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11 July 2003, 10:38 am
Painfully Slow
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2003 Transpacific Yacht Race
Los Angeles - Honolulu

The slowest elapsed time ever in 41 previous Transpacific Yacht Races since 1906 was five minutes shy of 24 days by William MERRY'S Viking Childe, a 42-foot ketch from Long Beach, Calif., in 1939.
That was the only Transpac to start in San Francisco and actually was 140 miles shorter than the 2,225-nautical mile course from Los Angeles in play since 1941. For that route, the longest race was a bit over 21 1/2 days by Irving H. BALTZER and Verne PEMBERTON'S Blue Jacket, a 50-foot ketch from the Aeolian Yacht Club, in 1953.

One boat reported on the daily roll call that year: "Out of wind, out of patience, out of beer."

The current race isn't that bad yet, but the foregoing is mentioned because competitors are starting to relate to those painful passages of the past. There was this report Thursday from the veteran Wendy SIEGAL'S Cal 40, Willow Wind:

"Early morning, just at daybreak. Supposedly, there is more wind to the south of us, but as of now we are wallowing in 2-3 knots of wind. The newbies on board don't believe in 20-30 knot trade winds and, quite frankly, right now, I'm wondering if it is all a myth. This is the second light air Transpac in a row and this year is much worse than last year. The wind predictions have not been accurate at all. When we looked at the surface analysis yesterday, we SHOULD have been in 20-knot trades."

Typically, Philippe KAHN'S Pegasus 77 sailed only 249 miles but stretched its lead over Roy E. Disney's Pyewacket---now directly behind---from 8 to 43 miles. Pipe Dream, a Choate/Feo 37 being coaxed along by John Davis of Long Beach in the Aloha B class, has made only 56 and 65 miles the last two days of what looks like an 18-day trip. "The 24-hour runs are enough to make a grown man cry," communications officer Grant BALDWIN commented from Alaska Eagle.

Only eight of the 54 boats made 200 miles---a bad day by normal standards. Four are now projected to reach the Diamond Head finish line as late as July 18, the day of the awards dinner. No boats are projected to finish before Monday, July 14.

Through it all, Stan HONEY, sailing his and wife Sally's Cal 40, Illusion, from Palo Alto, with veterans Skip ALLAN and Jon ANDRON as crew, has demonstrated his usual Transpac navigational wizardry---heretofore beneficial to Pyewacket---by putting this much slower boat in the right places at the right times. With 172 miles from Wednesday to Thursday, Illusion had a better day than most of the boats in Division 4 and below and now lead the next Cal 40 by 68 miles.

In his daily commentary from Pegasus 77, Kahn said, "Our strategy has worked better than expected," and he also took time to question Honey's strategy and check out the Transpac 52 duel as Alta Vita made a move on Beau Geste.

"Beau Geste didn't play the shifts as we did in order to dive south and cover Alta Vita," Kahn said. "Stan Honey is heading north in his Cal 40. It seems that he is trying to call an early layline to set himself up for port approach to Honolulu. That's an interesting move given the present weather forecasts."

As for the forecasts, there may be hope beyond the horizon. Phil MISLINSKI, a freelance photographer on Oahu, told the Transpac press office, "The trades have been blowing really hard here---notes have been flying off my refrigerator, magnets and all---and the local forecasts say it's going to blow through Sunday. There's a significant chop and whitecaps on the water."

Baldwin said, "It's starting to smell like the tropics, [and] the forecast from Commanders Weather indicates stronger winds with east-northeast trades improving over the next 48 hours."

Tracking charts for selected boats or the entire fleet may be viewed by clicking on the link to the event website at the bottom of this 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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