The originator of Transpacific Yacht racing, the late Clarence MacFarlane of Honolulu, corresponded with yachtsmen of San Francisco and Los Angeles prior to 1906 and succeeded in interesting several mainland yachtsmen in a race to Honolulu. On April 14, 1906, he sailed his 48' schooner, LA PALOMA, from Honolulu to San Francisco to join them in a race back to Waikiki. However, he arrived 27 days after the “Great Earthquake” to find the idea of a race from the Golden Gate out of the question. At the suggestion of H.H. Sinclair, he sailed to Los Angeles to join the LURLINE and the ANEMONE for the first Honolulu Race which started from San Pedro on June 11, 1906.
Sailing the Transpac stirs a variety of emotions and lifelong memories. For some it's the rush of danger, for others a beautiful adventure, and for many it's both. Russell Coutts, an Olympic gold medalist and three-time America's Cup winner, said after sailing on the record-setting Morning Glory in 2005: "This is one of the best offshore races I have done . . . very strategic for the navigators mixed with some fantastic downwind rides. Definitely a race not to be missed."
In 1977 the yacht Merlin, designed by Bill Lee, set an elapsed time record of 8 days, 11 hours, 1 minute and 45 seconds. This record would stand for 20 years. Ending Merlin's record, in the 1997 race Roy P. Disney sailing the familys Turbo'd Santa Cruz 70 Pyewacket finally broke the record by getting to Honolulu in 7 days, 15 hours, 24 minutes, and 40 seconds. Taking almost a day off Merlin's long lasting time.
Occasionally the Transpacific Yacht Club’s race from Los Angeles to Honolulu has its odd-year biennial schedule coincide with the Pacific Ocean’s cycle of unusual weather called El Nino. Those that live in or around the Pacific know exactly what this means: the normal and predictable pattern of weather goes haywire for a year or two, a consequence of equatorial current reversals and the havoc this wreaks on weather patterns.
Fifty-six monohulls and two multihulls hailing from six countries around the Pacific and two from Europe entered the 47th biennial edition of the Transpacific Yacht Club’s race from Los Angeles to Honolulu, with all but two completing the 2225-mile course. The race was characterized primarily by light and irregular wind conditions for the fastest boats, so no course records were broken this year. However, steadier weather for the smaller and slower entries gave them an advantage to claim trophies awarded for overall results in corrected time.
Following the precedent set by Commodore Dale Nordin in 2008, in 2012 Transpac again accepted challenges for the race from Los Angeles to Tahiti. Initially it appeared that 5 boats might accept the challenge, but in the end only Steve Rander with RAGE and Karl Kwok with BEAU GESTE came to the foggy start line off Pt. Fermin. With the clock winding down to the start, 1300 from Point Fermin, Rage skipper Steve Rander was sounding nonchalant. “We’re just sitting around trying to think of anything we’ve forgotten,” he said. “I’ve done 23 Transpac crossings, all between the West Coast and Hawaii. Now it’s time for something different.” And if that something different, all the way to French Polynesia, turns out to be a race with only two boats entered? “You have to commit a long way ahead,” Rander said. With a veteran crew of longtime friends and family (“no rock stars”) the argument comes down to doing it now, regardless, “because if not, we’ll be too old.” So how does he feel now? “It’s still a race. We’re racing every boat that ever sailed to Tahiti.” And who wouldn’t like to sail to Tahiti?
Interview with TPYC Commodore Bill Lee in 2011.
Transpac (TP): Congratulations on your appointment as TPYC Commodore. Any big news for the 2011 race???
Bill Lee (BL): We are looking forward to a great race is 2011. To make things easier for first time and returning entries, we have made two changes. First, a sat phone can be carried in place of a SSB if it is left on full time. Second, the celestial sight is optional rather than required -- serious navigators can enter their sights in a contest. On the organizational end, the NOR has already been issued, discussions are in place with sponsors, and the Honolulu Committee had their first meeting. At this point, everything is falling together.
There is good reason for the staggered starts that Transpac has used since 1991, but the luck of the draw can be painful. It was like that, short straws all around, for the July 4 starters in 2011 in Division 6 and Aloha. A promising forecast, a promising departure and then...
And then they were stuck on the doorstep, not quite gone. Past Los Angeles YC Commodore Eric Gray would go on to win the Aloha division with an aggressive racing crew aboard his cruising Morris 46, GRACIE. his take: "We looked at zeroes at times in those first two days. Eventually, we found the wind 100-150 miles off Santa Cruz Island, and we worked it until we got a chute up. From there we just sailed it on in. We thought it would be a 14-day race, and if you subtract those first two, it was a 14-day race.
The forty-fifth edition of the Transpacific Yacht Club’s race from Los Angeles to Diamond Head light got underway on Monday, June 29, 2009 with eleven of the total entry list of forty-seven boats starting the 2225 nautical mile race to Hawaii. This year Transpac created a new racing division that was composed of boats that needed waivers of the racing rules that prohibit movable ballast and require manual power. This Division (the unlimited division) of five boats included the two fastest and largest boats in the race (ALFA ROMEO, and MAGNITUDE) and though not eligible for the Barn Door were racing for the newly dedicated Bill Lee Trophy for fastest elapsed time.
