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9 July 2003, 09:15 am
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Beau Geste© Rich Roberts

2003 Transpacific Yacht Race
Los Angeles - Honolulu

Pegasus 77 sailed farther and faster Tuesday but Pyewacket stretched its lead in the marquee match race of the 2003 Transpacific Yacht Race to Hawaii, a situation that has often been an anomaly of the race for the last half-century.
Meanwhile, Renegade, an Andrews 70 sailed by Dan SINCLAIR of Vancouver, B.C., dropped out Monday afternoon with a problem described as "failure of the boat's steering sheaves." Renegade started in Division 2 a day earlier and was 260 miles offshore in Mexican waters. Sinclair, sailing his fourth Transpac, said the breakdown occurred in 12-foot seas. He said the boat was in no danger and was returning to San Diego but gave no ETA.

There have been three retirements since the starts, reducing the fleet to 54 boats. Beau Geste, a Transpac 52 sailed by Hong Kong businessman Karl KWOK with a largely New Zealand crew, now leads Division 2 boat for boat and on corrected handicap time, second only to Pyewacket in the latter.

Until 1947, logic called for sailing a direct, or "rhumb," line of 2,225 nautical miles from Los Angeles to Honolulu because sailors didn't realize they could avoid a region of light wind by sailing a little farther south.

With improved weather information developed in World War II, two boats---Chubasco and Westward---tried just that in '47 and finished first and third. Then in '49, when Westward's navigator, Bob ALLAN, pulled the same ploy that delivered the first Barn Door trophy to Richard RHEEM'S Morning Star as first boat to finish, the others were sold on the concept of the Pacific High---that monstrous, undulating zone of high pressure waddling over the eastern Pacific Ocean.

Avoiding the high remains conventional wisdom in the 2003 Transpac 54 years later, but it's a like a boxing opponent, bobbing and weaving and leaving everyone on every boat to look to the navigator for guidance. And where does the navigator look? Often to Nashua, New Hampshire, where George CARAS of Commanders Weather is based.

Studying the positions reported at Tuesday morning's daily roll call, Caras said, "North may be favoured a little bit [Monday] or [Tuesday], but south will be favoured starting [Thursday]. The goal for a lot of the boats is going to be to get farther south."

Those would include Pyewacket, Roy E. DISNEY'S Reichel/Pugh 75 that holds the race record of about 7 1/2 days. Sailing a more direct course, Pyewacket logged 329 miles at 13.7 knots in the first full day at sea and moved into first place in corrected handicap time for the entire fleet.

Oddly, Philippe KAHN'S R/P 77 Pegasus, taking a more tactical southerly route, went 338 miles at 14.1 knots but dropped to 27 miles behind. "[Pyewacket] got a little lead because they found a shade more breeze up north," Caras said, "but they'll come down now to keep up with the wind. Their wind angle may not be as good coming down and it could tighten the gap or give Pegasus a little bit of an advantage, but we'll have to see on that."

There also is good news and bad news for everybody, Caras said.
"The high is moving away from the fleet farther out. That's going to allow that low to come east-southeast, and that essentially will weaken the trade winds. High pressure drives the belt of the trades, but it'll be so high up that it'll have less influence."

That could dampen hopes of a record. The frontrunner, Roger and Brenda KUSKE'S Lady Bleu II, a Dynamique 62 from San Diego that started with the Aloha class a week earlier, was 884 miles from the finish but sailing into weaker wind above the rhumb line.

<>"Their smarter move would be to come a little farther south," Caras said.

Wendy Siegal, reporting from Willow Wind, the Cal 40 that won the Aloha class in 2001, confirmed Caras' assessment. "The winds were as light as I can remember seeing them in the middle of the Pacific," she said. "We got down to 5 knots of wind . . . just trying to keep the [spinnaker] filled as we slopped along. We're supposed to be in 15-knot trades."

Tracking charts for selected boats or the entire fleet may be viewed by clicking on the link at the bottom of the page. Daily position reports and photos also will be posted until the completion of the race.
Rich Roberts (As Amended by ISAF News Editor)
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