by Lynn Fitzpatrick
The 45th running of the Transpacific Yacht Race from Los Angeles to Hawaii got underway for Division 6 and 7 boats. With the Hollywood hills a short commute over the LA Basin’s freeways, there were a number of different scripts, grips and presenters at Transpac Pier at Rainbow Harbor.
The first crew to arrive was the media crew from KTLA’s morning show. The next, at 0630, was the most popular guy on campus, Neville Crichton. Crichton and his 100-foot Reichel/Pugh-designed super maxi, Alfa Romeo, were introduced to the 700,000-viewer audience throughout the morning with host, Gayle Anderson. Crichton’s supporting cast was Murray Spence, Alfa’s Captain, and Stan Honey, Alfa’s guest navigator with 12 Transpac wins under his belt.
As the first morning news segment wrapped up, the crew of the tall ship, Lynx, popped their heads up on deck, coffee mugs in hand. Docked stern to Lynx was one of the smallest boats in the fleet, Relentless, a One-Design 35, being double-handed by Tim Fuller and Erik Shampain. Both crews went right to work on their pre-start preparations they wished out loud for heavy winds. At 114 tons, Lynx sails at her best in a heavy breeze from the beam whereas Relentless loves to hoist its chute and take off.
In the bright sun and 3 to 4 knot breeze at the dock, Shampain looked up after fastening a shackle to a spinnaker block, “It doesn’t look promising right now.”
After the running rigging was set, a crew filming a documentary on the Lynx arrived. They were followed by Ron Kilgore, of KNX fame. Kilgore is the sendoff MC for the starts. Transpac Pier then filled with friends, family and well-wishers. After the hugs and kisses, farewell photos were taken, the boats shoved off. Each was wished a safe passage and “Aloha” from the shoreside fans while they were escorted by paddlers from the Kahaki and Lokahi Outrigger Canoe clubs toward the showers of the Long Beach Harbor fire boats. Once clear of the basin, they headed northwest toward the starting line under Point Fermin.
The weather outside of the basin was quite different from that ashore. Overcast skies and 7 to 9 knots of wind out of the SSW prevailed through the 1300 start. The cloud cover burned off at about 1400.
The big decision for Transpac navigators heading for Hawaii today, is whether they should head north or head toward the rhumbline. A high front to the north, a cutoff low that runs through the racetrack and a trough are what this group of starters face immediately. Some may decide to go right over the top of the low, and others may head right into the light and confused air, hoping that it will clear out before they get there. Said Stan Honey, who will be faced to make critical decisions about what sail inventory Alfa Romeo will in her attempt to set a new course record, later this week, “It is similar to the last race, but opposite. Last time it was clear cut for the first starters and difficult for the boats that started later.”
Ionearth, the Iridium-based tracking provider, will be live for the first few hours of the race and then will go to a four-hour delay for the remainder of the race. Perhaps the fleet will make it far enough in the light to moderate breeze for all of us who are watching the initial developments in this great ocean race, to see a split develop in the fleet between those who have decided to go high and those who have set off on a reach hoping that offshore weather conditions will become less confused.
Transpac racers, families, friends and all those tuning into TV, radio, blogs and websites, wish those aboard Relentless, Narrow Escape, Bloodhound, Addiction, Lynx, Between the Sheets, Far Niente, Silent Running, Hassel and Alaska Eagle a safe passage and Aloha.