduled for 1300 PDT Friday, July 3. In contrast to the normal pattern of Transpac starts, the westerly began to fill in early this year, and by race time it was blowing 12 to 15 knots; later in the afternoon, it increased to 18 knots.
A few minutes before the start, the 1981 race witnessed its first casualty. The J-36 GRYPHON, sailing up the line on the port tack, was passing under the 58 foot ketch, NATOMA, as she was coming down the line on the starboard tack. As the smaller boat hit the wind shadow of the larger, she righted suddenly, locked rigging with the Ketch’s mizzen mast and was dismasted.
The first night had hardly begun before things started happening. One of the catamarans in the six boat multi-hull fleet, which had started its own honolulu race that afternoon, broke up around 9:00 p.m. somewhere southeast of San Nicholas Island. The six crewmen were rescued by Willard Bell’s WESTWARD, which had sighted a red flare close aboard. WESTWARD carried the crew the rest of the way to honolulu under very crowded conditions, and thus were denied any chance of placing in the race in spite of a special time allowance. By Sunday night, three of the racing boats had dropped out: REGARDLESS with a rigging failure, RODEO DRIVE dismasted from backstay failure; and DRIFTER with rudder problems.
The night of July 9 was overcast and darker than the inside of your hat. At 2330, TRAVIESO, out of San Diego, was running before the Trades under spinnaker and main. The boat’s partially bagged blooper lying on the foredeck appeared to be in danger of washing overboard. Joe Neale went forward to stow the sail, but before it could be secured it went over, carrying the lifeline stanchion with it—followed by Joe Neale. Bruce Nelson, the first man to come up on deck, released the life ring, then took a position beside the compass so he could maintain a reciprocal bearing on the strobe light on the man overboard pole. The life ring had dropped within 100 feet of Neale, so he was able to reach it in about two minutes. At 2355, 17 minutes after Neale had gone overboard, the relieved crew of the TRAVIESO fished him out of the water.
At roll call on July 10, MERLIN reported a new Transpac record daily run of 304 miles. This broke her old record of 302 miles which she had set in the 1977 race. The next big question was whether or not she would break her own record of 8:11:01. She had to average 11.45 knots to do it. On July 11, MERLIN charged through the search-lights at the finish line running down the swells at close to 20 knots, but she was just 46 seconds too short. Time of the finish was 9:02:31 p.m. HST. Her total elapsed time was 8:11:02:31.
At 10:54 sunday morning, RAGTIME finished with a demonstration of how to sail down the Molokai Channel the hard way—no spinnaker, no main, no rudder; just twin headsails, wing and wing, on two spinnaker poles. The Santa Cruz 50 fleet began to come in early Monday morning led by HANA HO and SHANDU at 1:55 and 1:57 HST, respectively. OCTAVIA surprised a lot of folks by sneaking in from out of nowhere at 5:27. OAXACA finished at 6:40 and SECRET LOVE at 10:34. CHASCH MER came in at 12:47, trailed by NIGHT TRAIN at 16:02 that afternoon.
As a commentary on modern boat design, it is interesting to note the following. In 1923, the 107 foot Gloucesterman Schooner, MARINER, set a Honolulu Race record of 11:14:46:00, which stood for 26 years until four boats in the 1949 race bested her time. In the nine races between 1923 and 1949, 125 entries had failed to match MARINER’s record. now in 1981, 26 boats —approximately one-third of the fleet-had accomplished this feat. Furthermore, another six boats were to finish within an hour and 10 minutes of MARINER’s time. The last of these, WESTWARD, with fourteen people aboard, came in at 1:55:30 Wednesday morning, for an elapsed time of 11:15:55:10.
SWEET OKOLE’s performance was even more outstanding. Dean Treadway and his Bay Area crew were not only the first Class D boat to finish, but they had beaten all but two of the Class C boats into Diamond Head, as well as ten Class B’s and one Class A. In the process, they were about to win first in Class D and First Overall. The 1981 race had been one of the fastest in history. The Pacific high had cooperated by maintaining a stable, favorable position throughout the race. The winds had been steady, but not too strong, ranging from 10 to 25, except for two temporary lulls on the mornings of July 13 and 14. The tradewind squalls had been frequent — about half of them containing rain — but the peak gusts rarely, if ever, exceeded 35 knots. under these wind conditions, it is not surprising that the rhumb line course proved to be the best. In the final analysis, the 1981 race had to go down as one of the great ones, right alongside 1949, 1955, 1965, 1969 and 1977. The race had a lion’s share of great boats, great crews and great sailing. like a great round of golf, it left almost everyone eager to have at it again. The lord willing, they’ll get their chance in 1983.
