Los Angeles (July 5, 2009) – Hundreds of thousands crowded Rainbow Harbor’s shoreline, the decks of the Queen Mary and the marina basins of Long Beach to celebrate Independence Day. Side tied along Transpac Pier at Rainbow Harbor in front of Gladstone’s, Samba Pa Ti, Flash, Pyewacket, Alfa Romeo and Pegasus 50 were the center of attention. Crowds strolling the docks and promenades and posing for photos in front of the glistening boats and their tall masts, made it slow going for those crews who were still rushing from their containers to their boats to close out their punch lists.
Finished or not, sailors showered and dressed for their final Long Beach crew dinner, many positioning their tables so that they could take in the fireworks display, complete with a nearly full moon and a blimp circling overhead. As the percussion of the shells from the barge died down, the final pyrotechnics were fired.
Sunday morning, July 5th was a bit different than other Aloha send off mornings because friends and family were joined on the docks by more media than usual and holiday goers that were attracted by all of the activity around the docks. While Roy P. Disney and his crew laced Pyewacket’s bow with tea leaves to bring his crew good luck during the journey, Peter Merrington stole away from Alfa Romeo in the hopes of catching the epic Wimbledon finals match between Roger Federer and Andy Roddick. It wasn’t until after the crowd shouted “Aloha” to Alfa Romeo that Federer had claimed the title.
Big boats that had yet to be seen at Transpac Pier at Rainbow Harbor, such as Ragtime, swung by the dock for their Aloha send-off and took their place in the march of the big boats beyond the behemoth Queen Mary and the container-topped piers and cranes of the second busiest port in the United States and the 15th largest container port in the world, the Port of Long Beach. Just beyond the Port of Long Beach, they passed the gigantic Port of Los Angeles.
The horizon beyond the breakwater is dotted with container ships and the bluffs of San Pedro and Palos Verdes. The outline of Catalina Island was off to the southwest. Everyone aboard the boats had their eyes trained on finding the committee boats and the marks that make up the starting area, among the crowd of spectator boats. Meanwhile, the navigators were down below confirming plots, downloading the last subscription-based weather and routing material and calculating whether they will make it over the top of Catalina Island without tacking.
Teams circled the starting area under the power of their mainsails and most waited for the starting sequence to begin before they raised their jibs and started maneuvering their boats as if they were in a race around the buoys. “If you’re not doing anything, get your weight on the rail,” is what some crew bosses say. On the professional boats, or the ones with crews that have been sailing together for years, there was no need to say those words.
As the clock wound down, the boats made their final approach and lined up on starboard tack. Bowmen used hand signals to direct the skipper while every boat tried to be at full speed with a nice hole to leeward and a clear lane to windward when the gun goes off for the final start of Transpac 09.
Photo by Rick Rosen of a Samba Pa Ti fan.