The Transpacific Yacht Race, or "Transpac" as most sailors call it, vies with the Bermuda Race on the U.S. East Coast as one of the two most enduring long distance sailing contests in the world. However Transpac’s open ocean racecourse that measures some 2,225 nautical miles, far overshadows the 635-mile Bermuda Race that also began in 1906.
It should also be noted that Transpac’s historic first contest might have occurred nearly a decade sooner had San Francisco’s Pacific Yacht Club accepted Hawaii’s King David Kalakaua’s invitation to race to Hawaii for his 50th birthday celebration in 1897. Unfortunately, for reasons unrecorded, his royal offer was never acted upon.
Still, shortly after Hawaii became a U.S. Territory, Honolulu businessman and yachtsman Clarence Macfarlane discussed creating such a race with Los Angeles businessman and South Coast Yacht Club member Harry Sinclair. Macfarlane agreed to sail his 48-foot schooner to San Francisco, as much to show other yachtsmen it could be done as to meet them there for the start of a race back to Honolulu.
Unfortunately, Macfarlane sailed into San Francisco Bay on May 13, 1906 just 25 days after that city had been devastated by the great earthquake and fire. Still, he somehow managed to contact Sinclair and they agreed that Macfarlane should sail down to Los Angeles where they could organize a race to Honolulu from there.
The first Transpac race began off L.A.’s San Pedro breakwater at noon on June 11, 1906 between three yachts: Macfarlane’s La Paloma, Sinclair’s 86-foot schooner Lurline, and Charles Tutt’s 112-foot ketch Anemone flying the New York Yacht Club burgee. Anemone, under an earlier agreed upon handicap system, was the scratch boat and had to give Lurline and La Paloma 12 and 27 hours respectively.
Twelve days, nine hours, and 59 minutes after the start, on a passage so fast it was only eclipsed once in the next four decades, Lurline crossed the finish line off Oahu to become Transpac’s first elapsed- and corrected-time winner.
Transpac has been raced biennially with few exceptions since 1906, and after 49 contests, it has created its own colorful history.