1530 PST – Thursday’s Aloha Send-off from Transpac Pier at Rainbow Harbor in Long Beach was picture perfect.
Tachyon III, Kanzunori Komatu’s Santa Cruz 52, with members of the Japanese Olympic Sailing Team on board, led the parade out of the basin. Like each of the 18 Transpac 09 race boats that followed, Tachyon III was escorted out of Rainbow Harbor’s entrance by paddlers from the Kahakai Canoe Club. Free Range Chicken, Bruce Anderson’s deluxe Perry 59, was the final Transpac race boat to leave the pier. As she streamed away from the dock, the crew showered their escorts with fresh fuschia-colored leis. Long Beach added more pageantry to the send-off by having Navy seals sky dive from a blimp and splash down in between the end of the pier and the Queen Mary.
Glassy waters rippled over as the morning passed. Beyond the Port of Long Beach and Los Angeles breakwater and off of Point Fermin, the ripples turned to white caps as the wind built to 10-12 knots. It clocked right from about 220º to 280º for the 1300 start. The picture perfect send-off was no match for the adrenaline-charged photographer’s fantasy starting sequence.
The 19-boat fleet of 45 to 60-foorters rushed the starting line. They were amped up with anticipation and testosterone and shot out of the blocks on their way to Ala Wai and Transpac Row. The pin was the coveted spot and Criminal Mischief, the grey-hulled boat with a crimson-shirted team roared past the pin. Thinking that they were a bit too early, they bore away and returned to the line to exonerate themselves. Just up off of their starboard hip was Wasabi, one of the Mexican entries, and Bengal 7, one of three Japanese entries. Cipango, Relentless and Passion, all US boats, were just to weather of the pack at the pin. The rest of the fleet was spread out evenly across the starting line all the way up to the committee boat.
The fleet dashed off toward Catalina Island and a Pacific High that is growing larger and is slowly morphing its way south. It is being pushed down by a series of lows pushing across the Pacific from the west. Light winds prevail across the Los Angeles to Hawaii racetrack. So far, all of the starters have headed south. Tomorrow morning’s peak at Ionearth will give us a clear indication as to whether any boats are breaking with traditional wisdom.
In the meantime, the two-man southern Californian crew aboard Relentless continues to lead the Division 6 fleet. They are further south and west than the second place contender, J World and they are in the vicinity of 29º 36” N and 122º 30 W moving at 5.5 knots.
Charisma continues to sail well north of the rest of Divisions 5 and 6. She has stretched her lead to over 35 nautical miles over her closest competitor, Between the Sheets. That’s quite a distance when you are moving at less than five knots.
The final Transpac 09 start takes place on Sunday, July 5th at 1300. Seventeen of the largest, sleekest and fastest racing machines entered in Transpac 09 will put on an Aloha Send-off parade that will rival Long Beach’s July 4th fire works display.Alfa Romeo, Neville Crichton’s Reichel/Pugh 100; Philippe Khan’s Pegasus 50, Disney’s Pyewacket, Holua, Alchemy, Akela, Medicine Man and Ragtime are just some of the legendary yachts that are slipping into the berths vacated on Monday and Thursday. All are looking to add a Transpac victory to their lengthy records.
Preparing for the Transpacific Yacht Race is no small matter. Getting the boat into offshore racing condition and finding a competent crew that has the time, desire, chemistry, will and other resources to make it happen is no small matter. Sunday’s start list is a testament to the teams’ accomplishments in making it to the starting line. It wasn’t until a couple of weeks before the start that it became clear that Pendragon VI, a brand new Davidson 69, and Rapid Transit, an Antrim 49, came to the heart-wrenching conclusion that no matter what they did, they could not meet the safety requirements and have their boats ready to start on July 5th.
Ragtime, the 45-year-old Spencer 65, that will be sailing her 15th Los Angeles to Hawaii Transpac, was splashed at about the same time as the smallest boats in the Transpac 09 fleet were leaving for Hawaii. Ragtime, won the 2008 Tahiti Race, won her division in the Sydney Hobart Race, sailed to her native Auckland, New Zealand and completed her return Pacific crossing in late. Upon arriving in Newport Beach, she was hauled so that structural damage to her bulkheads could be repaired and she could be measured for her Transpac rating.
Pegasus 50, Philippe Kahn’s Open 50, has been being overhauled. Running rigging has been led to the cockpit so that Kahn and co-skipper, Mark Christiansen, will not have to leave the cockpit in the event that they need to reef. While the wind predictions look light all the way to Hawaii, it will be important for them to be able to reef and load up their aft water ballast tanks when they fly their kite in front of the squalls that mark the presence of those volcanic islands in the middle of the Pacific that all of our Transpac 09 sailors are aiming for.
Follow the Transpacific Yacht Race, the world’s most enduring and greatest ocean race at www.TranspacRace.com.