- Excerpts from Transpac History by Jack Smock
The Thirtieth Honolulu Race set several new records, though not including speed! It had the largest fleet, probably the finest fleet, and the largest foreign entry list.
The start, west of Point Fermin, was in little wind, which quickly turned to a fresh northwest breeze and by morning roll call from uss PRAIRIE, record first-day runs were posted; some over 200 miles. Considering that the first day is only 19 hours, that’s a record. Two boats, NIAD and TAHUNA dropped out off of Catalina with rigging failures.
After three fast days, the high expanded over the rhumb line and our fleet ground to a halt. some of the fleet gambled and sailed into the high where they spent some wearisome days. A few fell off to the south and caught wind.
First-to-finish was DRIFTER, skippered by Harry C. Moloscho with an elapsed time of 11 days, 18 hrs., 1 min. and 4 sec.
Navy participation with the Escort during the first half of the race was very gratifying. Coast Guard Communications station honolulu took over roll call after uss PRAIRIE went into port. The navy Marine Corps Mars radio system forwarded the roll call and handicap reports both to the mainland and island stations. Though a slow race, enthusiasm remained high and another record was broken — the Trophy Dinner was attended by 1,500 people. At the Dinner, the true spirit of international goodwill was exhibited between the crews of ARRIBA, MIYAKADORI, HMCs ORIOLE and others with toasts presented at each table. Just after the floor show of the dinner, Bill Nickerson’s NIMBLE docked as “Tail-end Charlie.”
Outstanding in the memory of your Commodore, is the cooperation and involvement of so many members of Transpac as well as the Honolulu Committee, who make this race successful and such a pleasure to both participate in and to administer.
The Eleventh Tahiti race was sailed by four boats. The start was conducted from Harold Barneson’s DRUMMUIR with winds of 8 to 10 knots which got the fleet around Catalina before the afternoon winds died. SORCERY took an early lead and seesawed with TULA on corrected positions. SORCERY found the Inter-Tropical Convergence (the Doldrums) about the 8th day about 8° north latitude. She regained some speed after only half a day of slatting and took off again with a three-day lead on the rest. TULA and WESTWARD were stuck there longer to do some tacking to find wind again. CELEBRATION really ground to a halt, but after two days, one just sitting, another on a side trip, she got going. her corrected finish time compared well with the actual elapsed time of the scratch boat SORCERY. The Tahiti Committee, composed of members of the Yacht Club de Tahiti, was chaired by Patrick Bonnette and Christian Regaud was Finish Race Chairman.
The Trophy Presentation was held at the residence of the High Commissioner of French Polynesia, Paul Cousseran, who was in Paris, but his beautiful and charming wife hosted Transpacific Yacht Club for cocktails at noon. The race Communications were tremendously enhanced by the Transpac Race's long-time friend, Ray Natua, our Tahiti radioman. Each morning, Ray would call us at the hotel and give us the daily positions received from Brian Carter aboard TULA, so handicapper Tom Wilder could compute the corrected times. Ray spent hours each day relaying reports, filling in on weather information and assisting in various arrangements. To our great sorrow, Ray Natua passed away suddenly later in the year.
Even though the Tahiti Race was sailed by a small fleet, we continue to show our burgee in dramatic ports.
The 29th Transpac Race was a race of new records both glad and sad. The glad part was the new records that were set and the sad part was the record number of dismastings, all of which occurred on a single night.
Sixty-nine fine, highly competitive yachts started the race off Point Fermin on July 2. Thanks to Grant Baldwin, our race Committee Chairman, who made this all possible. More records were broken than in any previous Transpac Race: Bill Lee’s MERLIN set a new elapsed-time record of 8 days 11 hrs. 1 min. 45 sec. Harry Moloschco's DRIFTER, Mark Johnson’s WINDWARD PASSAGE, Jim Kilroy’s KIALOA , and Bill White and Bill Pasquini’s RAGTIME all beat the old record of 9 days 9 hrs. 6 min. 48 sec. set by WINDWARD PASSAGE in 1971. A record of which we were not particularly proud was the fact that five yachts broke their masts in a single night on July 9th, namely: Larry Brugin’s NAlU IV, Bill Nickerson’s NIMBLE, Chick Leson’s INCREDIBLE, Richard Daniels’ CONCUBINE and MISTRESS III, sailed by a team from UCI under the direction of Robert Koll. According to our best information, a new record for a single day’s run of 306 miles was set by MERLIN.
