Transpac 2011 - Dang, the Weather Guys were right

Katana maneuvering at the start line - Transpac 2011
Kimball Livingston/Transpac
Lighter winds, as predicted, and a bit of lane-shifting re-sorted parts of the Transpac racing fleet overnight, but James McDowell's SC70, Grand Illusion, continued to run 1-1, first in the Sleds and first overall with about 1,200 miles to go at 0800 roll call. Positioning on the north-south line suddenly goes from being very important to Very Important.

In a re-sorted division two, we see Jorge Ripstein's Patches, a TP52 navigated by John Rumsey, popping out to a nice lead while previous division leader Katana slowed on its more-northerly track. Katana navigator Eric Bowman had placed the brand new Kernan 49 to take advantage of a shorter track in the big breeze of two days ago, but what looked like a good bet at that moment looks less so at this moment.

What that means, time will tell. Katana was built 'for this race' for radio personality 'Dr. Laura' Schlessinger, a former motor yachting enthusiast who comes to sailing with the passion of a convert. 'I never thought I'd like sailing,' she says. 'I gave it a try, just a try, when I moved to Santa Barbara and I was shocked. Immediately, I fell in love with it. Sailing empties you of the daily junk, and that's the meaning of life. To put amazement into every day.'

With Patches showing up first in Division two and Chip Megeath's Criminal Mischief second, Katana today stands third. This a great group to watch. Mischief, an RP45 navigated by Jeff Thorpe, has enjoyed tremendous success on the ocean, winning its division, for example, in the 2009 Transpac and 2010 Pacific Cup.

And I reckon that makes it one tall poppy. 'This boat was a target when they were building Katana,' Thorpe says. 'Kernan admits he took a close look at us. That boat's just a touch bigger, and it's no accident.' At morning report the corrected-time spread among these top three boats was a considerable seven hours.

Patches sniffs a seabreeze - Transpac 2011
Kimball Livingston/Transpac

In division six, which drew the slow-start card a week ago Monday, Simon Garland's Hobie 33, Peregrine, continues to play the hare. The only boat farther south in this group is Richard Mainland's Ross 40, Paddy Wagon, which took a big left turn about a day and a half ago and is now south of the rhumb line, where the big boys are aimed.

(To that point, I'd judge that Hap Fauth's Bella Mente, still leading Division one on corrected time, has passed all the Monday starters and is now showing the way to the entire fleet of the 46th Transpacific Yacht Race. We should see that on delayed-transponders soon. I also have it that unofficial eta's for first-to-finish have been adjusted from Thursday p.m. to Friday a.m. Sharon Green says, Bring'em in at dawn, bring'em in at dawn.)

The rest of Division six, meanwhile, gazes longingly at the southerly position of Peregrine (four people crewing, including navigator Jeff Westbrook) as we hear from Singlehanded Transpac veteran Ronnie Simpson, half a degree to the north on Alpha Puppy. 'We'd give our eye-teeth to gybe outta here, but ultimately it would be too painful.'

And to no one's great surprise, Jack Taylor's Horizon is making an appearance at the top of the SC50 leaderboard.

Kevin McMeel checks in from the most southerly boat of them all, the Open 60, O Canada: 'We've passed the half-way point. Another dark night sailing blindly except for instruments. Tense times as the crew manages the survival of the one remaining downwind A2 spinnaker. Still on same tack as when the race started; no gybes in 1,100 miles of sailing.'

From the SC37, Celerity, hopelessly hung out as the most-northerly boat, but not hung out to dry, owner Harry Zanville reports: 'Sat in a rainstorm slatting for an hour or two with no wind. Deck is clean.'

From Pegasus, Philippe Kahn offers a small visual essay to share with those people who wonder why ocean racers don't get bored, just sitting around all day.

From Wayne Zittel aboard J/World's Hula Girl, making its second Transpac crossing with six students and three coaches, a few thoughts that sum up the state of play today: '850 miles into a 2,225 mile race from Los Angeles to Honolulu, and last night things started changing. We knew it was coming. We knew when it was coming. But it's still nerve wracking. The barometer has been rising, and the breeze finally went light and shifted to the east.

By light, we are talking 8-12 knots, so it's not boat-stopping, going-fishing light, but anytime the progress slows, we get nervous. The big question is… what's happening to the boats to the north of us? The weather forecasts we have been seeing are indicating that it should be lighter up there. That means that the majority of our fleet 'up there' should be going slower and/or sailing higher to maintain speed. Even though the breeze has for the moment stabilized and freshened a bit (steady 12 knots at the moment), we expect that it's going to get more 'interesting' over the next couple of days.'

Last night, a check-in from the Open 50, Truth, doublehanded by Alex Mehran and Jesse Naimark-Rouse: 'We could be sailing across the Atlantic, freezing, but here we are, watching the sunset in t-shirts . . . '

And finally, a salute to the 17 solo sailors who just completed the Longpac - a 400-mile jaunt into the Pacific, to any point on Longitude 126° 40' West and back to San Francisco Bay - to qualify for the 2012 Singlehanded Transpac. Hats off to overall winner Jeff Lebesch and his trimaran, Hecla. We hear you folks took a pasting.



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