Centennial Transpacific Yacht Race organizers have taken action to allow that the battle for the Barn Door in next year's race will be more than a two-boat duel between maxZ86s.
But with other changes in the wind, the big guys may have a tougher task beating out their smaller rivals for overall honours on corrected handicap time.
The Transpacific Yacht Club board of directors has approved a 2005 race rating limit intended to equal "the speed of a canting keel maxZ86 on the Transpac Course,"
according to the text of the rule, that will "allow both maxZ86s and non-maxZ86s to compete for shortest elapsed time, as well as the overall fleet handicap trophies."
The rating limit will consider such speed factors as sail area, weight displacement and waterline length. Boats exceeding the limit must adjust their sailing configurations to conform.
The rating limit also states: "Yachts which have an IMS age date of June 30, 2004 or earlier may have an LOA [length overall] up to 30 meters. Yachts which have an IMS age date later than June 30, 2004 are limited to essentially the length of a maxZ86."
The 30-metre limit will apply only to boats with Barn Door potential. The age definitions are meant to level the competition for maxZ86s and other modern monohull designs rapidly merging on the sailing scene and at the same time leave older boats a reasonable opportunity to be first past Diamond Head.
Historically, a handful of entries pursue the Barn Door, the unique slab of koa wood awarded to the monohull with the fastest elapsed time. Philippe Kahn's Pegasus maxi sleds have won the last two, while Roy Disney's former Pyewacket holds the record of 7 days 11 hours 41 minutes 27 seconds, set in 1999.
But in 2005, as always, any boat will be eligible to win the King Kalakaua perpetual and Governor of Hawaii take-home trophies for best corrected handicap time overall - and the chances of smaller boats outscoring the marquee entries may be getting better.
The actual course distance between Point Fermin and Diamond Head is 2,225 nautical miles, which is also the rated handicap distance. Because of anomalies such as the Pacific High, race boats usually avoid the light winds and sail a longer course, anyway, so Transpac is considering some changes, including stretching the official handicap distance. The length is yet to be determined, but it should give the higher handicap boats more track to eat away at the faster boats' times.
Sailing statistician Peggy REDLER ran models of recent races for increased distances with the purpose, "to determine if it is feasible to adjust the course handicap distance to improve the smaller boats' opportunity to win overall trophy awards . . . based on the assumption that a longer handicap distance favours the smaller boats."
Redler ran several models based on recent races and found that if the 2003 course had been rated at 2,300 nautical miles, Stan and Sally Honey's Cal 40, Illusion, would have moved up from third to second overall ahead of Karl Kwok's Transpac 52, Beau Geste.
"It is possible that Illusion performed equal to or better than Beau Geste,"
Redler said. The board will pursue that issue at a future meeting.
As for the Barn Door battle, two recent developments made an update in the rating rule necessary. Early in 2002 Transpac agreed to allow the three maxZ86s then planned or under construction to race in 2005 if all three were to start.
But while the first maxZ86, Zephyrus V, was committed to a water ballast configuration, Disney's new Pyewacket and Hasso Plattner's Morning Glory switched to the faster canting ballast, twin foil (CBTF) technology. Zephyrus V's new owner, Dick DeVos, still plans to race the renamed Windquest but is targeting handicap honours in Division I instead of the Barn Door.
Transpac Commodore Jerry MONTGOMERY said, "To eliminate uncertainty and to assure some competition at the top end of the fleet, the Transpac Board and the 86 owners agreed that Transpac would relieve the 86s of the need to have three boats on the start line. But, in exchange for that, other boats that were not maxZ86s could compete so long as they rated no faster than an 86."
In recent months owners of non-maxZ86 boats of similar size have expressed interest in racing to Honolulu in 2005.
Montgomery said, "The board believes that its 2005 Transpacific Yacht Club Rating Limit Rule offers the opportunity for non-maxZ86s to competitively race for the Barn Door while at the same time keeping faith with our 2002 commitment to the maxZ86 class."
Ratings for this limit shall be determined by a secret formula administered by US Sailing. Yachts or designs are permitted trial ratings to see whether they rate faster or slower than this limit and to help potential entrants conform to this rating limit. A complete text of the new Rating Limit was to be posted on the event website at the address below.
All boats, including Barn Door contenders, must obtain a TPYC rating. The purpose of ratings is to reward boats that are sailed nearest their potential.
Honey, who navigated Pyewacket's record run in '99, has said it's important to "give good sailors reasons to go on small boats."