Photography by Chris Love
15 July 2019
With the breeze shifted far left in overcast skies due to a strong Catalina Eddy, the final wave of 24 monohulls and 4 multihulls in a record fleet of 90 yachts are now headed off the coast in the 50th edition of Transpacific Yacht Race, a biennial race to Honolulu organised by the Transpacific YC.
These are the largest and fastest boats in the fleet, and their starts were an impressive display of masterful big-boat sail handling, seamanship and tactics as they charged the line on port tack with a variety of headsail types suitable to the close reaching angle sailed to clear the West End of Catalina, the only mark of the course in this 2225-mile race.
This worked out fine for most boats, as the line was called all clear at the starting gun by Principal Race Officer Tom Trujillo, except John Sangmeister’s modified SC 70 OEX set up a little too far to windward at the pin end and was boxed out by Robert DeLong’s TP 52 Conviction.
Later on in the race, OEX activated an emergency signal. This was followed one hour later by a message from Roy Disney’s Andrews 68 Pyewacket contacting the Transpacific YC’s race headquarters that they had picked up the crew of OEX and all were safe.
Soon thereafter Sangmeister took this in stride, making a Facebook post that said:
“Our start – and I use “Our” like the royal “We” to spread blame from my mistake – was not perfect. However, we are clawing back nicely with good straight-line speed. My wife, Sarah was again our team’s MVP helping us to get ready for the voyage. Thanks for all the love and aloha. Many miles before I sleep…”
Sangmeister and boat captain Ryan Breymaier have done extensive upgrades and renovations to OEX to make her fast and optimise her rating for this race. A taller rig, larger mainsail, and other changes have given this boat more punch on the Transpac course, and the fastest rating in Division 2, but the team reckons the changes will be worth it.
The promising initial conditions caved in a few hours later as the breeze finally shifting west, but died out and leaving the fleet becalmed in the channel before even getting to the West End. This prompting many to tack to head up the coast on the hunt for the shortest path to reliable breeze. Observers close by described the scene of windless boats sitting on a glassy sea as looking “like a graveyard.”
Stan Honey navigating Jim Cooney and Samantha Grant’s Verdier/VPLP 100 Comanche, the current monohull race record holder, this morning expressed concern about these conditions in the forecast.
“This eddy is big, I’m worried about it not just at the start but up until midnight tonight.”
This could invite speculation about the effect this may have on record run attempts this year, but its still too early to tell for sure.
So, as the third wave struggles to get off the coast, the second wave has reached the breeze and one team has fallen to its strength. Tom Camp’s appropriately named SC 50 Trouble has reported problems with their rudder bearings and is returning to port, all safe aboard.
However, there are two more casualties reported to be returning to port. The first was Mike Sudo’s Beneteau First 47.7 Macondo, retiring with a rudder failure. Here’s what Sudo said and the impact of their decision:
“Macondo now heels hard to starboard and our worlds feel a bit upside down. The potential for catastrophic rudder failure crept from the shadows last night forcing our crew to make the heavy-hearted decision to turn back, to head home, to abandon 2+ years of daydreams and planning. You never truly learn what you or your crew are made of in fair winds and seas, you learn about your crew in the dark of night, when sh%t hits the fan and the stakes are high-that’s when the masks are removed and you know the makings of a man. Words cannot express the admiration I have for this team and their fortitude. Not for a moment did they shrink to the multitude of challenges-they rose.”
The second was Tim Jones’s Olson 40 Live Wire, who was leading Division 6 but has bent or broken the top section of their spar above the second spreader, forcing them to also take the decision to turn back under jury rig. On both vessels all are uninjured and safe.
Based on current positions, Division leaders in the first wave are as follows: Don Jesberg’s Cal 40 Viva, Ian Ferguson’s Wasa 55 Nadelos in Division 9, David Gorney’s J/105 No Compromise in Division 8, Michael Yokell’s Oyster 56 Quester in Division 7, Cecil and Alyson Rossi’s Farr 57 Ho’okolohe in Division 6, and Ian Elazary’s Lagoon 400S2 Celestra in Multihull 0A.
In the second wave that started yesterday, current leaders are as follows: Tom Barker’s Swan 60 Good Call in Division 3, Scott Deardorf and Bill Guilfoyle’s SC 52 Prevail in Division 4, and Bob Pethick’s Rogers 46 Bretwalda 3 in Division 3.