Making landfall in a magical place
Published on July 11th, 2023
Before the Andrews 68 Pyewacket completed the Transpac Race course in nine days (9:07:58:56), which was good enough to win Division 3, Navigator Peter Isler reflected on the experience in this final day report:
The Transpacific Yacht Race – the 2225nm biennial race from LA to Hawaii is one of the great ocean races on the planet – and for some, the best. There are a lot of those fans on board Pyewacket, Roy Disney’s sled on which I’m navigating.
We tried counting up the number of races amongst the crew before the start, but many of us have done so many over the years that we can’t remember the exact number of races we’ve done. Roy and Watch Captain Gary Weisman have a running battle of who has done the most – its somewhere in the mid-20s for each – close enough to be a tie.
We are three and a half hours from the finish line offshore of Diamond Head’s light house and its easy (now) to see why the race has so many fans. Even though it’s been a light wind year, we are surfing into the Sandwich Islands with perfectly lined up waves and a feeling that we are about to make landfall in a magical place.
The last few days have been like this – just great downwind sailing – in warm weather. T-shirts and shorts are the 24/7 attire unless you want to put on a jacket for the random rain cells – the other option is throwing the t-shirt down below to get a nice fresh water shower.
But to get to this spot – an e-ticket ride surfing into paradise – you must pay your dues… even in a relatively light/easy year. For Pyewacket this year – it’s going to be over 9 days afloat with 4 hours on and 4 hours off. We will be finishing in the middle of the fleet – and considering how some of the smaller slower boats started four days before us… that’s a big chunk of time for us 21st century sailors.
The first part of the race is always on the cold side and almost always a hard close reach for a few days… rough conditions that probably would seal the death knell on this race if it didn’t have the final 60% of downwind sailing to make you forget what it was like.
Navigating this year’s race has been a pleasure for me. Roy has brought together some of the best sailors on the planet to race on his two big boats: the turbo’d Volvo 70 Pyewacket70 which we have sailed extensively on the west coast for a couple of years and now on a tour of the best offshore races in the Caribbean, Med, and the Atlantic; and this Andrews 68 …. the crème de la crème of the “sled” class – which we race on the west coast.
Consistent crew on both boats makes for better performance on the offshore race track – every race is another practice session. Olympic champion extraordinaire, Torben Grael, joined the crew for Transpac and its been a joy for all of us watching him steer the boat. You can look up the crew list – it’s an amazing group of guys and we enjoy racing together.
Interestingly we are not the youngest crew on the race; in fact, we might actually be up there in average age – but we don’t talk about that too much on board.
We’ve had a fun battle with the other sleds – and right now, fingers crossed we are looking to win our class on elapsed and handicap, and also we are winning on handicap amongst all three faster classes that started together on the third and final start.
As usual, I learned a lot and right now I’m thinking about all the lessons I’ve learned in the sport by sailing with and against good sailors since my first Transpac – many moons ago. Like Gary and Roy, I’ll keep coming back if invited and I might not be totally happy after the first few days but at this point of the race I’ll have forgotten that part of it.
Gotta run… there’s a layline, 25-mile report, 5-mile report, and a short 100-yard finish line to deal with … and some epic surfing conditions – the boat just hit 20 knots in 18 knots of wind barreling down one of the Pacific combers as we head toward the famed Molokai Channel.
That makes me think of the spinner dolphins that will hopefully greet us soon – and the sea life we have passed over the last 2200 miles. Sadly, the plastic garbage (lots of fishing gear) in the Pacific has gotten worse and worse based on my limited semi-annual experience.
A few days ago, the sun had gone down when the boat nearly stopped. We dropped the kite and backed down, but with no change, flashlights revealed a giant tarp and net material. hopelessly speared around the keel bulb.
Luckily our amazing bowman, Robbie Kane, ready with diving gear, knife, and underwater flashlight, jumped over the side and somehow cut the right ropes that we got free. The big lesson though is that plastic doesn’t go away and it’s trashing our planet’s oceans…. very sad.
From the inaugural race in 1906, the biennial Transpac Race in 2023 is the 52nd edition with 57 entrants to take on the 2225 nm course from Los Angeles to Honolulu.
June 27 – Division 7, 8
June 29 – Division 4, 5, 6
July 1 – Division 1, 2, 3, 9