According to our computer-nut and statistician, Tom Wilder, the boats went about 5% faster than usual, and this was made possible by consistent winds from start to finish. Except for the one night, the winds were not particularly excessive, according to most of the skippers but there was no time when the boats slowed down at all.
Our new handicap rule worked well in view of the fact that many of the boats finished within minutes, and even seconds, of each other on corrected time, and in several cases the difference between being in the money and out was a matter of seconds. We should all give a bow to George Griffith and his technical committee for coming up with a handicap rule that truly made it possible for like boats to race against each other on what I believe to be, in all or most cases, a very fair and equitable basis.
A look at the official results shows it was easy to see who the logical money winners were, with KIALOA in Division 1 and MERLIN in Division 2, taking home the majority of the hardware. The International Cup for First Foreign Yacht on corrected time was won by Hector Valarde, with BlUE STREAK, sailing for the Waikiki Yacht Club of Peru; the Harold Dillingham Memorial Trophy for the First Hawaiian Yacht on corrected time was won by Peter Arapoff, with L'ALLEGRO, sailing for the Hawaii Yacht Club. On one particular day within a 24-hour period, some 26 boats finished and several finished almost simultaneously. This happened to be a day when an unusual surf was running, which would come in sets of 8 to 10 waves that would crest right across the entrance to Ali Wai, so there were periods of time when the boats would be held out until the surf would calm down and the groups would come in together, which compounded the mooring problems. In spite of this, everything went like clockwork.
The Awards Dinner at the Ilikai, arranged and supervised by Connie smales and her crew, was outstanding as usual, with the complete race in profile on the walls, from the start at Point Fermin to the finish off Diamond Head. There were small buoys on each table and a big one flashing in the swimming pool. This dinner was attended by 1,587 people, some of whom became a bit overly enthusiastic. But in spite of that, all went extremely well, thanks to Connie’s organization.
Dale Mogle, our General Chairman in Honolulu, and his wife, Jo, who was in charge of the information center, worked around the clock doing an outstanding job. Dale Mogle met every boat that came in, assisting and tying it up and welcoming the crews to Hawaii.
There were just too many dedicated people who did outstanding jobs to be able to name them all, so all I can do is to say to one and all who contributed, a sincere “thanks” from the officers, directors and members of Transpac.
The Wind Gods did not smile favorably on our racers this year, and as a result the first boat to finish took more than twenty-one days, and the last, over twenty-seven. The first slow period was within about 400 miles of the start and was so bad that one day the greatest distance traveled by any racer was only sixty miles, and this lasted for several days. Then there was another area below the equator that was as bad or worse. The race finally developed into two races, with NATOMA and BRAVURA having a boat-for-boat race and a fight for first-to-finish, and TINSLEY LIGHT and TENTATION having their own race and battling for third place. These two latter boats wound up sailing in totally different weather than the first two. If you can imagine it, the famous Trade Winds did stop blowing, so they had their own private dining match. TENTATION finally came in ahead of TINSLEY LIGHT and won third overall, with TINSLEY LIGHT as “Tail-end Charlie.”
By the way, TENTATION is a Carter 37, owned and skippered by Jean-Francois Lussan, of Papeete, who shipped her to Los Angeles in order to participate in the race. BRAVURA, the overall winner, is Irving Loube’s new Freers 48 that was launched only ten days before the starting gun. You all know Don Dalziel’s NATOMA that won first-to-finish honors and Hank Grandin’s TINSLEY LIGHT
The results of the race indicated that the Technical Committee did equate the yachts better than ever before, but still not enough to prevent CHUTZPAH from repeating her ’73 performance and winning first overall by over four hours from MAMIE. Also, the handicap did not prevent RAGTIME from being the first yacht to finish, but did place her 52 overall.
RAGTIME finishing was a new thrill for me. We were out there in a powerboat to tow yachts to the yacht basin, and as long as RAGTIME had her sails up there was no way we could catch up. seventeen knots in a big star Boat crossing Diamond Head was a sight to remember.
