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 the Transpac race. Its likely Kuli will be needed here as well, since Isaev will likely be taking pay-as-you-go crew once again.
Other teams to finish today includes Azure, Rodney Pimintel’s Cal 40 who was leading most of this race in corrected time but then took a detour halfway across to provide assistance to Jay Spalding’s SC 52 Medusa with 5 gallons of fuel. They have taken their place at the top of the leaderboard for Division 7, and received a warm welcome for their sportsmanship, the second such effort in an ocean race in the last several weeks: in the Coastal Cup Azure also assisted another boat in trouble in an offshore race.
Two boats remain on the course, with one to win the Tail End Charlie award as last boat across the finish… will it be Charles Buckner’s Oceanis 48 Cabernet Sky or Jerzy Poprawski’s catamaran Kastor Pollux? Currently the multihull is ahead of the monohull, so stay tuned for who gets this symbolic Transpac race award.
And speaking of awards, dozens and dozens of keeper and perpetual trophies are on display at the Modern Honolulu Hotel and await being awarded at the ceremony held here on Friday evening. This will be a special event for a special year with new record times achieved in several categories…and a good time had by all.
Join veteran Transpac race sailor, Seahorse Magazine technical editor and offshore racing analyst Dobbs Davis with his daily race analysis show viewable on the Transpac race website… the next show will be in a few days as a recap to this year’s great race.
For more information - position reports, photos, videos and stories new and old, visit the event website at https://2017.transpacyc.com.
Stay tuned also to the Transpacific Yacht Club Facebook page for photos, videos and even stories coming in from the teams while at sea: www.facebook.com/TranspacRace/.