For the 49th edition of the Transpacific YC’s biennial 2225-mile race from LA to Honolulu, “normal” weather conditions returned to the North Pacific course area after the previous two races having been affected by unusual patterns associated with El Nino. The compression of the three start dates into four days rather than six was also meant to minimize the impact of the fleet possibly racing in different conditions and thus introducing a possible bias on overall corrected time trophies such as the King Kalakaua Trophy.
Unlike the previous two races, this year’s race had all classes starting in the typical Transpac wind pattern: a westerly sea breeze to the West End of Catalina, followed by increasing breezes offshore and staying more or less at 15-20 knots the entire race. The fastest boats generally sailed in more breeze in proportion to the others since the breeze dropped slightly on the course after the first finishers in Divisions 1 and 3, hence their top finishes in the overall results.Read more
July 25, 2017
The first three days we headed south after a trip around the west end of Catalina Island. This decision was based on an private weather routing service Kirk and Rob arranged. The fast track was not going to be a direct line or the great circle route, but move south rather quickly while the high developed well to the North which will kick up the trades that will suck our little boat all the way to Diamond Head. We were very excited and optimistic about our chances of not only finishing but doing well in our division.
It was light wind all around the first couple of days, and very frustrating as we read the daily progress reports that we receive from our race committee. Heading south was a commitment and we still don't know if that strategy would pay off. But we felt we were pushing as hard as we could without doing any damage to the boat or performing dangerous manuvers.
On day three the spinnakers started to come out and we enjoyed a good boat motion for a couple of days, the wind continued to move behind us with a 5 foot swell that is fun for us to surf on but makes good sleep elusive due to being rolled from side to side. I moved from the rear quarter berth to the starboard pipe berth which has some Lee cloth rigged to keep you locked in place. Anyone who has laid down in the back of a pick up truck with their eyes closed while the truck be bops down a winding, hilly country road can imagine the sensation, lots of unpredictable movement coupled with the whine of the hydro generator really makes no sense to your brain and I found that earplugs really did help with the clutter.
Communication by satellite was quirky, we just dont know if all our messages got through. So after awhile I stuck with emailing Wendy and the occasional blog post.
We sailed as fast as we could with just two men on deck at a time. We tried to be quite on deck so that the off watch guys could get much needed sleep. Roark and I were admonished several times for talking to loud, or making more noise than was necessary. We really did try to improve but it turned out that we had a lot to say to each other and i could not have chosen a more fitting watch mate than him.
Seven days out from Long Beach we would occasionally see other boats, but after seeing the tracker at the end of the race (we did not have access to it during the race) I would have thought we would have seen more competitors.Read more
With this greeting and a resounding reply from an audience bedecked in their Aloha crew shirt attire, Transpac YC Commodore Bo Wheeler kicked off the 49th biennial Transpac Awards Ceremony held last night at the Modern Hotel Honolulu. The atmosphere was jubilant and celebratory, with a stage full of the most impressive display of perpetual trophies seen in any yachting event, accumulated by TPYC since the first race ran in 1906.
The tables full of gleaming silver and sculptures made of polished Koa wood is unlike any other seen in the sport, fitting symbols of achievement in one of the world’s longest, oldest and greatest ocean races.
Master of Ceremonies Chuck Hawley entertained the crowd with anecdotes and stories from each division, as well as the race as a whole.
“The last time I did this race, the Sleds were the fastest boats, and now they are being out run on this course,” said Hawley, referring to the new generation Pac 52’s, as well as Super Maxi’s like Comanche and Rio. “Regardless, unlike the last two years, this race was fun and it was fast. However there was one feature that everyone encountered whether slow or fast, and that’s the debris field. Nearly everyone has a story to tell, some with serious breakage, like Rio, and others just annoyances like back-downs. This is becoming a real problem.”
In fact, the dramatic story of Rio’s port rudder breaking was re-told at the end of the ceremony by Keith Kilpatrick, boat captain on Rio and last year’s winner of the Don Vaughn Award for the most valuable crewman on the first-to-finish monohull Barn Door Trophy winner. Kilpatrick said he was honored to bestow the award this year to his crew mate and friend Jeff Massano, who dove into the cramped aft compartment of Rio when she was taking on water from a broken port rudder shaft and rudder bearing to remove the broken pieces and stuff the hole with a sleeping bag to stop the leak until a more suitable repair could be made to get the boat back underway and racing.
“I told Jeff I wanted to go back and make the repair,” said Kilpatrick, “and he said he could get it done faster because he was 6 inches shorter and 15 years younger. I said OK.”Read more
July 21, 2017, 1230
Well, what happened? We went into full-on beast mode is what happened. Here’s the wrap-up.
We started day 11 in 6th place. We had a shot at third if we were lucky but with everyone gunning so hard at the finish, it was going to be tough to make up the time. It was highly possible we weren’t going to make a podium finish.
But, the breeze was up. The three Santa Cruz 52’s that were ahead of us don’t surf as quickly as we do and we started beating our robot overload’s predictions. Then a squall came through early in the morning and we TOOK OFF. We kept beating our predictions and soon we were in 5th, then 4th, then it was a full-on battle for 3rd. Hans had to keep modifying our predicted arrival time and Charlie and Sam kept the boat moving all day.
