Transpac Three-Peat for Grand Illusion

Published on July 29th, 2015

Honolulu, HI (July 29, 2015) – As the three remaining boats traverse the remaining 200 miles towards the finish line to come in sometime pre-dawn tonight, all nine division winners have been determined for the 48th edition of the 2225-mile biennial LA-Honolulu Transpac.

These include the following: Division 1: Roy P. Disney and Robert Oately’s R/P 100 Wild Oats; Division 2: Craig Reynolds’s TP 52 Bolt; Division 3: James MacDowell’s Santa Cruz 70 Grand Illusion; Division 4: Greg Slyngstad’s J/125 Hamachi; Division 5: Eric Gray’s Santa Cruz 50 Allure (who won by a mere 2 min 52 sec after nearly 7 days of racing!); Division 6: John Chamberlain and Dean Fargo’s Swan 651 Second Wind; Division 7: Harry Zanville’s Santa Cruz 37 Celerity; Division 8: Tracy Obert’s BBY Custom 59-foot ketch Marjorie; and Lloyd Thornburg’s Gunboat 66 Phaedo in the multihull Division 0.

What was the pathway to success in this race, given the unusual weather patterns this year? The answers are somewhat varied for each division winner, but in general a northerly route without straying too far kept the right balance between sailing excess distance versus sailing faster by being in stronger winds.

If you ask navigator Patrick O’Brien on the overall winner Grand Illusion, he’ll give you the answer expected from a native of his homeland: “It was the luck of the Irish.” But previous wins for this team in 1999 and again in 2011 would suggest otherwise, and owner/skipper McDowell confirms there was a bit more to it than that.

JM PROFILE“We worked really really hard in this race to keep moving fast,” said McDowell, who is based here in Hawaii after having been raised in Southern California where he raced Grand Illusion with his father Ed since the late 1980’s – launched in 1986, this is one of the oldest of the ULDB Sleds still racing, a Bill Lee-designed and built Santa Cruz 70. “Our crew has been together for many years, we know the boat really well, so we could always get the most out of the boat in this race.”

Grand Illusion has now equaled the record for most wins, joining the 88-foot Lurline which won the first two races in 1906 and 1908, and again in 1912. However, Grand Illusion holds the status alone for winning overall three times under the same Owner/Skipper.

Besides O’Brien, McDowell’s winning crew included Will Paxton as Watch Captain, Michael Blunt on the Bow, William Petersen as Headsail Trimmer, Richard Reilly as Grinder, Steve Troeger on the helm, Dylan Watts at Mid Bow, and Chris Watts as Main Trimmer.

“The relationship between Patrick and Will Paxton was really key for us,” said McDowell. “They’ve been working together for years, and were always checking with each other on optimizing our performance with the right sail combinations throughout the race, always monitoring how we were doing. This was really important because we were always tight with the other Sleds in our class.”

McDowell says a key moment came when they were able to gybe to the inside of rival Andrews 70 Pyewacket, chartered for this race by Chuck Nichols.

“The weather forecasts were almost worthless to us in the beginning of the race, since we went south at first, then watched Pyewacket and [Chris Slagerman’s SC 70] Maverick go north towards San Nicholas Island and kill us. So we went north too to get into that pressure and start moving. We managed to catch up, gybe inside them, and one morning were really excited to see them close by, and so the race was on.

“Another element was in using our full inventory of sails, including a Code 0 which helped us in key situations.”

Grand Illusion crew complete

Winning Grand Illusion team

For the overall win the Grand Illusion team will win the coveted King Kalakaua Trophy, one of dozens of beautiful and historic trophies awaiting presentation on Friday evening at the Awards Ceremony.

Provisional results are now available here.

TRACKING: When boats approach within 100 miles of the finish, there is a real-time window set up on the tracker here. For other entries still on the course, there is a 6-hour delay on the tracker.

Report by Dobbs Davis, Transpac 2015 Media Manager

Race websiteProvisional ResultsDaily video analysisFacebook

Transpac schedule:
Monday, July 13: First Transpac Start: Divisions 7 & 8; 22 entrants
Thursday, July 16: Second Transpac Start: Divisions 4, 5 & 6; 18 entrants
Friday, July 18: Third Transpac Start: Multihulls, Divisions 1, 2 & 3; 19 entrants
Friday, July 31: Honolulu Awards Ceremony – The Modern Hotel
Saturday, Aug 1st: Kaneohe YC Party and Plywood Cup Regatta

ABOUT TRANSPAC
First organized by the Transpacific Yacht Club in 1906, the Transpacific Yacht Race or Transpac is an offshore sailing race from Point Fermin in Los Angeles to Diamond Head, just east of Honolulu, a distance of 2,225 nm. This is among the world’s great ocean races, and biennially attracts some of the world’s fastest sailing yachts, some of its most talented offshore racing sailors, and a wide variety of offshore sailing adventurers.

Transpacific YC also conducts occasional races to Papeete, Tahiti. Membership is open to all sailors who have completed a TPYC race to either of these destinations in paradise.

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