It was 40 years ago Merlin changed the course of Transpac – and ocean racing – forever… now she’s back, faster than ever
HONOLULU, HI – Today a Transpac legend crossed the finish line at Diamond Head 40 years after she did it the first time: Bill and Lu Lee’s venerable Lee 68 Merlin. Her elapsed time of 8 days 02:34:09 did not set any records this year, but this was still better than the elapsed time of 8 days 11:01:45 that she set in her original configuration when Lee and his team raced her in a very windy 1977 Transpac, a testament to the upgrades made to the boat over her long and storied life.
“Lu and I are the eighth owners of this boat for the second time,” said Lee, who navigated this race to be second (currently) in corrected time behind another legendary finisher today, Roy Pat Disney’s Andrews 68 Pyewacket. Disney’s newer boat rates slower than Merlin, so being only 2 hours behind but allowed several more hours gave her the corrected time edge. Nonetheless, Lee said they had a fantastic race on Merlin.
“We had no major failures or breakdowns, and this boat has had 7 keel changes, 4 mast changes, deck layout changes and countless sails through its life. Right now it is set up nicely. She sails better, easier and faster than the original boat, so much so its really a different boat and a pleasure to sail.”
It was this boat that in 1977 turned offshore yacht design in an entirely new direction when Lee’s design concept was to keep the boat long, narrow, and intentionally light weight to sail efficiently in the offwind races of the US West Coast, yet to also be at the prevailing IOR Rating of 70.0 feet, which was the defined Maxi rating limit of those days. Other conventional IOR Maxis were often referred to as “lead mines” because of the large keels they needed to keep their stability for their massive sails and 80-foot lengths. The conventional Maxi’s of this era were designed to perform well relative to their rating in all conditions, whereas Merlin excelled in one direction alone: downwind.
It was this design feature that then prompted a new generation of ULDB (Ultra Light Displacement Boat) designs to not necessarily rate well and win on corrected time, but to be first to finish. When Merlin set a new race record in 1977, she not only beat it, she smashed it by defeating Windward Passage’s record time set in 1971 by over 22 hours. So remarkable was this boat that this record stood for 20 years before beaten by Pyewacket in 1997.
And here she was again: finishing at Diamond Head under sunny skies and tradewinds with the same rainbow color scheme on her spinnaker that she had in 1997. Lee even donned his Wizard cape at his team’s Aloha party at Hawaii YC, just to complete the nostalgia.
Asked about his vision of the future of this race, Lee said “I think it will continue to do what it does now: it attracts the really fast boats with all-pro crews who will continue to hunt for records on big 49-ers, and the amateur teams who are sailing boats they can handle comfortably. There’s a lot for both in this race.”Read more
HL Enloe and the crew of the ORMA 60 trimaran Mighty Merloe crossed the finish line on July 10 of the 49th Transpac Race, beating all entrants and eclipsing the 20 year old multihull record of Bruno Peyron’s Commodore Explorer by more than a day, previously set at 5 days 9 hours 18 min and 26 secs.Read more
Post Race Interview with Gavin Brady of the Invisible Hand Pac52. Invisible Hand is currently standing 1st in Class and 1st in ORR Overall in the 2017 Transpac Race.
Q: What was the most challenging part of the race for you?
A: The build up. The 3 days before the race. There was a lot going on, a lot of things had to come together quickly. There was one of those moments where if everybody achieved their goals, we knew that when we got to the start line on the same piece of water as our competitors we were going to have an edge.
Q: How much strategy was directed towards beating Bad Pak.
A: I think not a lot of strategy was put towards just Bad Pak, because we felt that each team would actually push each other harder. So if we were on the same piece of water, we've raced against them in 3 of the Pac52 series, we know their performance, we're sister ships so we've got the same boats, and the modes are the same. We knew what they had, and they know what we've got, so I think we felt that actually working with them was an asset, and then let the games play out in the Molokai Channel. So we were thinking it was going to come down to 3-4 miles in the last part of the race. We thought them being strong was an asset, we wanted them to be strong so they would push us. So to be honest, we did in the last 3 days probably leave a little on the table by being more defensive rather than attacking. We sort of jibed across and took some wind shifts that we normally wouldn't have just to basically let the clock run down and be safe so I think in some ways not having them close to us actually cost us some on our performance.
July 14, 2017, 0400
Well it's almost over! What a great experience! Second time across. We beat our last run by almost 2 full days. We also have earned the Gunboat Transpac record (made up by us of course), which was previously held by Extreme H2O.
Bittersweet for sure. Can't wait to be on land, can't wait to talk to my kids, can't wait to see my wife (I beat her here, so I'll have to wait a couple of days to meet her). But I can tell you that I will truly miss the watches, the day and nights on the ocean, and the camaraderie shared with a great group of people! We proved that pre Cheers and post Cheers can live peacefully in the world together!