For Chris Welsh and RAGTIME a victory, for Doug Baker and MAGNITUDE 80 a record, and both accomplished what they set out to do in the Transpacific Yacht Club’s 13th Tahiti Race.
The memories will forever warm the souls of the 37 who sailed the 3,571 nautical miles to French Polynesia, defeating the Doldrums, crossing the equator, dealing with breeze sometimes big, often baffling, suffering drenching rain and dark nights but also marveling at dazzling constellations of stars from the Big Dipper to the Southern Cross, fore and aft.
The 44th Transpacific Yacht race to hawaii had 73 starters, the fourth most ever; the youngest crew (On the Edge of Destiny, average 19.8 years); the oldest crew of two (Tango, each 70), and the oldest boat (Alsumar, 73 years).
There also were boisterous sendoffs from rainbow harbor in Long Beach — now Transpac’s mainland home port — for each of the three starts, interspersed with the dedication of 11 historic monuments chronicling each decade of the race.
It was an impressive fleet of 75 boats that lined up for the start of the Centennial Transpac Race, the second largest fleet in the history of the race. The fleet ranged from all three existing MaxZ86’s in the world and the 90-footer GENUINE RISK at the big boat end, down to the 31 foot THE CONE OF SILENCE and the Hobie 33 SOAP OPERA at the small end. In between was a very competitive fleet that included three TP52’s, 14 Cal 40’s and MERLIN and RAGTIME; both competing in their 13th Transpac Race. A strong contingent ofeight foreign boats were entered along with seven double-handed teams.
Despite 57 boats – the most starters since 1985 – Transpac 2003 was less a race for records than milestones. Software entrepreneur Philippe Kahn, sailing a turbocharged PEGASUS 77, collected his second consecutive Barn Door in a two-boat battle with Roy Disney’s PYEWACKET, but again didn’t have enough wind to threaten Disney’s elapsed time record for a monohull set in 1999 (7 days, 11 hours, 41 minutes, 27 seconds). PEGASUS 77’s ET was 7 days, 16 hours, 31 minutes, 17 seconds.
A battle of wits and wind found Philippe Kahn’s PEGASUS claiming line honors in the 41st Transpacific Yacht Race in a three-boat duel with Roy E. Disney’s record holder, PYEWACKET, and Bob Mcnulty’s new Reichel/Pugh 73, CHANCE.
Because of light winds early on, PEGASUS, an R/P 75, didn’t threaten PYEWACKET’s record of 7 days, 11 hours, 41 minutes, 27 seconds set in 1999, but its time of 8 days, 2 hours, 34 minutes, 3 seconds was the 10th fastest on record and earned Kahn the Barn Door on only his second try. PYEWACKET, R/P 74, finished 63 minutes later, about an hour and a half ahead of CHANCE.
With the Dow Jones Average hovering around 10,400 and with the memory of the record shattering ’97 race fresh in peoples memory, one would have expected a great turnout for Transpac ’99, but the sale of most of the sled fleet to the Great Lakes and the growing interest in one design inshore boats kept the fleet size down to 33 starters. Using staggered starts, as has been the case since 1991, eight boats in the Cruising Division and two Double-handed boats started on June 29, and eight 40 footers started on July 2. On July 3, Divisions I, II and III got underway in a light southeasterly that carried the fleet out on port tack to well beyond Catalina Island before the wind clocked and the fleet tacked to starboard with the majority of the July 3 starters leaving Santa Barbara Island and San Nicolas to port.
The 39th Transpacific Yacht race will forever be known as one of the Outstanding races in Transpac history. The race was again sponsored by the Kenwood Corporation, and attracted new, exciting entries, mirroring the latest develpments of yachting technology including: ZEPHYRUS, a Reichel/Pugh 75'; MAGNITUDE, an Andrews 70' Turbo, and VICKI, an Andrews 70' Turbo. As it turned out the race would ultimately be won, however, by repeating Transpac veterans, outstanding sailing, and excellent wind conditions.
The 1994 Tahiti Race may well go down in the record books as the World’s longest Match Race. While a dozen boats expressed early interest in the race, only SORCERY and KATHMANDU crossed the starting line in Los Angeles harbor at 1310 on June 24, 1994. SORCERY, a Mull 82, was skippered by Jake Wood, a veteran of five Tahiti races. KATHMANDU, a Santa Cruz 70, was skippered by Fred Kirschner, an avid ULDB-70 racer. The boats were closely matched in terms of official ratings but quite different in design, with SORCERY displacing about three times as much as KATHMANDU. Both skippers were highly motivated to beat the course record (17d.07h.57m.55s.) set by TICONDEROGA in 1964.
The 37th running of the Transpacific Yacht race was actually four races in one. Due to the large disparity of boat speeds within the fleet of 42, it was decided to stagger the start over a four day period to try to equalize the finishing dates. The results were mixed due to mother nature and the Pacific high playing a fickle hand with most entrants. Kenwood Corporation, again, sponsored the event.
