Transpac 2011 – Different boats, different bets

Transpac 2011 - Traveler and Gracie
Kimball Livingston/Transpac
As Transpac reporting and transponder tracking switches to Hawaii Standard Time (reminder to navigators), we're seeing not much change in the leader board, with the biggest chance of a turnover looming as boats make their tactical gybes to line up for the Molokai Channel.

What we're watching: Aboard Magnitude 80, Doug Baker and navigator Ernie Richau have determined that they're not going to pass Bella Mente by following her, and they've made a heavy commitment to the south. They've bought a lot of leverage, if they can find something to leverage against. Dan Nowlan, Offshore Director of US Sailing, lives and breathes this stuff.

Dan's comment today: 'It looks to me as if Magnitude is sailing as deep as they dare, hoping to gain while Bella Mente goes off on her optimum gybe angle. Magnitude is really light and has a very flat set of run polars. She can sail deep without giving up a lot. There's room for this to get interesting.'
The report from Bella Mente: 'Overall, we are happy, but nervous about covering Magnitude.'

At this point it's a wide 'cover.' Hap Fauth's 69-footer crossed north of the rhumb line this morning, and we know of at least one race analyst, following through routing software, who is figuring she won't stray far from rhumb from here forward. It looks like a port-pole approach to the Molokai Channel and Friday morning finishes for both of the leaders

Looking around the fleet of the 46th Transpacific Yacht Race, Los Angeles to Honolulu, we see that James McDowell's Grand Illusion has extended its very-real corrected-time lead in the Sled class and at morning roll call had about six hours over Brack Duker's Holua and Per Peterson's Alchemy. They're running 1-1, 2-2, and 3-3 with Philippe Kahn's Pegasus-MotionX checking in at 4-5, considerably farther south and marching to a different drum. Yesterday, Kahn had this comment: 'When we navigate, we all have our preferences.

After thirteen transpacific races, three of them double handed, and with records/victories in all the classics, the tool that I would not go without is a super-accurate barometer. On Transpac, we've developed the use of the Vaisala barometer. It's so accurate that we absolutely sail by it. As I write, we're running at 1021+, which would have been acceptable if the High had been as the forecasters said: 1036+. But now that all the models show a slightly weaker High, we're back at a sub-1020 target, which means south. This Vaisala unit sits right in front of our eyes; analysis courtesy of MotionX predictive signal process. There is more to navigation than downloading weather charts and running routers. Thank goodness!'

Corrected-time division leaders all held overnight, including Horizon in the SC50s, Patches in Division 2, Tom Holthus' 2009 division winner, the J/145, Bad Pak, in Division 4, and the Hobie 33, Peregrine, which has been kicking it in Division 6 since Sunday. In the Aloha class, where there are true cruising boats taking the race as an adventure outing, Los Angeles Yacht Club staff commodore Eric Gray held the lead through the night in his Morris 46,Gracie.

At mid-morning, Gracie was south of the rhumb line with about 900 miles to go, showing 7 knots in 12 knots of breeze. Past Aloha class winner Between the Sheets, Ross Pearlman's Jenneau Sun Odyssy, was about 40 miles north of rhumb and showing 6 knots in 10 knots of breeze. Once you're out there, you have to race, but there's also this Michael Lawler guy withTraveler, who has his own since of style. In 2007 he used the Transpac as the first leg of a circumnavigation ('We crashed the King of Tonga's coronation') and he's found a way to make 2011 another race to remember.

I'll let Michael Lawler tell it his way. At sunset Tuesday, celebrating the halfway point, gag awards were given to all the crew. And then:

'I took a knee and gave one last gift. To Barbara. It came in a small jewelry box. I offered it to her and said, 'Barbara Lynn Burdick, will you marry me?

'She said 'yes.' (She said yes.)

'Oh, and of course the ladies want details. Here we go. The ring is a beauty, a stainless steel one-inch hose clamp that fits her ring finger perfectly, with just a little screwdriver adjustment. (And a promise to go shopping in Waikiki.)

'Popping 'the question' during a Transpac and midway between California and Hawaii is appropriate, given that we met on the dock at the Hawaii Yacht Club following the 2005 Transpac, and we have spent much of our six years together, on board Traveler, sailing the world.

'Still living the dream, Michael.'

That Barn Door Trophy thing. I created some confusion early-on when I alleged that Pyewacket's 1999 course record (7 days, 11 hours) is something that is being threatened this year. Better to have said that it is irrelevant to what is taking place now on the ocean.

The confusion arose from the question of whether or not boats with canting keels and powered winches are eligible for the first-to-finish Barn Door Trophy. Once upon a time they were. Since 2009, they are not.

That is, Neville Crichton's 100-foot CBTF Alfa Romeo in 2009 set a new course record of 5 days, 14 hours. But because Alfa uses movable ballast and stored energy, it does not comply with RRS 51 and 52. Therefore the Barn Door in 2009 went to John Kilroy for Samba Pa Ti's blistering ride - the boat's a TP52, for crimminies sake - in an elapsed time of 7 days, 8 hours.

TPYC Commodore Bill Lee adds, 'The course record trophy does not distinguish between boats that are RRS compliant and those that are not. Alfa's current course record would be very hard for the current crop of fixed-keel 70-80 footers to break.'

There is no separate course record trophy for conventional boats. But there is the Barn Door.

Transpac 2011 - Long Beach


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