Wednesday, 15 July 2009
Peter Tong on OEX. Image copyright John Sangmeister.
by Lynn Fitzpatrick
It was even better than old times for Peter Tong, owner of the Santa Cruz 70, OEX. Tong beamed from ear to ear while he and his crew celebrated being the first of the legendary ULDB’s to arrive on Transpac row. Tong is just one of the sled owners of today who took part in the most competitive, nearly one-design, racing in Transpac history.
This taken from Transpac history books dated 1989, “ Much of the finishing excitement occurred during the night-time hours, in the glare of the Diamond Head searchlight instead of under the warm Hawaiian sun. The first excitement was four “maxis” charging down the channel in their final sprint for first-to-finish, crossing the line within a span of less than 37 minutes! The finishing order of those four was Silver Bullet, Blondie, Taxi Dancer and Mongoose. Before dawn another four maxis were ready to party at Ala Wai: They were Chance, Drumbeat, Ragtime and Evolution.”
Standing in the tent on Transpac row, cleaned up with his Hawaiian shirt and several leis sweetening the air around him, was Tong. Many of the same crewmembers who sailed with him over a quarter century ago dotted the tent. Tong recounts the legacy of his current boat, OEX. OEX is a takeoff on the name Orient Express, but it is the old Silver Bullet, which beat Tong and his Orient Express team by a little over 3 minutes on elapsed time and 40 minutes on corrected time to claim a clean sweep in the 1993 Transpac Race. Tong found the old Silver Bullet in South Carolina and rescued it about 2.5 years ago. Upgrades to the bulb, draft reduction and deck repairs were too extensive to have her ready for the 2007 Transpac Race, but nothing could keep Tong from entering OEX in Transpac 09.
Back for encores, twenty-five years later, are Evolution, Taxi Dancer and Pyewacket in the roles of Holua, Alchemy and Pyewacket, respectively. Tong speaks for all of the sled owners when he says “it’s a crazy, crazy passion for Santa Cruz 70’s. They are not so complicated that you can't race with your friends. You don’t need professionals. It’s neat to have the same guys racing with me as before.”
Tong like everyone who has arrived at Ala Wai, says that they had perfect wind conditions throughout the race. Even the boats that took off early and had a bit of the slows while the fronts settled, seem to remember the great fun of the 15-30-knot conditions for the last third of the race.
During Transpac 09, Pyewacket and OEX were in sight of one another. OEX stayed north and created some leverage. They sailed on a jib reach using a blast reacher for a day and a half. The wind went aft and they sailed into a hole only to have Grand Illusion and Pyewacket sail right up behind them. OEX continued north and called the layline 600 miles from the Molokai Channel. “We took the northern end of a great circle route. I love these long distance races and the reincarnation of the fleet,” beamed Tong.
The parties continued throughout the day. The largest was for Pyewacket, which crossed the line at 12:13:11 pm on Monday. Roy Pat Disney, who was sailing the same Pyewacket of decades ago, echoed Tong’s sentiments. The entire crew, including the younger Morning Light kids, Piet Van Os, Jeremy Wilmot and Jesse Fielding enjoyed themselves. In the end, it was not a boat for boat race, but everyone was curious to see whether Silver Bullet/OEX would take line honors and win on corrected time among the legendary sleds in the Transpac 09 edition of the world’s most enduring and greatest ocean race.
As we approach sunset in Honolulu, the Grand Illusion, another legendary sled is in and recounting their Transpac 09. It looks as if the old Silver Bullet, now Peter Tong's OEX, has won on elapsed and corrected time among the Division II sleds.