Transpac ’91 had 42 yachts departing this year for the islands in the form of two separate starts on two different days. Eleven yachts started the race on June 27th in very light air and 31 yachts started the race of June 29th with a stiff westerly blowing at about 15 knots!
The reason behind the double start was to try and have all of the participants finish a little closer together in Hawaii.
Much of the finishing excitement occurred during the night-time hours, in the glare of the Diamond Head searchlight instead of under the warm Hawaiian sun. The first excitement was four “maxis” charging down the channel in their final sprint for first-to-finish, crossing the line within a span of less than thirty-seven minutes! The elapsed time intervals between yachts were: 17 minutes (between 1st and 2nd), 7 minutes (between 2nd and 3rd), and 13 minutes (between 3rd and 4th). The finishing order of those four was SILVER BULLET, BLONDIE, TAXI DANCER and MONGOOSE.
Transpac ’87 had all the classic elements: an extremely competitive 55-boat fleet, hard sailing the first few days, incredible mid-Pacific surfing, several new records set, a dramatic rescue, and close finishes. The only thing lacking was wind in thefinal days of the race.
From the starting line off Point Fermin, everyone knew that Transpac ’85 was going to be different. A spinnaker start in a southeasterly is not the norm. neither was the expanded size of the Pacific high or reports of light winds along the tradewind route to Honolulu.
The fleet that came to the starting line for the 1983 race to Honolulu was an exceptional one. Of the 66 entries, 50 had been built in the last four and one-half years — half of these 50 in the last eighteen months. So it was a very new fleet and therefore a quite competitive one. In the end, though, as has happened so often in the past, the deciding factors prove to be choice of course and the weather
The 1981 race was one of the great ones. There were enough thrills, chills, and spills to satisfy everyone—steady winds all the way, two men overboard, a rescued crew from a broken up catamaran, a record-breaking passage attempt that failed by 46 seconds, four disabled rudders, two dismastings, and the longest boat-for-boat, headto-head duel in Transpac history.
The start was scheduled for 1300 PDT Friday, July 3. In contrast to the normal pattern of Transpac starts, the westerly began to fill in early this year, and by race time it was blowing 12 to 15 knots; later in the afternoon, it increased to 18 knots.
The Thirtieth Honolulu Race set several new records, though not including speed! It had the largest fleet, probably the finest fleet, and the largest foreign entry list.
The start, west of Point Fermin, was in little wind, which quickly turned to a fresh northwest breeze and by morning roll call from uss PRAIRIE, record first-day runs were posted; some over 200 miles. Considering that the first day is only 19 hours, that’s a record. Two boats, NIAD and TAHUNA dropped out off of Catalina with rigging failures.
The Eleventh Tahiti race was sailed by four boats. The start was conducted from Harold Barneson’s DRUMMUIR with winds of 8 to 10 knots which got the fleet around Catalina before the afternoon winds died. SORCERY took an early lead and seesawed with TULA on corrected positions.
The Wind Gods did not smile favorably on our racers this year, and as a result the first boat to finish took more than twenty-one days, and the last, over twenty-seven. The first slow period was within about 400 miles of the start and was so bad that one day the greatest distance traveled by any racer was only sixty miles, and this lasted for several days.
The results of the race indicated that the Technical Committee did equate the yachts better than ever before, but still not enough to prevent CHUTZPAH from repeating her ’73 performance and winning first overall by over four hours from MAMIE. Also, the handicap did not prevent RAGTIME from being the first yacht to finish, but did place her 52 overall.
The past three Transpacific Yacht Races have been dominated by the small easily surfed Cal 40’s. 1971 turned out differently, at least partially because of unusual weather conditions, leading to victory by the Class A yachts. WINDWARD PASSAGE first-to-finish was also first overall and first in class. In addition she set a new elapsed time record of nine days, nine hours, six minutes and forty-eight seconds.
Again the light breezes greeted the assembled Fleet for the race from Los Angeles to Honolulu on July 4,1969. The light winds at the start persisted throughout the day and until the Fleet was just beyond the west end of Catalina. The time of the arrival of the “Big Wind” varied with the rapidity with which the individual yachts crossed the Channel. Early in the evening of the first night a strong westerly greeted the Fleet, which buried rails, smashed gear, tore sails and even partially destroyed some of the yachts.
A light southerly breeze greeted the participants in the Los Angeles to Honolulu Yacht race on July 4, 1967. Through a gray haze, the fleet maneuvered for starting positions at an artificial line set west of the Point Fermin buoy off San Pedro.
One owner never did finish the race. He never started. A. K. Barbee, owner of the Zoe H., arrived at the Los Angeles Yacht Club on Terminal Island at 2:00 P.M., July 4, two hours after the starting gun. There “surrounded by a mountain of personal luggage,” he sought the Race Committee’s permission to go after his boat. Permission granted, he took off across the channel in a chartered Harco 40. Search as they would, however, they couldn’t find the Zoe H. (In retrospect it seems likely that Zoe H. had already rounded the west end before the speed boat arrived in the area.)