Transpac Tradition Survives while History is Rewritten
By Lynn Fitzpatrick
Transpac ‘09, the 45th running of the Transpacific Yacht Race from Los Angeles to Honolulu, will go down in history as the fastest Transpac ever, resulting in the obliteration of course records along with many other major accomplishments.
This was the first year that non-traditionally ballasted boats up to 100 feet were invited to participate. Neville Crichton, from Australia, and his world-class crew on Alfa Romeo II, ending up destroying the course record. The state-of-the-art yacht, with its new and taller carbon fiber mast, water ballast, canting keel, push button winch controls and new sails, was perfectly tuned to partner with Mother Nature and clip off a 5 day, 14 hour, 36 minute and 20 second crossing. More than 26 hours were knocked off of the old record that had been set by Hasso Plattner’s Morning Glory in 2005. Alfa Romeo’s record run and its early morning arrival in Honolulu sparked a press conference and an Aloha party that started after 1:30 a.m. and continued until well after sunrise.
Not to be outdone, Philippe Kahn and Mark “Crusty” Christensen doublehanded Kahn’s Pegasus 50, an Open 50 originally designed for single handed offshore sailing, to a record-shattering two man crossing. The pair roared down the Molokai Channel and passed Kahn’s home to finish off of Diamond Head in 7 days, 19 hours, 38 minutes and 35 seconds, over two and a half days faster than any other doublehanded team in Transpac history.
The team that took home the most silver, however, was John Kilroy’s Samba Pa Ti. The professional crew endured a wild ride on Kilroy’s TP52, to beat a competitive class of 70’ sleds and modified TP52’s while overhauling other boats that had started days ahead of them. Samba Pa Ti became the smallest sailboat in 103 years of Transpac history to take line honors and be the first to finish on corrected time, making them the fifth team ever to have a clean sweep in the Transpac.
Another Transpac veteran, Peter Tong, at age 70, experienced one of the biggest pleasures of his sailing career when he, and his friends and family that have been racing with him for 25 years, finished first among the ULDB sleds. His retrofitted Santa Cruz 70, originally Silver Bullet, and now named OEX, short for Orient Express, corrected out to third overall behind Alfa Romeo and Samba Pa Ti, proving that fast is fun, especially when you are sailing a family-friendly boat.
America’s Privateer Lynx also was the first modern day tall ship to enter the Transpac and staged the way for what hopes to be a tall ship festival and a tall ship fleet to participate in the 2011 Transpac. If this all comes together for 2011 the sight of modern racing yachts and traditional tall ships finishing together off Diamond Head, Hawaii will be spectacular. The tall ship Lynx experienced a couple of weeks of superb down wind sailing in the trades proving the Transpac Race to be one the best courses for tall ships on the planet.
Transpac traditions pervaded the weeklong festival-like atmosphere in Long Beach leading up to the event’s staggered starts. The smaller boats that started on June 29th and July 2nd dove far south to avoid a confused weather system of two highs and a cutoff low. Well before the big boats started on July 5th, their navigators knew that they were in for record-breaking rides. In addition to the records set by Alfa Romeo and Pegasus, many of the sleds posted times that were better than those sailed when Merlin’s record fell in 1997.
The fabulous trend continued from 2007 with more and more crews of younger ages joining in the race. In fact, almost all of the crew from Morning Light made the race again, sailing on Pyewacket, Lynx, Hula, and Akela. Many other boats had this youthful enthusiasm and their crews included teenagers and 20-something’s. All were eager to participate in the world’s most enduring and greatest ocean race, many for the first time.
The Morning Light team and Transpac joined forces with the Racing for Kids foundation to brighten the day of the young patients at Miller Children’s Hospital in Long Beach. Transpac is proud to be able to give something back and to try and help sick kids get better faster and to expose them to the wonderful sport of sailing. The young Morning Light sailors told stories, signed movie posters for the kids, and passed out the Transpac caps that TranSystems, the company that can do it all when it comes to any transportation related needs, provided for all the competitors. Transpac looks forward to the start of this new tradition.
The daily waterfront activities in Long Beach, coordinated by Transpac, Long Beach Mayor, Robert Foster, and the City of Long Beach Sea Festival officials, captured the attention of the local media. The “Alfapalooza” at the Pine Avenue Pier in Long Beach’s beautiful Rainbow Harbor, brought together Neville Crichton along with dozens of Alfa Romeo Owners of Southern California and San Diego to highlight the awe inspiring Alfa Romeo II as well as vintage Alfa Romeo automobiles. The car owners and visitors to the pier were able to inspect the cars, meet Crichton, and tour the racing yacht. The car owners considered it the best Alpha Romeo get together in the last 20 years with their vintage automobiles displayed on the Pine Street Pier next to the world’s fastest monohull sailboat!
Upon the arrival of the fleet in Hawaii, the tradition of an Aloha party for every boat reminded generations of West Coast, Japanese, Mexican, Peruvian, Canadian, and other international sailors why they keep returning race after race. In addition, the 2009 outdoors awards ceremony at the historic Waikiki Shell was the best ceremony that many could remember. Hawaiian dancers swayed on stage while the Transpac family mingled on the great lawn at the amphitheater. West Marine’s Chuck Hawley as the Master of Ceremonies moved the awards presentations along at record pace while sprinkling it with anecdotes that captured the essence of every boat and every division. Special commemorative winner’s edition OCEANUS watches were awarded, with the assistance of the Lt. Governor of Hawaii, James. R. “Duke” Aiona, Jr., the Honolulu Mayor, Mufi Hannemann, and U.S. Coast Guard Rear Admiral Manson K. Brown, to the top three places in all seven divisions, courtesy of Casio. Alfa Romeo captured the newly donated Merlin Trophy that is awarded to the first finisher in the unlimited class. Alfa Romeo also will have the distinction of resetting the hands on the 800-pound Clock Trophy at Transpacific Yacht Club’s permanent home at the Newport Harbor Nautical Museum to its new course record of 5:14:36:20 and establishing a new benchmark for future Transpac sailors.
In 2011, Transpacific Yacht Club will be actively seeking the participation of the new breed of Mini Maxis, the growing Fleet of TP52’s worldwide, the recently emerging (for the 2nd time!) 70’ Sled class, Unlimited 100’ monohulls, the Class 40 yachts, Cal 40 owners, Multihull teams, custom racing yachts, our loyal Aloha class and perhaps the 6.50 Classe Mini with their blistering fast solo crews dueling one another across the Pacific.
Lastly, Commodore Dale Nordin wishes to thank the competitors, the hundreds of volunteers in Hawaii and Long beach, our major sponsors, Casio and TranSystems, and all our other sponsors for staging one of the world’s most enduring and greatest of Ocean Races, the Transpac. Planning for the next Transpac Race has already begun, so be on the look out for the 2011 Notice of Race early next year!