Transpac 2011 first start underway

Celerity at the start. Photo by Kimball Livingston - Transpac
Kimball Livingston
The first wave of Transpac 2011 starters left Point Fermin today, bound for Honolulu with a seabreeze in the low teens to get them 'off the beach' and many a quiet prayer for the breeze to hold through the night. There is ample wind offshore for a fast passage, 'if we can just get to it,' as Celerity crewman Kelson Elam put it.

Elam is one of two lake-sailing Texans aboard Harry Zanville's Santa Cruz 37, a crew of five Transpac first-timers who looked very good at the start as they ignored the jam-up at the committee boat-end of the line. Instead, they opted for elbow room and clear air near the pin.

And a nose-ahead start.

Our lead shot tells the story, but not as well as this before-and-after:

Notice the open water to leeward. Photo by Kimball Livingston - Transpac
Kimball Livingston

And then:

Launched. Photo by Kimball Livingston - Transpac
Kimball Livingston

Ten racing boats in Division 6, a wide-vision grouping from 32 feet to 43 feet, were mixed at the start with the Aloha Division, eight cruising boats or cruisey-type skippers in cruiser-racers. A lone catamaran, Santiago Becerra's 47-foot Espiritu Santi, received her own starting cannon five minutes later.

Another 34 boats, including the likely first-finishers, start on Friday, July 8 at 1 p.m. off Point Fermin. In the meantime, the storyline runs along that question of maybe or maybe not holding wind through the night - Celerity's crew is imagining a 10-day passage, but only if all the ducks line up and quack smartly - and the probability that the Pacific High Pressure Zone, now nicely formed and pumping gangbuster tradewinds toward Hawaii, will keep on keeping on. Transpac meteorologist Lee Chesneau is bullish on that. But there is at least one either person in the bz who thinks otherwise; we heard the words, 'some nutty #&@% that's about to happen.' We'll have to have a race to see.

By and by, as the bigger raceboats moved to the front and true cruisers such as Eric Gray's Morris 46, Gracie, began to lag, we thought of the prospect of trades in the twenties and Elam's parting comments/question: 'Celerity has two A2's, one A3 and an A4.

'Any idea where we could get an A5?'

Celerity hails from the Lake City Yacht Club, Minnesota. There are quite a few lake sailors in Transpac 2011. Doublehanders Greg Constable and Doug Backhouse from Nanaimo, British Columbia, made up the international component of start number one with the 40-foot Narrow Escape.

How narrow? About this narrow:

Narrow Escape gets away from the line. Photo by Kimball Livingtston - Transpac
Kimball Livingston

To view the fleet and Division breaks for 53 boats, 32 feet to 80 feet, entered in the Transpacific Yacht Race Transpac click here


Transpacific Yacht Race, pioneered the sport of ocean racing in 1906 and remains a leader more than a hundred years on, building for the 21st century. Transpac has lived and driven the evolution from heavy wooden schooners to high-tech hotrods that cross oceans at speeds fast enough to pull a water skier - if you could find a skier who could take the ocean. Once, gentlemen lowered their sails at night and waited for dawn. Today the only question is whether or not to take down 'the big one' when a black squall rises. Transpac also embraces family crews who fall between the extremes, people who are looking for not-so-simply the experience of a lifetime.

The 2,225-mile course from California to Hawaii, San Pedro to Honolulu, is home to the legends. The greatest ocean racing boat of her generation, Dorade, in 1936 was also the first to sweep Transpac as first-to-finish, first in class, and first overall. Late in the 20th century, we saw the advent of lightweight boats that reveled in the downwind, down-wave route to Hawaii and introduced 'big-boat surfing' to ocean racing. Cal 40's,Windward Passage, Chutzpah and Merlin come to mind. The monohull course record now belongs to an all-carbon fiber 98-footer from New Zealand, Neville Crichton's Alfa Romeo, which in 2009 made the Diamond Head finish in 5 days, 14 hours, navigated by world-record holding navigator, Rolex Yachtsman of the Year, and Transpacific Yacht Club Board of Directors member Stan Honey.

Transpac is run by the Transpacific Yacht Club, which also conducts occasional races to Papeete, Tahiti. Membership is open to all sailors who have completed a TPYC race to either of these splendid destinations.