San Pedro, California. Some of the newest and fastest monohull sailboats in the world will start the 41st Transpacific Yacht Race to Hawaii Sunday.
For human drama though they may not be able to match their smaller colleagues who started Saturday.
As the other Division III and IV boats crossed the starting line, Dan Doyle, a Honolulu real state investor sailing the smallest boat in the race, appeared to have his hopes dashed for the third consecutive race, this time by equipment failure. But with a little help from some friends,
Doyle and crew Bruce Burgess, sailing the 30-foot Two Guys On the Edge as a doublehanded entry, were able to get under way 47 minutes late.
On Sunday 12 of the largest boats among 33 entries will head out over the 2,225-nautical mile course chasing down the smaller ones, including the eight slower Aloha Division competitors that have been struggling in lighter-than-normal winds since they started last Monday. The three favorites to post the fastest elapsed time are Roy E. Disney's 73-foot defending champion and record holder Pyewacket and two news boats: former winner Bob McNulty's 74-foot Chance and Santa Cruz software developer Philippe Kahn's 75-foot Pegasus.
Pyewacket's record is 7 days 11 hours 41 minutes 27 seconds set in 1999, when winds were stronger than normal.
Mark Rudiger, a Transpac veteran, is the navigator on Pegasus who charted EF Language's victory in the Whitbread Round the World Race three years ago. "All we need is 20 knots [of wind] or better to set a record," Rudiger
But that may be asking too much this year when the forerunning Aloha boats are finding only 12-15 knots even in the trade winds a few hundred miles down the course.
Pushing the top three will be Merlin, the Transpac icon that in 1977 set a record that stood for 20 years, and a pair of new Transpac 52s, David Janes' J-Bird III Yassou from Newport Beach, Calif. and Jim and Nancy Demetriades' Yassou from Beverly Hills. The latter two have shown uncommon speed for their size in tune-up events but remain untested on a Transpac-type course.
Merlin, on the other hand, along with the legendary Ragtime, will share the record of most Transpacs at 12 when the race starts at 1 p.m. PDT. Restaurateur Al Micallef of Fort Worth, Tex. is the latest of a series of owners but the first to restore the skinny 68 1/2-foot boat to its original glory.
Micallef has renamed it Merlin's Reata "rope," or "lariat" in Spanish, for his group of three upscale cowboy restaurants, has completely rebuilt the boat's deck and interior and given it a flashy $50,000 paint job featuring the mythical magician twirling a lariat.
"If we have light air to start, I think we'll have a chance to stay up there with [Chance, Pyewacket and Pegasus]," Micallef said. "And with our canting keel and [removable] dagger board, we'll be fast when we're on the wind, too."
Light air has been the order of the day so far. The Alohas had only 4 1/2 knots and it was 2.8 knots when the gun fired Saturday, although as a marine layer dispersed and the sun came out the breeze rose to 6 by the time Two Guys On the Edge got going, then to 9 as the fleet disappeared
into the haze of the San Pedro channel toward the west end of Santa Catalina Island.
Four years ago Doyle started the race only to suffer a broken rudder, forcing him to drop out. Two years ago a business crisis prompted him to replace himself at the last minute with Les Vasconcellos, who with Burgess outsailed several larger, fully crewed boats.
Saturday, moments after the four-minute warning gun had sounded, Burgess attempted to raise the headsail but found it wouldn't fit into the groove of the headfoil. He removed his lifejacket -- required by Transpac rules to be worn for the start and finish -- and slammed it to the deck. Then Doyle did the same, and they slumped together in the cockpit in despair.
Doyle told observers on a press boat, "We broke our headfoil the other day and ordered a new one, and the new one was the wrong size. We're finished."
But then Cabrillo Beach Yacht Club member Kirk Wilson, who had brought his 52-foot sailboat Bay Wolf out to watch the start, pulled alongside and offered a suggestion: raise the headsail by just attaching it by the head and tack; meanwhile, he and his crew would strip off their own headfoil and cut it down to size to fit Doyle's Sonoma 30.
Doyle and Burgess' hopes came back to life. As they raised the jib and worked their way into position to start, Wilson's crew Richard Parlette worked on the headfoil and handed it over to Burgess, who would install it later. The act of receiving such outside assistance during the race will no doubt draw a penalty of uncertain weight, but at least Doyle is sailing the Transpac.
As it was, Two Guys On the Edge wasn't the last boat across the line Saturday. That was Bill Allan's Fast 40 LawnDart from, Nanaimo, B.C., which arrived an hour tardy for no apparent reason.
"We're mainly stupid," a crewman told the press boat before they started 54 minutes late.
Yet another mishap was suffered by Greg Sands' Firebird from Long Beach, Calif. The 55-foot boat struck the buoy at one end of the line and had to return to start properly. Seth Radow's new Sydney 40 Bull from Marina del Rey led the start, followed by Yoshihiko Murase's Bengal II entry Nagoya, Japan
Friday night's Aloha sendoff dinner on the Queen Mary was a sellout with 360 guests, topped by 40 tickets (four tables) purchased for the crew and supporters of Michael Abraham's entry Watercolors from Newport Beach, Calif. The crew numbers two; the other 38 were guests. Watercolors, a Sabre
402, is a doublehanded entry in Division IV.
Standings on June 30 (by handicap ratings):
ALOHA DIVISION A
1. Seda (Ericson 41), Josef Sedivec, Bonita, Calif., 1,586 miles to go.
2. Willow Wind (Cal 40), Wendy Siegal, Sunset Beach, Calif., 1,567.
3. Shanakee II (Pedrick 75), Jim Warmington, Balboa, 1,426.
4. Bonaire (Moody 65), Gil Jones and Associates, Newport Beach, 1,497.
5. Sea Dancer (Ericson 35), Al Wheatman, Marina del Rey, 1,616.
6. Gecko (Tartan 41), Jim Fabrick, Laguna Beach, 1,611.
ALOHA DIVISION B
1. Axapac (Wylie 39), Barry Ruff, Vancouver, B.C., 1,511.
2. Stardust (Wylie 46), Peter and Patricia Anderson, Laguna Beach, 1,490.
Who is making the boldest move south? Who is hanging too long in the north?
Who will have the best sailing angle to the finish? Follow your favorite
Transpac boats across the Pacific with the tracking chart on the official