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8 July 2003, 09:02 am
The Battle is On
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Mark Rudiger ©

2003 Transpacific Yacht Race
Los Angeles - Honolulu

Before Sunday's last start in the 2003 Transpacific Yacht Race, Roy E. DISNEY'S Pyewacket was flying two appropriate battle flags: a cat and a mouse.
The rodent connection is obvious, and the boat is named for the mystical feline in the movie, "Bell, Book and Candle." But the combination also heralded what promised to be not just a contest of speed in the 2,225-nautical mile dash to Hawaii but also a real game cat and mouse.

Monday morning's position reports radioed to the Communications vessel Alaska Eagle placed Pyewacket, a Reichel/Pugh 75, 11 miles closer to the Diamond Head finish line although, as Philippe KAHN, owner/skipper of the rival Reichel/Pugh 77, noted that his boat had sailed two more miles than Pyewacket.

"What does this all mean?" Kahn asked in a report on his Web site. "On all the race reports Pyewacket will be shown leading in distance to Honolulu [but] there is more to this. We all know that both boats are going to get lifted as the winds clock around the [Pacific] high, and in a lift it's nice to be the inside boat, which is what Pyewacket is doing.

"However, our weather analysis on Pegasus tells us to expect more wind along a more southerly route [and that] it's well worth sailing extra distance to get south. So Pyewacket is betting on shift, Pegasus is counting on more pressure. Given a choice, Pegasus wouldn't trade places with Pyewacket. The next 24 hours are going to be critical."

As that battle of wits develops, the 25 boats that started Tuesday, 1 July were at the halfway point experiencing what communications officer Grant BALDWIN described as "stable" weather conditions with north-northeast winds of 10-17 knots and "seas still smooth with little squall activity."

That's not what anyone with records on their minds wanted to see. On the other hand, Kahn reported: "The tropical depression that is headed for our projected path has now officially been upgraded to 'tropical storm' and they gave her a beautiful name: Dolores. She apparently carries gusts over 45 knots and is picking up strength. We'll stay away from that one."

That could alter his strategy relative to Pyewacket.

Meantime, Maitri, Peter JOHNSON'S J/160 from San Diego, enjoyed the best 24-hour run in the fleet with 228 miles at an average speed of 9.5 knots to seize the lead on projected overall handicap time from the week-long leader, Stan and Sally Honey's Cal 40, Illusion.

Kahn also replayed the first hours of the race when Pegasus 77 took the lead from Pyewacket but then lost it before crossing the San Pedro Channel toward Santa Catalina Island.

"The Pyewacket team lost the start," Kahn said. "Robbie Haines was driving the Pyewacket, while I was helming the Pegasus. When I handed the helm to Morgan [Larson] a good hour into the race we became overconfident and stretched too much to windward, letting them foot to leeward and gain lots of gauge to the right.

"Then a massive 40-degree shift happened and we fell into a wind hole. I am glad that we are learning our lessons early in this race."

Full race positions are available on the event website at the address below.
Rich Roberts (As Amended by ISAF News Editor)
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