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26 June 2003, 04:00 pm
Winds Of Change Tease Transpac As First Start Nears
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42nd Transpacific Yacht Race

A promising but unsettled weather system awaits the first starters in the 42nd Transpacific Yacht Race to Hawaii next Tuesday.
The first 25 boats---10 Cal 40s, 10 Aloha competitors and five boats in racing division 5---will leave the starting line near Point Fermin on the Palos Verdes Peninsula at 1 p.m.(local time).

Overall, the 59 entries form the largest Transpac fleet in 18 years. Twenty-two division 3 and 4 racers will start Friday, 4 July, followed by 12 division 1 and 2 boats Sunday, 6 July. Under normal conditions, the first boats---most likely Philippe KAHN's defending Barn Door winner Pegasus 77 or Roy E. DISNEY's record holder, Pyewacket, starting 6 July---could finish off Diamond Head as early as Sunday, 13 July.

But "normal" is a conditional term in Transpac. Two common variables are the strength of the Eastern Pacific trade winds and the location of the Pacific High, the ever-changing blob of high pressure and light wind that "normally" lies along and north of the rhumb (direct) line to Hawaii. The route measures 2,225 nautical miles in a straight line, but historically that has been the slow way to go.

In his special Transpac preview series, world-class sailor and weather guru Bill BIEWENGA most recently noted: "The QuikSCAT satellite data indicates a good breeze along rhumb line. There appear to be 20 knots of wind or more along much of the route . . . or slightly to the south of rhumb."

And BIEWENGA gives the early starters something else to ponder: "As you begin to think about how far and how fast to go to the south to dodge or ignore the high pressure ridge, remember to keep an eye on your back in the tropics. [There is] a lineup of tropical waves and one of them is already being labelled a Tropical Disturbance. You'll want to watch to see just how 'disturbing' it becomes. That can rearrange the pressure gradient along the normal location for the ridgeline. Or it can be FAR more disturbing than that."

Rich Roberts (As Amended by ISAF Secretariat)
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