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18 July 2003, 01:29 pm
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2003 Transpacific Yacht Race

Boat speed and brains win sailboat races, but perseverance and persuasion were equally important for some of the class winners in the 2003 Transpacific Yacht Race.
Chris BUSCH, a sailmaker from San Diego, won Division 4 on his 1D35, Wild Thing, which some might consider a dubious boat of choice for a 2,225-nautical mile race. "I knew what I was getting into," he said. "The hard part was talking four other guys into it."

David KORY, who runs Tradewinds Sailing in Point Richmond, Calif., led a crew that the sailing magazine Latitude 38 called "the jolly band of Transpac virgins." They sailed a Catalina 38 called Barking Spider.

"Everybody was a rookie," Kory, 40, said. "Our goal was just to cross the finish line."

They not only accomplished that but won the Aloha B class, and now his racer-cruiser sits on Transpac Row amid the higher-tech crowd of Pegasus 77, Pyewacket and Alta Vita---two-time Barn Door winner, record holder and 2003 overall handicap winner, respectively.

"Everybody in our club is very excited," Kory said. "I feel like a Ford station wagon parked in a Ferrari line."

Another Catalina, Paul EDWARDS' Catalina 42, Wind Dancer, from Wilmington, Del., won Division 5 by about 3 ½ hours corrected time over Robert RICE's There and Back Again, a Tripp 40 from Long Beach.

Then there is Reinrag2, a J/125 that swept Division 3---first to finish and first overall on corrected time. Tom GARNIER of Portland, Ore. purchased it last winter as the second version of boats bearing the family name spelled
backward. He sailed with his brother Al, the Transpac rear commodore; Al's adult son Kevin, their adult nephew Jared LATHROP, Tom's son Joji, 13, and an "adopted" crew member, Rob WATERMAN. Joji is believed to be the youngest sailor in Transpac 2003, four months younger than Philippe KAHN's son Samuel (aka. "Shark"), who turned regular duty in his second Transpac on Pegasus 77.

But there were times when it seemed they wouldn't sail at all. The porous grid between the hull and the keel was full of water, although the Garniers didn't realise that until they brought it to San Francisco from the frozen East Coast and it started leaking as it thawed in an Alameda boat yard.

That took several weeks to sort, leaving little time for practice sailing, and in the tune-up Coastal Cup they blew out two spinnakers and damaged another, plus their main sail. A quick sail order got them to the starting line July 4, but on the first night offshore another crisis developed.

"I was in my bunk and heard water sloshing around," Tom said. "I stuck my hand down and it came up to my wrist." The lower bearing on the rudder assembly had failed. "Every time we turned the wheel water shot out inside the boat," Al said.

For a couple of days, sailing heeled over on the wind, one crew member had to lie across the deck behind the helmsman operating the pump level with his foot. "We were considering a turnaround," Tom said. "A lot of water was coming in and we were getting farther from land."

On a third try at repairs, they fixed the problem by using neoprene cut off one leg of a wetsuit. But that wasn't all.

"On the seventh day," Al related, "we broke the strut that supports the upper bearing." That was fixed by ratcheting one-inch webbing into place, but they sailed the boat cautiously powered down with a No. 3 asymmetric spinnaker, temporarily losing the class lead to Peter JOHNSON's J/160, Maitri, before gaining enough confidence in the repairs to power back up with a No. 2 and regain the lead they held to the finish. The wheel still creaks and squeaks when turned.

Besides Division 3 honours, Reinrag2 also will receive the Don Clothier Trophy for boats less than 50 feet long and a third award as the fastest of eight J/Boats that competed.

"We just hung in there," Tom GARNIER said. "It was the total experience."
Rich Roberts (As Amended by ISAF News Editor)
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