Chris BUSCH drove Wild Thing, a 1D35 from San Diego, to a near-perfect start in picture postcard conditions as 20 midsize racers in Divisions 3 and 4 got under way in the 2003 Transpacific Yacht Race to Hawaii on Friday.
The 12 biggest and fastest boats will start Sunday at 1 p.m. Ten Cal 40s, 11 Aloha division entries and four racing Division 5 boats were on their fourth day into the 2,225-nautical mile race. Roger and Brenda Kuske's Lady Bleu II, a Dynamique 52 from San Diego, continued to set the pace, averaging 9.1 knots on a 218-mile day. Stan and Sally Honey's Cal 40, Illusion, still held the overall lead on corrected handicap time, 59 miles behind Lady Bleu II.
One boat---David KORY'S Barking Spider, a Catalina 38 from Point Richmond, Calif.---failed to report during Friday morning's roll call. Unlike three days earlier, when the first starters struggled to cross the line in 2 knots of wind against a 1 1/2-knot current, Friday's fleet had 9 knots of breeze under a cloudless sky to power through a light chop rolling over a moderate swell off the Palos Verdes Peninsula. Air temperature was 80 degrees (27 C.).
Wild Thing entered the starting box from the pin end, then tacked about one-third of the way toward the committee boat and hit the line at speed a second after the gun fired. Jeito, a dark blue J/145 entered by Francisco Guzman of Mexico City in its maiden race, was farthest left at the pin in another well-timed start. Jeito was to leeward of Scott PIPER'S Pipe Dream IX, a J/160 from Coral Gables, Fla. that is using the race as one leg of a circumnavigation.
Their first checkpoint was the West End of Santa Catalina Island 23 miles away. Transpac Rear Commodore Al GARNIER, one of four family members on board Reinrag2---that's Garnier spelled backwards---reported by phone from the J/125 that the wind had built to 14 knots as the fleet cleared the island around 4 p.m., three hours after the start.
"The 50s are gone," he said, referring to Jack TAYLOR'S Santa Cruz 50, Horizon, and the J/160s Innocent Merriment and Maitri sailed, respectively, by Myron LYON and Peter JOHNSON, both of San Diego.
"No boats laid the West End," Garnier said, "but it was a short tack of maybe 500 yards or a bit more to make it. On Point [Nick MARTIN'S Schock 40 from Wilmington, Calif.] was the most weatherly boat, and now we're all headed [west] toward Santa Barbara Island. It's great sailing weather. We're still in shorts and T-shirts."
Meanwhile, the total fleet dropped to 57 boats with the announcement that Dasher, a Santa Cruz 50 entered by Roger GROH of San Francisco to be sailed doublehanded, had withdrawn because of rudder damage incurred during last month's Coastal Cup from San Francisco to Catalina.
For the boats already at sea, Grant BALDWIN reported from the communications vessel Alaska Eagle: "Weather conditions remain superb [with] winds from the NNE and 17-20 knots. Skies are overcast and it's still chilly. Lady Bleu II, apparently miffed at having to follow the much older Alaska Eagle, caught her at sundown [Thursday] night."
Alaska Eagle is Sparkman & Stephens Custom 65-foot sloop built of aluminum and launched in 1977 as Flyer for the 1977-78 Whitbread Round the World Race. She won the race and four years later, renamed and under new owner Neil Bergt, Alaska Eagle again sailed in the Whitbread, finishing ninth out of 27 boats. She has been a training and cruise vessel for the Orange Coast College School of Sailing and Seamanship since 1982.