Transpac 2021: All about the Mai Tais

Published on July 15th, 2021

Len Bose, skipper of the Santa Cruz 50 Horizon, will be competing in the biennial 2225 nm Transpac Race from Los Angeles to Honolulu. With the first of three staggered starts on July 13, Horizon will set off on July 16 followed by the final start a day later. A veteran of the race, Bose shares what lies ahead:

Years ago revered navigator Tom Leweck, the Curmudgeon, wrote a story in Scuttlebutt called Trans Pac Anonymous (TPA) in which he detailed a fictional non-profit organization designed to protect yachtsman from unscrupulous boat owners who make promises of champagne sailing voyages to Hawaii on the sparkly blue water of the Pacific Ocean.

It’s been years since I have read the story, but the bottom line deferred to what my father always told me, “You don’t get something for nothing”, because the pounding of the first two to four days of the race, pending on what size boat you are on, is absolutely miserable.

Let me set the scene for you: The start of the race is normally under the light breeze from the Catalina eddy. Once the boats are clear of Catalina Island and about 40 miles off the coast of California, they enter the offshore breeze which can easily be in the 30-knot range. This is quite often when the carnage takes place with boats breaking down and return to port with their tail between their legs.

This happened to me in 2003, and normally starts at about three in the morning your first night out. The crew struggles with the reduction of sail area with all hands on deck. With this task completed, the off watch heads back down below, wet and cold, trying to get some sleep within the hour and a half before their watch starts.

At this point picture yourself a little seasick living inside a drum on the drumline at the halftime show of a football game.

This goes on for four days with your body locking down, asking you why you do this to yourself. The crew has to learn quickly how to adapt, which includes going to the head while on a 20° angle, taking on and off our foul weather gear, learning how to make coffee with one hand for the boat.

Can you picture me, struggling to stay upright after pretending to get some sleep, putting on my gear now trying to remember how to balance my coffee mug as I pour warm water into it? I learned years ago that boiling water is very hot and your first drink of coffee is a type of tsunami effect out of your canteen into your wide-open mouth.

Still on a 20° mountain climbing expedition, one looks for the easiest route up the companionway ladder onto the weather rail. Just then you get hit in the face by a large cold wave with the water dripping down your slightly exposed jacket. One quickly begins the countdown to one’s off watch.

Just at about this time, I start getting upset because I have to get back up and start figuring out how to make the boat sail faster by trimming the sails. Which is the start of another climbing expedition traveling down to the leeward side and back up again.

I’m not going to lie, I do a lot of finger pointing to ask the younger crew members to complete the trimming (I haven’t gone to the bow of the boat since the turn of the century).

Day two and three are the same balancing act, trying to take the casserole out of the oven, placing it on the stove-top to peel back the aluminum foil, and sticking my finger in the middle of it to see if the casserole is ready for dinner. If it is not ready, the juggling act starts over.

The first few days go by with most of the crew laughing at how the old guy tries to stay on his two feet dancing around the galley while cursing at himself.

As we go into day four, this is when one receives the reward of living through those days of hell. The angle of the boat is less than five degrees, the crew has set one of the reaching spinnakers while the miles are clicking away towards the cold Mai Tais, yes I talk in the first person plural form.

Morale on the boat can be severely damaged should the wrong route be taken in the early part of the race, as there are no passing lanes after day five. However, if you are one of the fortunate ones whose team has made the correct choices, then you are in the race of your lifetime.

Event informationRace detailsEntry listTrackerJuly 15 Roll Call

The crew of Roy Disney’s Volvo 70 Pyewacket shows off their hula skills following the traditional Hawaiian blessing of their yacht preparing them for a safe journey in the 2021 Transpac Race:

Forty-one teams are competing in the 51st Transpac Race which takes the fleet on a 2225 nm course from Point Fermin in Los Angeles to the finish line off Diamond Head in Honolulu, Hawaii.

2021 Schedule
July 13 start – Division 8
July 16 start – Division 5, 6, 7
July 17 start – Division 1, 2, 3, 4
July 30 – Honolulu Awards Ceremony

Source: TPYC

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