Transpac 2011 - Shifting gears: The next transition

Grand Illusion, background, listed 1-1, with Bad Pak
Kimball Livingston/Transpac
Transpac 2011.

Great minds think alike, and as we continue through the Navigator's Hot Seat segment of the Transpacific Yacht Race, with the prospect of lighter winds ahead, the north-south juggling act continues to be the great preoccupation.


We've seen a well-formed High pump out some pretty nice tradewinds, but now it's time to adjust, and there is just no way to know until some point farther down the track just who is making the best bets. Farther north, closer to the High, is a shorter course but riskier. Farther south buys better breeze, probably, but at what cost in mileage?

I call that a great game of yacht racing.

The latest report from Hap Fauth's R-P 69, Bella Mente - the boat that already has people talking 'Barn Door winner' even though it's a bit early for that - advises: 'We are keeping a close eye on Magnitude. They are definitely keeping us on our toes. The talk on the boat is to juggle how high to go, but stay away from the High. So right now we are having a pretty normal Transpac.'

Right.

Read 349 miles in 24 hours for Bella Mente at morning roll call, 348 for Doug Baker's Magnitude 80. Breaking the mast in the Cabo Race was not good, but Transpac is the featured leg of Bella Mente's left-coast sojourn, and they've had the Chamber of Commerce tour so far. Now the latest update on Yellowbrick tracking shows Baker's Andrews 80 (navigator Ernie Richau) making a bid to the south of the track of Bella Mente (navigator Ian Moore). Mr. Richau is uninclined, apparently, to let Mr. Moore snooze lightly. Rough-and-ready projections have the leaders making Diamond Head Light on Thursday evening.

Aboard the Japanese entry, Yoshihiko Murase's 46-foot Bengal 7, navigator Haruhiko 'Morimori' Mori reports, 'We have kept to the north of the other boats, waiting for them to go south, but they seem to be on our route. How we manage the light wind ahead is the key.' I would add, north of most but not all of of Bengal 7's competition in Division 2, where 'Dr. Laura' Schlessinger's Kernan 49 - built for this race - is both farthest north and the time allowance leader as of Monday roll call. Hey, Eric Bowman, how are your fingernails holding up?

Deception enters the course
Kimball Livingston/Transpac

In the hotly-contested SC50 class, we find Deception navigator Peter Shumar musing, 'The real test is going to be what happens over the next 48 hours. The wind is predicted to go light, and whoever can keep their light-air concentration is going to make out like a bandit - especially at night. I'm expecting that we'll peel off to the 1A in the wee hours of the morning, and we'll be forced to head slightly north just to keep our boat moving. Today is house cleaning day: Get the spaghetti out of the cockpit; change out the trash bag and move trash to the bow; fill our main water tank from the jerry cans. We're getting lighter just when we need to.'

Between the information available through Yellowbrick transponder tracking (even with the temporary six-hour delay) and Morning Updates, it seems pointless here to walk through the full fleet, division by division. We'll visit all of them before the fleet makes Honolulu. There's still a place for the old way to visualize, as in this shot of the Waikiki Yacht Club taken by Mayuko Terao, part of Bengal 7's delivery team and waiting for them now at Ala Wai Harbor. Remember when this was as good as it gets?

We will note that, as of Monday, James McDowell's SC70, Grand Illusion, is basking in the 1-1 position, leading a fleet of six sleds on time allowance, although Philippe Kahn's Andrews 68, Pegasus, shows the shortest distance to go in this group. Looking at distance-to-go, however, the sleds have about a 60-mile spread, 4 percent of the 1,400 miles or so yet to go, plus the strategic gybe for the final approach. These horses have a long way to run.

And there's been some great excitement in the Mexican contingent, with Lorenzo Berho's Peligroso nipping at Bella Mente on handicap, and I suppose it's possible that a few of our readers missed Mexico's big win over the weekend in the U-17 Soccer World Championship, but I guarantee you no one in Mexico missed it. And no one on Patches, Vincitore, or Peligroso, where 18-year-old Eduardo Saenz has seniority of a sort, being a minted third-generation sailor from the Club de Yates de Acapulco. This question sifted out of Peligroso into my Inbox without attribution, but I like it for speaking to the question of why we go to sea at all. Why put up with sleep deprivation, discomfort, sticky underwear . . .

The question: When was the last time you saw sunrise and sunset, both, on the same day?

For many of us, the answer is, the last time I went to sea. And it was beautiful.

The Transpac race is run by the Transpacific Yacht Club - event website