As Molokai began to loom into view on the port side we were looking solid for 3rd place. Hans didn’t think we could make up the next 29 minutes of corrected time against Hula Girl in the next 35 miles but we’d be fucked if we didn’t give it a try.
We went on drive rotation. First, Bill was up, then Charlie then Hans jumped on the helm as we started to careen down the Molokai channel. Then the sun set and a squall hit in the pitch black with no moon. I relieved Hans at the helm and we surfed with speed to our jibe point where Hans picked an optimum angle for us to push the rest of the way through the channel to the finish.
Then the Jibe. In the past, Jibes have been a project on this boat and everyone was prepared for a yard sale as we were hit with solid gusts pushing the boat faster and faster down the waves. Nerves up, Sam went to the pointy end, Randall R to the mast, the rest of us hoped for the best… And we pulled that off, a successful night jibe in 20+ knots of breeze. The only casualty was the cover on the spinnaker guy parted and we couldn’t bring the pole back more than a few feet. We were stuck for trim options for the remainder of the race and pulling off another jibe wasn’t in the cards.Read more
HONOLULU, HI – The 2225-mile LA-Honolulu Transpac Race, first run in 1906, is known worldwide and makes many bucket lists, including that of Afanasy Isaev from Krasnoyarsk, Russia. This historic city of 1 million is the third-largest in Siberia, yet a long way from any tidal water.
As such, how did a team of 15 crew on the 1996 Grand Mistral 80 Weddel get to this race and then take nearly 11 days to complete the trip? Well, it's a long story full of twists and turns, but a big part of this team making it here to Honolulu with an elapsed time of nearly 11 days is due to Isaev’s co-skipper, Vladimir (Kuli) Kulinichinko.
Many on the US East Coast big boat racing scene know Kuli, he’s been active in East Coast pro sailing since arriving over 20 years ago after having completed the Whitbread Round the World Race on Fazisi, the all-red Russian-designed and Russian-built aluminum boat that had heads scratching in the 1989-90 edition of the race when the other IOR maxis were much larger, heavier and ultimately faster around the planet. This unusually narrow light weight design had half the freeboard of their rivals, and looked like it would be – and proved it was - wet, wet, wet.
Yet on a budget that was a fraction of their rivals, this team made it around the planet more or less intact as an underdog favorite with a cult following, and when it did, Kuli jumped off and spent time as a sailmaker in Connecticut, got married to an American, and has been based in Florida ever since. Whenever there is a Russian-based team racing in the US, its likely Kuli will be involved as an important source of skill and a bridge between the two cultures. This was especially needed on this trip, since Isaev runs the Weddel program with paying guests, similar to some other amateur-based offshore racing programs.
“This was a tough trip, but we’re all here,” said Kuli. “We had a core group of us who knew the boat but not quite enough to sail her at 100% all the time. The mainsail broke about halfway across, and that’s what slowed us down. The sail broke clear across the girth, luff to leech.”
Kuli had to revive his skills as a sailmaker and said he spent 36 hours with the sail down repairing it to be useable enough to get them to Hawaii. Progress was slow, with the boat progressing at a glacially slow rate of 6-8 knots at times, but once fixed the team nursed the sail almost to the finish, and then it broke again, and the team finished under just a jib alone.
“We need to get this sail fixed again to the good enough to get to Australia,” said Kuli, where the team is planning to race in the Sydney-Hobart Race in December, as are several more entries from Transpac. Its likely Kuli will be needed here as well, since Isaev will likely be taking pay-as-you-go crew once again.Read more
July 17, 2017, 1200
Dawn breaks pink at 0530 after an epic night at sea. This does not mean the winds and seas let up. If anything, the cross swell becomes tougher. We no longer care; we are exhausted, we are dirty, and O'ahu is in sight. It's all over now but the shouting, but soon there will be much of that. We count down the last hours, toss fruits and veggies overboard, and take to photography like Ansel Adams.
Due to our tight angle, we clear Makapu'u Light by just a few miles and forego the long sleigh ride down the Moloka'i channel. But it isn't like we missed out: we have just come 2200 miles through some wild winds and occasional 10' seas. We have sailed the old girl to the breaking point (and beyond in some instances). In short, J.D. Smith, we have had our fun. Now we want to see loved ones awaiting us on the docks.
A final, near-calamity awaits us just prior to the finish line. Five miles out, we begin to drop the durable symmetrical kite we have lived under for a week so we can fly our glamor girl "La Sirena" pinup sail at the photo-op-ripe finish line. Poseidon plays one last trick: the halyard has chafed badly at the top of the mast and won't pass through the block, preventing us from dropping the sail. Sheets slip loose, and suddenly the massive sail is flying free in front of the boat, a red ribbon billowing out in the stiff wind. High Keystone Kop comedy ensues. No one's pride is left unharmed. All hands pray to god we are out of camera range.
Finally, we wrassle the kite out of the ocean into which it has fallen and hoist our beautiful pinup girl. We barrel across the line making 9 knots and grinning like a passel of Cheshire cats. Transpac 2017, six months in preparation, two weeks in duration, and a lifetime of future reflection, is complete. Barbara Lawler, the runaway MVP of our team, drives the boat the last 3 miles and takes La Sirena past the famed red buoy. I do not know how often women sail Transpac boats over the line, but it is my high honor to relinquish this coveted moment to her. She's our planner, provisioner, mother, and one hell of a bad-ass sailor. Barb, we love and salute you!Read more