In a deferential nod to the Hawaiian gods, Wild Oats XI co-skipper Roy P. Disney invited Kahu minister Danny Akaka Jr. and his wife Anna to conduct a traditional Hawaiian christening ceremony today as the boat prepared for tomorrow’s final start of the 48th edition of the Transpac race from Los Angeles to Honolulu. In a moving tribute to a Polynesian culture that reveres the sea, the ceremony blessed the yacht and its crew for a fast, safe passage to Hawaii.
“We started this tradition in 1997, the year we broke the course record [on Pyewacket],” said Disney. “We felt this may have had some influence on our good luck that race, so we did it again in 1999, and broke the record again, so its become a tradition every race since.”
The Wild Oats team is composed of several well-seasoned Pyewacket alumni with nearly 100 Transpac races among them teamed up with co-skipper Mark Richards and his well-honed team of Aussies and Kiwis who have won the Sydney-Hobart Race an unprecedented 8 times on this canting-keeled Reichel/Pugh-designed 100-foot yacht.
It was an impressive sight to see all 16 crew, with centuries of offshore racing experience in some of the toughest races in the world, swaying to rhythm of the hula dance to Anna Akaka’s direction and Danny’s singing and playing the ukelele…surely the wind and sea gods will also be impressed.
The weather models, however, don’t agree: lying ahead of them for the next 48 hours is an area of light air spread across the eastern portion of the course, making the route choices difficult for the strategists and navigators.
Ken Campbell of Commander’s Weather explained the dilemma: “When running the routing program through the Euro model, the preferred route takes the boat north of the rhumb line early to avoid the light patch. This is unprecedented and risky based on past experience, but diving south to try and catch the breeze north of the tropical depression is a long way to go, and also risky. It’s going to be a tough race for these starters tomorrow.”
Meanwhile on the course the lead group that left on Monday are enjoying great conditions, with the wind moving aft and the boats heading straight to Hawaii at hull speeds. The corrected time leader has changed over to yesterday’s runner up: Paul Stemler’s J/44 Patriot.
The same cannot be said, however, for yesterday’s Division 4, 5 and 6 entries who are mired already in the light air facing the starters tomorrow: in the last 24 hours the current leader, Bob Pethick’s Rogers 46 Bretwalda, has traversed only 120 miles in the last 24 hours. The trackers show the group struggling along at 0-3 knots of boat speed, tacking in light air to keep the boats moving, but without strong prospects for more wind any time soon.
Tomorrow at 12:30 PM PDT will have three Gunboat catamarans on the start, followed at 1:00 PM by 16 yachts in Divisions 1, 2 and 3.