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10 July 2007, 11:25 am
23 Transpac Harbingers Sail Into Uncertainty
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Transpacific Yacht Race 2007

OK so far, the first 23 starters in the 44th Transpacific Yacht Race must have been thinking as they sailed off into uncertainty, escorted by dolphins in a balmy 7-knot westerly breeze under sunny skies Monday, but what lay ahead for the next 2,225 nautical miles to Hawaii was anyone's guess.
The forerunning fleets included nine Division 6 racers and 14 Aloha A and B division boats. Divisions 4 and 5 and nine vintage Santa Cruz 50 and 52s start Thursday, followed by Divisions 1, 2 and 3 Sunday, all starting off Point Fermin in nearby San Pedro after send-off ceremonies at Rainbow Harbour, Transpac's mainland home port in Long Beach.


Weather experts have been talking about unsettled conditions a day or two out. At Sunday's skippers meeting Kurt HOLLAND of the Marine Weather Institute at Orange Coast College briefed the sailors about 'a popcorn array of little baby highs' south of the dreaded zone of dead air known as the Pacific High where all fear to go, plus a worrisome weather cell off Mexico to the south.

Summing up prospects for this race, HOLLAND said, 'I've heard the word 'drifter' from a couple of people. But it's looking a lot better - for next week.'

Before the start, a dozen boats circled for a flowery tribute to Wendy SIEGAL, the former Aloha class winner and Cal 40 class 'den mother' who was found drowned near her boat in Long Beach four days earlier.

The start was orderly but unusually close and competitive for these classes. With the wind coming from the west at 260 degrees, giving them a starboard tack heading of 220, it appeared they would clear the west end of Santa Catalina Island - the only mark of the course - 22 miles out without having to tack.

For a few the weather outlook may not make much difference. Frank EASTERBROOK's Ariadne in Aloha A, a Ladd 73 from Newport Beach and the fastest-rated boat starting Monday, will enjoy its six-day head start on Roy E. DISNEY's powerhouse Pyewacket as long as it can, as well as the comforts of a luxurious cushioned cockpit and cabin.


Brothers Bill and Ted DAVIS of Las Vegas are taking what may be the oldest boat ever to sail the race, their beloved 73-year-old Sparkman & Stephens 70-foot yawl, Alsumar, offshore for the first time, with veteran Craig DAVIS as skipper and navigator.

'We found it in San Diego in 1992 in dry dock, just a hull,' Bill STEVENS said, 'and since we're contractors we thought it would be an easy deal rebuilding it.'

Alsumar's first owner was Dudley SHARP, a US Secretary of the Interior. During World War II it was used to scout for German submarines off the East Coast. The DAVIS brothers laboured over the mahogany hull, teak decks and hardwood interior for countless hours with steady reverse cash flow, but they have no regrets about bypassing more modern options like ready-to-sail fibreglass. They just installed state-of-the-art GPS navigation gear and other technology that was unimaginable when the boat was built.

'We just like old wooden boats,' DAVIS said. 'The bygone era is special, [even if] it's a continuous thing. You never stop working on them.'

Rich Roberts (As Amended By ISAF). Image, At 73, Alsumar may be Transpac's oldest competitor ever:© Rich Roberts
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