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Aahh - loohh – haahh! Transpac Hands Out Awards for 49th Race

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.”

There were numerous other awards and recognitions – too numerous to mention here - of teams, sailors, navigators and organizers who all contributed to a highly successful race this year, one that put Transpac back on track of being both Fast and Fun after two previous cycles of El Nino-affected slow weather conditions. This race produced three elapsed time records – one for Multihulls, with H.L. Enloe’s ORMA 60 Might Merloe eclipsing the old record by over a day, one for power-assisted monohulls, with Comanche cutting half a day off the old mark, and even Rio 100 breaking her own record set for manual monohulls – and yet boats of designs over 40 years old were also on the podium in corrected time.

And while there is no one who does not love a Cal 40 – two were in this year’s race and finished First and Third in Division 7 - 52 years after the design’s debut in the 1965 Transpac – the overall sentimental favorite of these was by far Bill and Lu Lee’s Merlin. This long, narrow, lightweight 68-footer of his design first launched in 1977 beat the IOR maxis of the era in an elapsed time performance that stood as the course record for 20 years, and more significantly set off a revolution in offshore Pacific racing design. In her 40-year anniversary, Merlin took 3rd place in Division 2 competing against the very same Sleds who were her design progeny built in the 1980’s and ‘90’s and who are still racing hard and racing well.

Scott Easom was crew on the class winner – Roy Pat Disney’s Andrews 68 Pyewacket – and said these boats are perfect for Pacific races because they offer “both performance and comfort, unlike the latest generation boats. There are a lot of us who are fit and keen to race, but we’re not that young any more to put up with the athleticism necessary to race the new boats well. The Sleds are the perfect compromise.”

When Lee took the stage to present the Merlin Trophy to the First to Finish monohull (Comanche), he pointed out that the replica of Merlin in the trophy case no longer resembled his boat, having been “modified by eight owners with four keels and rudder, two decks, four masts and two interiors,” and yet it still remained competitive in this class. Being a great student of this race and its history, Lee also pointed out that with Comanche’s new record time “it took over 100 years to cut the first elapsed time in half,” referring to the schooner Lurline’s best time of 12 days 9 hours 59 minutes set in 1906.

Besides contributing to the history of yacht design, Lee also made a point of influencing the next generation of Transpac sailors when he and Michael Roth, one of Lee’s old shipmates and now an active member of TPYC, organized an afternoon sail on Merlin for Junior sailors from the Waikiki, Hawaii and Kaneohe YC’s. Everyone took turns at the helm feeling the speed and power of this legendary yacht…who knows how many future Transpac champions will be among this crew to share similar experiences of camaraderie, seamanship and sportsmanship that are the hallmarks of this race.

For the next cycle of Transpac in 2019, incoming TPYC Commodore Tom Hogan said “We don’t know exact dates yet, but the full moon is on July 16th, so we will be looking around this date to make announcements about the 50th edition.”

From TPYC we say Aloha to everyone and Mahalo to all the 550 volunteers in 21 committees who made this race a great success!