Final MVM/MVP: John Gallagher! Thank you so much for sharing this experience with us all. I know how much this crew appreciates you and all that you have done to make this possible for all of us. For me, it's definitely a dream come true, and I think that I'm not the only one on the boat that feels that way. Sincere gratitude! Special shout out to Carol!
Out for now!
July 13, 2017
We are 542 miles away from Honolulu and trying to make some southerly. Our routing software keeps telling us to go west. It is very hard to keep going in the wrong direction with the anticipation of favorable winds, but alas we are pushing west. We have second guessed our software 3 times now, and each time we were spanked.
At 4:00 am I went over the optimal route with Ted at the beginning of his shift. The software was telling us to gibe around this area in front of us, but we could not understand why, so we just decided to keep going straight. Ted woke me up at 4:00 am, with a concerned look on his face - we gotta go! That means gibe in sailing lingo. I came up on deck and looked forward to see a big black cloud as far and you can see with bolts of lightning hitting all around the center. "I don't think we should go in there" Ted says. Gibe! Jim drove and Ted and I pulled off one of the fasted two pole jibes on record. We were thankfully paralleling the back of the cloud when the sun came up. Then we saw the most spectacular double rainbow for the entire 180 degrees of the cloud - amazing. At first we thought it was a squall that should travel at about 10 knots but this cloud was not moving. We just skirted the monster and all is good, I kept thinking of the joke Jim would tell about the clown who died in his second rodeo.
Now we are cruising to our last gibe point about 100 miles ahead of us, then we are "all in" for our final approach. If all works out we should have a strong finish. We are getting pretty low on food and beverages but should be in Hawaii on the 17th. I keep looking at that small bag of ice and wonder is there may have been a misscalculation - we will see.
Sail faster damnit!Read more
July 13, 2017 17:30
Today we continue to jibe, jibe and Jibe again. The breeze has lightened and we are working hard to work the angles for the fastest route to Hawaii. As I type this we are 416 miles from the finish. So close… yet so far. Speeds are slower, but we continue to push hard.
Tonight is Lasagna with meat sauce night (freeze dried – mountain House). The excitement is building. The supply of tasty snack food is nearly exhausted so we must be close to Hawaii. In the words of Ty, “It is disturbing how many 'magic Beans' Jelly bellys" we have gone through. Editor’s note: as of 5:00pm yesterday there were no more Magic Beans. PB and J tortillas are now being consumed at an alarming rate.
We continue to be attacked by flying fish. Last night one shot across the cockpit missing 2 of us by inches. I think they want our “magic beans”.
Rick Graef – Bowman S/V Sin DudaRead more
Nursing a missing port rudder, team perseveres to repeat their win from last year; Invisible Hand finishes as provisional corrected time leader
HONOLULU, HI – In the pre-dawn hours this morning, Manouch Moshayedi’s Bakewell-White-designed Rio 100 crossed the finish line at Diamond Head to be the first-to-finish monohull without powered assistance, and thereby winner of the historic Barn Door Trophy in the 2017 Transpac. With an elapsed time of 6 days 17 hours 9 min and 9 sec, Rio 100 once again joins a long and storied list of classic ocean racing yachts that have won this trophy every other year since it was first awarded to H.H. Sinclair on Lurline in the very first Transpac race in 1906…it may be interesting to note Lurline’s time was nearly twice that of Rio’s.
“I credit this great crew for this victory,” said Moshayedi, clearly relieved to have finished both intact and ahead of their nearest qualified rival for the Barn Door, Frank Slootman’s Pac 52 Invisible Hand. “Their expertise and seamanship saved both the boat and our chances to repeat last year’s win.”
With the suggestion made by TPYC Commodore Bo Wheeler, the team took a group photo with the trophy at their Aloha party at Waikiki YC, just before the effects of jubilation fueled by mai tai’s had many swimming in the pool.
Next in line at Diamond Head several hours later with an elapsed time of 7:01:20:10 was Invisible Hand, the latest-generation Pac 52 whose design heritage started here with this race. Unlike the current-generation TP 52 class yachts competing in the 52 SuperSeries events in Europe, these boats have higher freeboards for livability below decks and less water on deck, and are built to meet Category 1 offshore safety regulations.
On board with Slootman was one of the Pac 52 Class originators Gavin Brady, who came up from his native New Zealand to compete in this year’s race. After downing a pineapple Mai Tai at the dock, Brady and team with discipline pulled out the sails, flaked and bricked them, even the blown up A2 spinnaker.
When asked if this sail casualty hurt them, Brady said “Nah, we had two other A2’s of slightly different design. These were the only kites we had aside from an A4 if it got really windy.”
Reflecting on the race, one of several Transpacs he’s done (last year with Rio 100), Brady said “This is a great race, and the boat was great too. This new generation of Pac 52’s are getting back to the original offshore/inshore design concept. We were fast, but I told the guys we had another 10 miles a day we could squeeze out of the performance if we were more aggressive on gybing on shifts.”Read more