We did notice there were many cases of where the position of the yacht on her handicap position at the start of the race compared favorably with her position of finish on overall. There is much interest in dropping the overall winners and establishing only class positions. so much for the continual striving to make this race interesting to all racingcruising yachts, with everyone having an equal chance to pick up some hardware.
In every respect, this race was outstanding. The competitors were well experienced and there were no major mishaps. The weather could have been a little stronger in order to break the record. however, the yachts that took the southerly course did very well and finished well up in their class. I am certain that the stories told back at the yacht club will be most interesting.
Of considerable interest to the Committee each year is the award of the stephen newmark seamanship Trophy. This year, SWIFTSURE not only won the trophy for her achievement in the rescue of the yacht ATTORANTE (not an entry), but at the Trophy Dinner, won a standing ovation from all of the yachtsmen and crew. This was probably the greatest award any skipper could receive — a tribute from fellow yachtsmen for competent handling of a rescue operation. Thanks, Nick Frazee.
We tried to meet every boat and let them know we were on the job. However, by the time the 46th boat finished, they had been coming in fast and furious… less than an hour apart… and many times, three at once. With no sleep for 36 hours, we finally decided to let the next Commodore establish the record. It was good to be there and to hear first-hand of their experiences. All were happy to see their families and to receive the great welcome which is provided by the one and only Honolulu Committee. We cannot say enough about the wonderful service these people rendered. how they love to welcome the yachts!
The Trophy Dinner was another outstanding achievement. Governor Ariyoshi was present and presented the First Overall Trophy. Bud Thompson put the history of TransPac on the screen and drew a big applause
The 1973 running of the great Transpacific Yacht Club Race from Los Angeles to Honolulu will be remembered for what old salts agree was the most exciting elapsed time finish since the races started in 1906.
RAGTIME, a 62-foot sloop with six co-skippers aboard, nosed out record-holder WINDWARD PASSAGE by a mere 4 minutes and 31 seconds at the Diamond Head finish line. The “nosed out” phrase applies because Mark Johnson’s 73-foot ketch WINDWARD PASSAGE had been the front-runner in daily reports virtually from the excellent start by 60 yachts at Point Fermin, mid-day on July 4. her position in relation to Class A challenger BlACKFIN made news until RAGTIME took over the lead on July 13. RAGTIME lengthened the lead, then barely hung onto it dramatically for first-to-finish honors.
Meanwhile, the overall first place competition, to be decided on corrected time, mostly narrowed down to Class D boats.
First place had changed hands many times in the race, but it was the boldly named ChUTZPAH, which grabbed the lead and held on in the final days, which counted. She crossed the line early on July 17, just behind ARIANA, but with a corrected time of 8 days, 21 hours, 21 minutes and 50 seconds — good enough to push ARIANA into second overall.
Although no records were broken, the 27th running of the 2,225 mile grandaddy of all blue water races had excitement and colorful angles galore.
It even had a boat sink, but it happened after EAGLE had crossed the finish line. The 33-foot sloop, skippered by Larry K. Shorett of Seattle, made a midnight finish, but struck a reef and sank off Waikiki Beach. All hands were safe.
The only other major mishaps were reported by DEFIANT, a 36-foot sloop who lost a rudder and had to withdraw, but nevertheless continued on toward Honolulu, and VICARIOUS, a Cal 33, who stayed in the race despite a broken mast.
No injuries were reported, but one boat did lose its hi-fi set to flames. There were bad jokes about hot music.
Because WINDWARD PASSAGE set a new course record of 9 days, 9 hours, 6 minutes and 48 seconds in the 1971 race — and also won overall handicap honors, which is unusual for a big Class A boat — much attention was directed her way. And toward Ken DeMeuse’s former record holder, the 75-foot sloop BlACKFIN, which again trailed WINDWARD PASSAGE across the line.
The difference this time was that the first time entry, RAGTIME, flying the burgee of the Long Beach Yacht Club, was ahead of both of them. Of controversial design and bearing handicap ratings to show for it, RAGTIME was an acknowledged first-to-finish threat. But she certainly showed a dramatic flair in arriving first! The owner-skipper syndicate which entered her includes Bill Dalessi, Barney Flam, Dr. Mort Haskell, Stan Miller, Chuck Kober and Jack Queen. Her elapsed time was 10 days, 14 hours and 40 seconds.
