Monday, 6 July 2009

Transpac: 4th July Update

Alfa Romeo's mainsail. Image copyright Lynn Fitzpatrick.

by Lynn Fitzpatrick

The sun rose in Long Beach to reveal a glassy calm on the water. It won't be long before the Division I and II crews will be begin to appear on the docks to make their final preparations for Transpac 09. Their checklists are short and they are hoping that they already have the tools and parts that they need, because as many as 400,000 people are expected in Long Beach for July 4th celebrations and the streets of Long Beach will be gridlocked.

The July 4th festivities include street performers, dancers, mimes and magicians roaming the Queen Mary, a BBQ at the Aquarium of the Pacific and one of the largest fireworks displays in California. Transpac Pier at Rainbow Harbor is the epicenter of the activity and the decks of the likes of Pyewacket, Alfa Romeo, Akela, Samba Pa Ti, Valkyrie and Cazador, which are berthed in front of Gladstone's, will be the best viewing platforms in Long Beach.

While the Earth was at aphelion, its greatest distance from the Sun for the year, Bruce and Pam Orisek and the crew on their Jeanneau 45.2, Silent Running, must have felt that they were nearly as far away from Hawaii as they could be and communicated to the Transpac Race Committee that they were retiring from Transpac 09 and motoring to Avalon on Catalina Island. In the meantime, the 11 other racing boats that started with them on Monday, June 29th, ticked off a few miles in the 2,225 nautical mile race to Hawaii.

A bit further to the northeast, th Santa Cruz 50's and 52's and the other Division III, IV and V boats that started three days later on, July 2nd, were charging south at a faster pace, sure to start to overrun them during the long July 4th weekend. The weather forecasts are shaping up and the crews aboard the Division I and II boats, which start on July 5th, are optimistic that they will be racing in favorable enough conditions to topple some course records.

Charisma continues to lead the fleet to Hawaii and is about 150 nautical miles closer to receiving her Aloha welcome in Hawaii than her nearest rival in her division, Between the Sheets. While Charisma covered 86 nautical miles during the 24-hour period from the 0600 roll call on July 3rd to July 4th, Hassle was the speedy boat in Division VII, covering 95 nautical miles.

Relentless, the Open 35, continues to set the pace in Division VI, sailing 112 nautical miles from roll call to roll call and averaging 4.6 knots; a full knot faster than all of the other boats in her division.

Roy's Chasch Mer is the top Hawaiian boat and is also atop the leader board in Division V, despite having a much slower day than the other Santa Cruz 50's in her division.

Relentless 52 holds the first in class position among the Santa Cruz 52's and is sailing nearly neck and neck with Hula. The Santa Cruz 52's were not as swift as Tachyon III, which is also in Division IV. Tachyon III sailed 197 nautical miles and average 8.2 knots during the 24-hour period.

In Division III, Cipango, has a bit of a lead on Bengal 7, the frontrunner among the foreign boats entered in the race.

Expect the southward heading fleet to be clustered in two places on July 5th as the Division III, IV and V boats begin to catch up to and overrun the Division VI and VII boats and the rest of the fleet barrels away from the starting line under Point Fermin at 1300.


As soon as Alfa Romeo took its prominent position at the end of Transpac Pier at Rainbow Harbor in Long Beach, it became everybody's darling. Its mast towers above the palm trees along Shoreline Drive and it is the first thing that pedestrians and boaters notice when they enter Rainbow Harbor.

There hasn't been a more generous owner or crew at Transpac Pier than Neville Crichton, Murray Spence and the rest of the Alfa Romeo crew. They have hosted everybody - other racing sailors, Transpac Yacht Club Board Members, VIP's, government officials, Alfa Romeo Owners and even some of the super curious and dumbstruck visitors to Rainbow Harbor who marveled at the super maxi as they strolled the docks on their way to restaurants and attractions such as the Aquarium of the Pacific.

Whether Alfa's guests were Transpac Yacht Club Commodore, Tom Garrett; Santa Cruz 70 sled owner, Peter Tong; US Sailing Coach, Mark Ivey or TV news personality, Gayle Anderson; they were impressed by the amount of time and attention Crichton and his crew gave them. Crichton arrived close to sunrise on May 29th and opened Alfa Romeo and yacht racing up to hundreds of thousands of morning news viewers in the LA Basin and around the world.

