Photos: Doug Gifford/Ultimate Sailing

Big boats set sail

Ragamuffin 100 leads the charge out of LA on the Transpac

Saturday July 13th 2013, Author: James Boyd, Location: United Kingdom

Sunny skies and 8-10 knots of westerly breeze provided perfect conditions to the final start of the 2013 Transpacific Yacht Club’s race from LA to Honolulu, the Transpac.

After a celebration send-off from Rainbow Harbor in Long Beach, 21 of the fleet’s fastest monohulls and two large fast multihulls started at 1300 local Pacific Daylight Time today off Point Fermin on the their way to the finish at Honolulu’s Diamond Head, 222 -miles away. The 47th running of this classic race now has all its 58 entries on the race course.

Taking an early jump out of a pack of fast offshore designs that includes a Reichel/Pugh 74, a Volvo 70, a STP 65, several TP52s and a pack of ULDB 70-foot sleds was Syd Fisher’s Australian-based Elliott 100 Ragamuffin 100. Fischer has chartered the canting-keeled boat for this race, which is capable of defeating the current monohull race record of 5 days, 14 hours, 36 minutes, 20 seconds set in 2009 by another 100-footer, Alfa Romeo II.

But Fischer said this was not the sole reason to do this race. “We are planning to campaign our 90-foot canting keeled boat back home in the Rolex Sydney-Hobart Race,” said the octagenarian, “and we wanted to learn how to race these boats. They are extremely fast, and we will learn a lot in the next few days.”

Chasing Ragamuffin to the first waypoint at the West End of Catalina Island 25 miles away was David Askew’s R/P 72 Wizard, who as Belle Mente two years ago set a new course record for fixed keel boats. Strategist Dee Smith explained last night that weather will be a big factor for the success of this group starting today. “We will have good, not great, breeze getting off the start,” he said, “but this will be come better tonight through tomorrow night. The bigger, faster, and more stable boats will be able to stay close to rhumb line and go fast, but the smaller slower and less stable boats will have to have some tough choices to make.”

Veteran weather forecaster Ken Campbell explained: “This will be a very interesting race. The position of the [North Pacific] High is very dynamic now, moving constantly, with a very active jet stream. So, if the models for 96 hours out are correct, it may pay off for some boats to be to the south for the later phases of the race when there is a shift that will be to their favor. But it will be extra miles to go that way, so its not an easy choice now, and they will have to keep their eyes on the progress of this High.”

Today’s start featured some newcomers to not only the Transpac, but racing in the Pacific altogether. Jens Kellinghusen’s Ker 51 Varuna 51 from Hamburg, Germany is on a world tour of great ocean races.

“We launched the boat only last year, sailed in the Mediterranean last season, then have been in the Caribbean this past winter,” said Kellinghusen. “We thought about going to Hong Kong to do the race to Vietnam, but decided to do this race instead. After Transpac the boat will go to Australia for the Sydney-Hobart, and then next year we will do transatlantic, then the Round Britain and Ireland Race, which is held only every four years. But we very much look forward to this race to learn more about our new boat and its downwind performance.”

The five boats in Division 3 will be racing in a revival of the heydays ULDB Sled class, with one boat even celebrating this with its name: David Team and Doug Baker’s Santa Cruz 70 Retro. These and the Andrews designs ruled the Transpac through the 1980s and 1990s, and the group is poised once again to enjoy close tactical sailing all the way to Honolulu.

Also among the big boats was Giovanni Soldini and his crew of eight (Guido Broggi, John Elkann, Carlos Hernandez, Boris Herrmann, Gwen Riou, Corrado Rossignoli, Michele Sighel and Jianghe ‘Tiger’ Teng) aboard their modified Volvo 70 Maserati.

Soldini said before starting: “Maserati is a powerful boat and much more of an all-rounder than her competitors in the race. We’ve tried to lighten her as much as possible but we will obviously only become really competitive when the wind goes beyond 17, 18, 20 knots. All the other boats are much lighter and designed for moderate breezes. Anyway, we’ll be penalised a bit at start but things should soon improve. We will do the first windward beat to Catalina Island and then we’ll catch the real wind, 20, 30 miles outside the bay. We’re all pumped and ready to give it our best shot.”

Of the two multihulls starting today, John Sangmeister's modified ORMA 60 trimaran Lending Club looked a little faster through the water than Lloyd Thornburg's Gunboat 66 catamaran Team Pheado, but the bright orange catamaran will likely pick up the pace once into the stronger 15-25 knot breeze forecast for tomorrow.

Meanwhile, the first starters of the race in Divisions 7 and 8 are well down the track, getting lifted slightly so they are starting to cross north of the rhumb line, but continuing to move well enough that it may very well be the leader of this pack, Bob Hayward’s Seastream 650 Manatea, which is first to complete the course before they get overtaken by today’s speedy starters. Current projections have them coming in 6 days at about the half-way point in the race.

And the starters in Divisions 4, 5 and 6 have finally started stretching their legs into a welcome fresh northerly breeze after their start in light and fluky air on Thursday and Thursday night.

An email from Bill Helvestine's Santa Cruz 50 Deception entitled 'Truckin' says it all: “We found the breeze!!! 20 knots and we have our A3 spinnaker up and we're flying towards our entry in the slotcars section of the race…”

Online spectators can follow the racer’s progress using the Yellowbrick tracking system which shows all the boat’s positions and information, like speed and course heading, and is updated every 6 hours. Click here to view.


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