ChUTZPAH is a local yacht which made good. Owner-skipper was Stuart M. Cowan, who flew the colors of the Waikiki Yacht Club. Pre-race critiques noted that ChUTZPAH’s design made her a threat for corrected time honors, but in a field of 60 boats, including so many proven championship contenders, her name was not stressed as a favorite. ChUTZPAH also was first in Class D.
Charles B. Boothe, Commodore of the sponsoring Transpacific Yacht Club, expressed his thanks to the scores of committee chairmen and members and participants who made the 1973 “Aloha” race to Honolulu a success. Race Chairman for the biennial event was Charles W. Smith.
“It was a fine race with a large and representative fleet of topnotch contenders,” said Commodore Boothe.
Although analysis of sailing strategy and wind conditions will go on for months, the race apparently was run without any major periods of doldrums — and without bad storms or hurricane threats, as in the 1971 race when hurricane Denise hovered near the course for a period.
Virtually all Class A entries crossed the finish line (elapsed time) ahead of the smaller boats, which was not unexpected. WARRIOR, Al Cassel’s 50-foot cutter from the Bahia Corinthian Yacht Club, Newport Beach, was first in Class A by corrected time. However, most of the big boats placed well down in the overall (corrected time) list. Class B winner was IMPROBABLE, which also placed third in fleet. Class C winner was BlUE STREAK.
The past three Transpacific Yacht Races have been dominated by the small easily surfed Cal 40’s. 1971 turned out differently, at least partially because of unusual weather conditions, leading to victory by the Class A yachts. WINDWARD PASSAGE first-to-finish was also first overall and first in class. In addition she set a new elapsed time record of nine days, nine hours, six minutes and forty-eight seconds. Typically light winds at the start off Point Fermin pushed the fleet around the west end of Catalina after the 1:00 afternoon start. As the fleet sailed on beyond the Island, lumpy seas developed with stronger winds that hauled slightly. By July 7th the seas had subsided, but the winds had dropped to a maximum of 15 knots, now from the northwest. The breeze dropped to the 8-10 knot range on July 8 and 9, but shifting to a more favorable northeast source.
Hurricane Denise became a factor beginning July 10th. Winds in the fleet increased slightly and seas became steeper. however, only two days later the storm had progressed west resulting in light winds for the fleet. This in effect allowed the Class A boats to finish leaving the smaller craft to sea in doldrums. WINDWARD PASSAGE led the fleet almost the entire race. GREYBEARD, after trouble at the start, was first around Catalina and BUCCANEER reported ahead for a day, but Robert M. Johnson’s crew managed to pull ahead by July 6. The 1969 winner ARGONAUT, skippered by John Andron, dominated the smaller boats again but the light winds resulting from the westward movement of Denise ensured victory to the Class A yachts.
Again the light breezes greeted the assembled Fleet for the race from Los Angeles to Honolulu on July 4,1969. The light winds at the start persisted throughout the day and until the Fleet was just beyond the west end of Catalina. The time of the arrival of the “Big Wind” varied with the rapidity with which the individual yachts crossed the Channel. Early in the evening of the first night a strong westerly greeted the Fleet, which buried rails, smashed gear, tore sails and even partially destroyed some of the yachts.
Thrashing with lee rails awash was a trying experience for many of the crews. seasick, wet, cold, attempting to cook while “standing on the ear,” and banging into big seas, was not the delightful experience which followed after the run in the Trades was established. This close reaching and hard driving into northerly winds of strong velocity continued for several days longer than the usual close reach.
Somewhere between the fourth and sixth day, depending upon the size of the vessel, the traditional run with full chutes, strong winds and big seas, started the group downhill to the “Islands of Endless Summer.” For the most part the race was characterized this year with the prolonged reach, no light airs and an extremely rapid sail for the yachts who were able to complete the race without major damage.
A light southerly breeze greeted the participants in the Los Angeles to Honolulu Yacht race on July 4, 1967. Through a gray haze, the fleet maneuvered for starting positions at an artificial line set west of the Point Fermin buoy off San Pedro.
A starboard start for most yachts left them little more than underway, pointing well below the Isthmus of Catalina.
Immediately following the start, SIMOON, WESTWARD and SERENA flopped to the port tack, and went up the coast toward the Santa Barbara Islands.
