Transpac Race: The Records are Nervous
Published on July 10th, 2017
(July 10, 2017) – The ‘halfway to Hawaii’ milestone is that momentous occasion during the Transpac race when you have gone through the tough miles, but when looking around, realize how long the second half of the race can be if things go pear-shaped.
“We scooted through the midpoint this morning,” reported Wayne Zittel from the Santa Cruz 50 Hula Girl. “We are farther from any speck of dry land than you can get anywhere else on the planet. We figure the closet people to us right now (excluding the other racers) are on the International Space Station some 270 miles above us.”
But for the lead multihulls, they are closer to Mai Tais as they make their approach to the Diamond Head finish line off Honolulu. The four-hour delay on the tracker gets removed when a boat is within 100nm which happened today for leader ORMA 60 Mighty Merloe. After just four days since their start on July 6, the multihull race record set by Bruno Peyron in 1997 on Explorer of 05:09:18:26 is set to be exploded.
“I can’t stop thinking about how lucky we are to be out here doing what we’re doing,” reports Will Suto from onboard Mighty Merloe. “The ocean and sky are beautiful. Last night the sun set on our bow and the moon rose on our stern. The colors at dusk out here are unlike any other place I’ve been.”
But not all is ideal as the team deals with marine debris. “Today I had to crawl out onto the sterns of both the starboard and port amas and dangle off the very back to clear chunks of polypropylene fishing net from in between the top of the rudders and the hull,” said Suto. “We had to keep going at full speed to keep the hull out of the water. If we had touched down the force of the water would have dragged me off. I was tied to the boat three different ways, but it was still a nice moment of clarity.”
While the team is doing well, Suto reports they are eager to finish. “It is a truly fine crew …fast, calm, and all with the good humor requisite to live stacked like sardines inside a carbon fiber tube. On that note, it is a good thing this boat is so fast, because the interior is getting a bit fetid.”
Also expected to explode is the outright monohull race record set in 2009 by Neville Crichton’s Alfa Romeo of 05:14:36:20. The 100-foot Comanche, skippered by Ken Read, reports their current ETA as tomorrow by 15:30 (Hawaii time), well before the deadline of early on July 12. But Read knows, with so much trash in the water, it can all end in an instant.
“We’ve had a few close calls but so far have avoided the floating debris,” said Read. “Sad but true that modern sailing has to deal with obstacles more and more these days. This in a way is a game of Russian roulette offshore especially with these modern boats that go so fast you don’t have time to avoid, particularly with the multiple appendages that increase the chances of damage.”
Guided by navigator Stan Honey, who estimates this could be seventh first to finish and would be his fourth monohull record if successful, has had to lean on his experience for this edition. “There has been an unsettling, very elongated high which has had us sail a pretty long course,” notes Honey. “The good news is that we have had surprisingly strong breeze that has rarely dipped under 17 knots of wind.”
With multiple reports of boats having to back down to remove debris from the blades, Read says they have avoided those issues. “So far so good… but knock on wood! We aren’t there yet.”
Background: 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 2225 miles. The 2017 edition attracted 55 entrants that will have staggered starts on July 3, 5, and 6.
July 3 – Division 5, 6, and 7 (17 boats)
July 5 – Division 3 and 4 (16 boats)
July 6 – Division 0, 1, 2 (22 boats)