People who like boats just naturally want to take a boat ride every now and then, so how about a 3,700-mile boat ride, Los Angeles to Tahiti?
With the clock winding down to the start, 1 pm Friday 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.”
And, when he committed, there was the prospect of five or six entries. So how does he feel now? “It’s still a race. We’re racing every boat that ever sailed to Tahiti.”
That makes it quite a few boats. The Transpacific Yacht Club staged its first race to Tahiti in 1925. Four boats started from San Francisco Bay, led by the redoubtable L.A. Norris, whose 107-foot schooner, Mariner, made Papeete in 20 days.
Rage, a 70-footer designed by Tom Wylie, has a shot at the Overton Memorial Trophy if it can win the crossing on corrected time. Built at Rander’s Schooner Creek Boatworks in Portland, Oregon, she’s been a campaigner since 1993, but Rander and family cruise the boat as well as race. And who wouldn’t like to sail to Tahiti?
To that question, you won’t find any doubters among the crew of Rage’s opposition, the mighty Beau Geste out of the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club. Owner Karl Kwok is a longtime member of the Transpacific Yacht Club, and he has been on a tour of the great American and Caribbean races with his twin-ruddered 80-footer. Kwok’s target is the elapsed time record of 11 days, 10 hours set in 2008 by Doug Baker’s Magnitude 80, and however that comes out, racing to Tahiti is the most interesting way possible to get the boat a bit closer to home.