The fleet sailing the conventional course around the west end of the Island arrived there on the port tack, and much to their surprise found the course on the port tack from the west end of the Island closer to the rhumb line than the usual starboard tack beat.
The boats who set chutes and reached towards the islands off of Santa Barbara found little wind the first twenty-four hours, and eventually passed about the level of Santa Rosa Island. During the second night, a moderate northwesterly breeze arose which moved them out on course towards Honolulu. SIMOON reported 18 knots of wind at midnight the second night, and Westward received this same wind about 3 o’clock in the morning. SIMOON was further north than Westward.
The fleet, which had elected to follow the conventional course, reached San Nicholas Island on the 5th of July, and for the most part, remained there in a flat calm with much haze until late in the afternoon or early evening of July 6. Few sailors have had such a prolonged and frustrating examination of this desolate rock under becalmed conditions for 24 consecutive hours.
The westerly breeze arose late the night of the 6th of July for most of the fleet, and about the 7th they had passed far enough west to consider chutes. several of the boats who felt that the wind was picking up north elected to stay on headsails and travel north to join the group which had gone up to the Santa Barbara Islands from the start. This, in most instances, proved to be an advantageous move.
The winds throughout the entire race were light. KIALOA specifically stated they never did have enough wind. On the night of the 13th of July a storm from Baja crossed the path of the fleet with winds to 18 to 20 knots. Gusts may have been heavier than that in some places.
Damage to the entire fleet was minimal except for SALACIA, who lost her mast when she dipped her spinnaker pole. RAMPAGE lost her rudder and SIMOON bent her mizzen mast.
SALACIA was able to continue the race under jury rig and finish. It was necessary for the Coast Guard to tow RAMPAGE to the finish line without her rudder. SIMOON finished but the damage to the mizzen mast precluded the use of her mizzen staysail and mizzen spinnaker. Tragedy struck the yacht BLUEBELL in mid-ocean when her skipper developed symptoms of a perforating stomach ulcer. He was transferred to a naval vessel and eventually arrived in San Diego and was hospitalized. Subsequent to this hospitalization and after returning home, he succumbed to his illness. The yacht BlUEBELL continued the race “sans skipper.” A second injury aboard the same yacht occurred when a backstay let go, striking one of the crew members about the head lacerating his scalp and cheek. he continued with the ship, however. Aboard BABBA THREE the owner and skipper, Bill Nevin, was thrown across the yacht with such force that he broke his ribs. he was transferred to a Coast Guard cutter, and the yacht finished without him. The uneventful and mild run to a finish, approximately 11 to 14 days later, was in marked contrast to some of the previous races where the winds have been heavier. some of the larger boats arrived at Molokai Channel with moderate to heavy winds, but traversed the famous slot without incident. Others, which arrived about the 12th to 14th day, experienced very moderate winds in the Channel.
One owner never did finish the race. He never started. A. K. Barbee, owner of the Zoe H., arrived at the Los Angeles Yacht Club on Terminal Island at 2:00 P.M., July 4, two hours after the starting gun. There “surrounded by a mountain of personal luggage,” he sought the Race Committee’s permission to go after his boat. Permission granted, he took off across the channel in a chartered Harco 40. Search as they would, however, they couldn’t find the Zoe H. (In retrospect it seems likely that Zoe H. had already rounded the west end before the speed boat arrived in the area.)
Undaunted, Barbee went back to Avalon for the night. The next morning he chartered a sea plane, and set out again in hot pursuit. It is not clear how he proposed to transfer from an airplane to a boat. But this problem didn’t require a solution because the plane couldn’t even locate the fleet, let alone the Zoe H. (Here again it seems probable that the boats were hidden by the overcast which everyone experienced on July 5.)
In any event Barbee had to go to Honolulu by commercial carrier – by air or by sea, the records don’t say which. Neither do the accounts of the time give any solid information on why Barbee missed the boat. The kindest conclusion would appear to be that he “overslept.”
Excerpted from the Transpac history book 1906 – 1979
The Zoe H. arrived at Diamond Head light at 11:45 AM on July 22, the 24th finisher that year. Her final standing was 6th in her class, and 27th in the fleet. Perhaps Mr. Barbee was missed. Zoe H crew photo above courtesy of the Newport Harbor Nautical Museum. Mr Barbee presumably not present?