Transpac 09 and the yachting community owes a great bit of thanks to Neville Crichton and Alfa Romeo for making their decision to participate in the World's most enduring and greatest yacht race. Not long after the news that the rules had been changed, in keeping with many races elsewhere in the world, to allow for super maxis that incorporate the technology found on Alfa Romeo, Crichton committed to entering Transpac 09. Preparations included shipping the 100-footer from Genoa in May to ordering and fitting new sails, making crew arrangements and stepping a new mast at Knight & Carver in San Diego.

Looking at the weather conditions, Murray Spence, Alfa's Captain, suggested that a record is still possible, but it may not be as easy to set as it would have been had the race been sailed in the conditions that existed during the last weeks of May. Long Beach and everyone who has been touched by Alfa Romeo wishes them fair winds in Transpac 09 and a favorable passage during their Hawaii to New Zealand passage and the Sydney Hobart Race later in the year. Thank you for adding to the history of the most enduring and greatest ocean race in the world.


Pegasus 50 was docked bow to stern with Alfa Romeo. Both are a marvel to look at and both are eyeing Transpac records. The 100-foot long Alfa Romeo is monstrous. Its deck is clean and wide and the sheets and halyards lead to powered winches that are trimmed with the push of a button. Down below, the cabin is spacious and designed for moving sails from side to side during shorter races in Europe.

Pegasus 50, on the other hand, is an Open 50 with a rainbow of halyards and lines streaming from the bow into the cockpit. Winches, a pedestal, sheets and the tails must be a confusing mess during maneuvers. Its domed cabin is barely large enough to fit two men inside. Both boats are fitted with some of the most enviable electronics and nav stations on the water and both have impressively compact galleys. Pegasus even has a combined and compact sink and hot water maker.

Philippe Kahn and Mark Christensen are out to set the Transpac doublehanded record of 10:4:4:49 by Howard Gordon and Jay Crum in 2001 with Etranger. Gordon and Crum also sailed an Open 50. It was a Jutson design with a fixed keel. The red cedar and Kevlar boat did have water ballast and like Pegasus 50, was originally designed for singlehanded sailing. It's former owner, David Adams of Australia, fared well with her in the 1989-90 Vendee Globe and won Class II in the 1992-93 Vendee Globe with it.

Said Crum, remembering the 1991 race, "It turned out to be a medium air race, and it was light in the beginning. The entire fleet went north of San Nicolas Island."

Crum, who has been prepping Flash since her arrival two weeks ago following a windy Coastal Cup race, said of the experience of doublehanding an Open 50 to Hawaii, "I loved it and I would do it again in a heartbeat."

For Kahn, doublehanding the Open 50 to Hawaii is one of the highlights of the year. His team rushed to prepare the boat for the 2007 Transpac and did a considerable amount of work on it prior to Pacific Cup 2008 in which Kahn and Richard Clarke set a new San Francisco to Hawaii doublehanded record of 7 days 15 H 17:50 minutes.

This year, the team has pushed perfection to another level. Not only will Kahn and Mark "Crusty" Christensen have smoothly operating halyards, sheets, dagger boards, rudders, autopilots, a canting keel and redundant instrumentation. They are equipped with communications equipment that will enable them to stay in touch with their very active company, FullPower Technologies. Kahn, a talented mathematician and flutist, will also have more than enough Debussy, Ravel, Faure and Iz to fill days and nights aboard Pegasus 50.

As Kahn runs forecasting models and routing software in advance of his Sunday afternoon start, he is becoming more optimistic about the weather conditions between Los Angeles and Hawaii. Some reports even suggest that racers may see gusts in the 20-30 knot range during their approach to Hawaii next week. Kahn and Christensen have their sights on setting a doublehanded Transpac record and they have added another layer to their quest. Kahn would like to arrive in Hawaii within 72 hours of Alfa Romeo, a boat double its size.

Transpac Race '09

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