Transpac 2011: Enduring the commute

When it comes to classic distance races, each of them has a regional base and regardless of how many boats from around the globe venture out for Sydney-Hobart, it's the Australians who make a religion of that race.

The same can also be said on the eastern seaboard of the United States where international sailors and locals alike have a handful of splendid events to choose from, but Newport-Bermuda stands alone.

Out West, it's not hard to find Transpac sailors who are dedicated to the race. Their race. But the long-distance commuters of Bengal 7 are a class to themselves, lending a whole new meaning to the phrase, Pacific Region. Yoshi Murase's boats named Bengal have been showing up since 2001, crossing the Pacific all the way from Japan to race Transpac.  That's about 5,000 miles of sailing for a race that is officially 2,225 miles back toward where you started from.  
 
Mayuko on her way
© Bengal 7
On May 14, Bengal 7 and a delivery crew of three departed Nagoya, a port city of two million people on Japan's Pacific Coast. They are now more than 3,000 miles along, with first-time voyager Mayuko 'Mayu-chan' Terao blogging her way across at Bengal 7's Crossing.

She won't be part of the racing crew come July, but she has background, as she explains to an audience of mostly non-sailors, 'You might be surprised that a toilet doesn't have a door, but for me it was the opposite. I grew up with racing boats, and when I first went aboard a cruising boat when I was about 20 years old, I was surprised that the toilet did have a door.'

Yep, one of us.  In the days when she worked late, she reports, 'I used to go straight from work to the marina, around 2 a.m., and sleep overnight in the car in a parking lot, not to be late for the race. Which I knew was stupid. But.' It's OK, Mayu-chan.  You are in safe company here.
 
Dr. Murase, the boat's owner who is not part of the delivery crew, first raced this Van de Stadt-designed Ohashi 46 in 2007, when it was brand new, and again in 2009, when it placed third in Division 3 and missed second place by eight minutes. The Transpac has a surprisingly strong following in Japan. Murase wanted for a long time to race Transpac, he says. Finally he tried it, and he liked it, and he keeps coming back because, 'We feel genuinely close to the people. And we learn from each race. On a chart, the race might look monotonous, but the reality is very different.'
 
Bengal 7 was built by Cookson Boats of New Zealand, which shorthands it thus:  46 feet. Van De Stadt Design for a Japanese client, Dr. Murase, to compete in TransPac 2007. Carbon epoxy PVC foam sandwich core hull and deck. Vacuum-bagged throughout with carbon/foam infused interior structures.

Engineered and built in accordance with ABS Offshore Racing Guidelines and IMS Regulation. Interior arrangement includes settee berths, galley, and nav station. Deck layout includes composite carbon tiller with alloy extension and grand prix racing winches.

The boat's delivery is being skippered by Nasuharu 'Anchan' Ando, who has sailed all five Bengal Transpacs, and I note that many of Mayu-chan's posts are about food (an obsession at sea) and they're good for culture-peeks. This began, actually, before Bengal 7 left Nagoya, as we see at left.   
 
Kiwi Spirit under sea trial
When a few small squid landed on the deck, Mayu-chan's response was, 'They're gonna be a good otsumami (snack) with saké. We have three bottles of saké (Nihonshu) on the boat.' 

Thanks to Mayu-chan, I now I know that saké is a Japanese term for alcoholic drinks in general, and what I call saké, they call Nihonshu. See?

Transpac is brain food. And being myself a lover of rice, both distilled and un, I couldn't agree more with the very-Oriental assertion of the  third crewmember, Fuminori Furukawa, who declares of his time at sea, 'I'm happy as long as I can eat rice.'
 
It's a big ocean. It takes a lot of rice to cross. But that's the beauty of it. Anchan, who has been back and forth across the Pacific far more times than most, and without tiring of it, says, 'You never see the same scenery twice. 'Never.'
 
Bengal 7 and the rest of Division 2 leave Point Fermin on July 8.

Event website