LONG BEACH, Calif.—Yesterday’s rock stars are today’s washouts in a Transpacific Yacht Race full of baffling twists and turns en route to Hawaii.
Just as Roger Sturgeon’s new STP 65 Rosebud appeared to be lining up on Roy E. Disney’s Pyewacket with a 297-nautical mile 24-hour run down south a day earlier, dying wind slowed it to only 167 miles before Wednesday’s 8 a.m. roll call.
Philippe Kahn’s Pegasus 101 was another classic example of how quickly it can change. His doublehanded Open 50, rated as the sixth fastest boat in the fleet, led Tuesday with a run of 299 miles in the south but Wednesday made only 146 miles—one less than Bill Myers’ Cirrus, a 34-year-old Standfast 40 leading the Aloha B division with Lindsey Austin, 22, as skipper and four other women as crew.
The south was still good for Cirrus and a few others. Tom Garnier’s Reinrag2, a J/125 in Division 4 that at one time was the farthest boat south of all, tied into breeze that swept it 232 miles—second only for the day to Mag 80′s 237 and Fred Detwiler’s 233 on the TP 52 Trader —and into first place overall on corrected handicap time for the entire fleet.
“It is truly weird,” Disney said.
And how did Kahn, the creator of the cell phone, deal with being becalmed?
“I get Richard [Clarke] to practice singlehanded sailing,” Kahn wrote. “I dove off the boat and went for a magical swim. What a treat. But if you try it, make sure that you time it right with the puffs, else it is a long swim to Honolulu.”
At about the same time, Pyewacket veered north to get in front of Doug Baker’s Magnitude 80, which fell in 23 miles behind as they continued southwest directly toward Oahu in a 12-knot nor’easter they hoped was a weak beginning of the trade winds.
But unless the winds increase dramatically, Pyewacket’s hopes of reclaiming the elapsed time record of 6 days 16 hours 4 minutes 11 seconds set by Morning Glory two years ago are slim.
Disney, who decided not to sail on the boat the day before last Sunday’s start, said from Waikiki, “It’s not over yet, but they need to get going. A couple of 400-mile days would help.”
Good news for Disney was Morning Light’s climb to first place in Division 2 in a head-to-head fight with John Kilroy Jr.’s Samba Pa Ti, another Transpac 52 descending from the north.
Minutes before departing Long Beach for the start line last Sunday, Morning Light skipper Jeremy Wilmot reflected on the past year’s selections and intense training, with a word for the project’s patron, Disney.
“We’re very ready,” Wilmot said. “I’m just eager to get started. We hope we can make him proud.”
Seventy-three boats started the race and Ginny, Chris Calkins and Norm Reynolds’ Calkins 50 in Aloha B, became the second to drop out Wednesday, following Gaviota earlier. The report was that Ginny “got stuck in a bad high [pressure area], couldn’t get out of out [and was] headed for San Diego.”
Flagship’s tracking program—introduced to Transpac for this 44th race—also ran into difficulties. The transponders it placed on all the boats were going dead after about five days, meaning that all of the earlier starters were not transmitting their periodic positions to satellites, and the big boats that started last were feared to follow suit.
Transpac has returned to its old system of an 8 a.m. PDT daily radio roll call to the boats for position reports.
Tom Garnier’s brother, Transpac Commodore Al Garnier, said, “It’s unfortunate. The Pacific satellite coverage is more complex than other places, but we haven’t yet heard an explanation of the problem from anyone at Flagship.”
Kahn seemed to be taking it all in stride when he wrote: “The wind vanished. Gone. For several hours we were becalmed, making sail changes, climbing the mast, seeking the puffs. And now the wind is back. Light, but it is back. Richard is a fantastic light air sailor and his superior skills are infinitely precious. It’s going to be tricky getting out of this light spot and within the next 48 hours into the trades. That’s a busy night ahead with a lot of concentration and focus.”
Meanwhile, special prizes have been offered to winners by Gladstone’s Restaurant, the hub of the Transpac’s mainland home port at Rainbow Harbor in Long Beach. A spokesman said, “In keeping with the spirit and tradition of the Clark Cooke House in Newport, R.I., Gladstone’s Long Beach announced that each crew member of this year’s Transpac overall winner will receive a Gladstone’s Long Beach Gold Card. The named owner of this card will be entitled to a lifetime cocktail at Gladstone’s Long Beach. Additionally, if the elapsed time record is broken, the record-breaking crew will also receive a Gladstone’s Gold Card.”
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