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44th Transpacific Yacht Race - Day 16

by Rich Roberts 25 Jul 2007 09:25 BST

Santa Cruz 50s and 52s live it up like old days

Gib Black probably couldn't tell you what his boat's handicap rating is, and he certainly wouldn't care. He was having too much fun in the Transpacific Yacht Race to Hawaii to worry about such trivialities.

"It was wonderful and beautiful," he exclaimed after sailing his 28-year-old Stag's Leap Winery---nee Chasch Mer, the first Santa Cruz 50 built---into his hometown Ala Wai Yacht Harbor before dawn Tuesday, the seventh of nine boats in the SC 50/52 division but 11th overall among the 73 starters on corrected handicap time---and unsurpassed in joy.

Also Tuesday, Mike Diepenbrock's Rancho Deluxe, a dark blue Swan 45 from Sacramento, and Doug Grant's Tower, a Lidgard 45 from San Pedro, Calif., finished in that order after swapping the lead between them for most of the 2,225 nautical miles.

By a quirk of timing, Tower was listed in first place after Tuesday morning's 6 a.m. PDT roll call, about the same time Rancho Deluxe was finishing. The Swan owed Tower about 16 1/2 minutes but finished more than three hours in front.

"We had a great time and walked off the boat as better friends," Grant said. "Everybody put in a lot of hard work."

An added note: "This boat used to live here when Don Clothier owned it," Grant said.

Roy E. Disney's 94-foot winged wonder Pyewacket had won the Barn Door for fastest elapsed time two days earlier in an hour over seven days, followed by Tom Garnier's J/125 Reinrag2 claiming overall honors about 10 1/2 hours later. Bob and Rob Barton's Andrews 56 Cipango finished 26 1/2 minutes ahead of Reinrag2, not good nearly enough to cover the 5 1/2 hours it owed the J/125.

Then came the Santa Cruz armada like grandiose ghost ships from the past, kicking butt as they did in their good old days and ranking third through eighth overall. Chip Megeath's SC52 Kokopelli 2 from Tiburon, Calif. led the way by more than a day at mid-day Sunday when it rode a 30-knot flyer past Diamond Head, catching locals planning to watch their finish off guard.

Tuesday's finishes were relatively laid back, which fits Black's style, anyway.

"I'm not a sailor," he said after completing his fifth Transpac. "One day I'd like to be. I'm an old-car guy. The boat's a dream, an old classic."

Among boats still at sea, the Transpac 52 match between the young Morning Light team and John Kilroy Jr.'s Samba Pa Ti turned weird. A questionable morning position report relayed from Samba Pa Ti by another boat indicated that the latter had broken away on a deep dive south in the past 24 hours and sailed 249 miles at 10.4 knots to Morning Light's 201 at 8.4 knots---but lost 33 miles in distance to the finish, now 499 to 530 in ML's favor.

That would place the boats about 165 miles apart on the course with Samba Pa Ti due east of Hilo on the Big Island, an unlikely position this late in the race. How that plays out will be known when they finish, probably late Thursday.

Black said the Thursday, July 12 start was so favored for the middle fleet, as against the first starters July 9 and the big boats July 15, that Stag's Leap Winery was able to hoist a spinnaker after only 24 hours and 15 minutes, about half the normal time leaving the Southern California coast.

"I have never raised a kite that soon," Black said. "Every day was absolutely beautiful. The water was in our direction; the wind was in our direction."

The youngest crew ever to sail Transpac---five young men averaging 19.8 years---were expected to bring On the Edge of Destiny into a hometown welcome at about dawn Wednesday. They're running third to Rancho Deluxe and Tower in Division 3.

The Cal 40 fight between Don Grind's Far Far and Steve Calhoun's Psyche---only three miles apart Tuesday---was going down to a midnight finish Tuesday.

Transblogs from the boats

Cirrus (Lindsey Austin): I was on the helm [when] bam, the chute fell in the water. It seemed the halyard had busted. I called down below to get the crew on deck . . . turned to see Nancy on the rail pulling the spinnaker on deck . . . I put Bill on the wheel. We almost had the whole sail on deck when, due to the swell, it got sucked back into the water. We got hold of it again, started pulling it on board. At this point the sail was torn and the tapes were wrapped around the winches and life lines, all over the place like a spider web. The whole kite was on board and the only thing holding us back was the sock. It was about 3 feet under water acting like a very large sea drogue. Caroline and I really tried hard to get it on deck. If we didn't do something quick it would suck the rest of the sail back into the water, so i cut it free. We all worked together to get the 1.5 up. The whole ordeal lasted only half an hour. As we were all cooling down in the cockpit, some of the crew expressed gratitude for having gone to sleep prepared for an incident on deck. I noticed the difference myself: 3 people on the rail had knives, I think everyone had their gloves, and those who are into shoes had them on. I was really proud of my crew.

The Minnow (Mike Webster): We finished our work with the sextant today. A few days ago we agreed that Bob would do the calculations if I did something else. Luckily, I forgot what I agreed to do. In any case Bob finished the calculations tonight. One of them was within 10 miles of our actual GPS position.

Denali (Bill McKinley): Aloha to Michael and Denyse Rey, our welcoming host committee once we hit Hawaii. Unlike any regatta I have sailed in the Transpac goes the extra mile and arranges for a host on each end of your voyage to help you with any last-minute details. Michael and Denyse have gone above and beyond any expectation that the Transpac committee places upon this tireless group. Michael and Denyse, we will see you very soon. Things are going well on the boat and I can honestly say there hasn't been a watch when I have come off that my stomach hasn't hurt from all laughing. Living the dream from the Pacific.

Psyche (Steve Calhoun): The wind died to the usual 10 knots [and] Far Far started to move out on us, but we could see her clear as day, meaning she couldn't be more than 3 miles from us. This means we are officially ahead of Far Far on corrected time. First in class, and 22nd in fleet. Wooohoooooo!

Then, after roll call the shift we expected tonight started happening, so we jibed to port tack, diverging from Far Far. Her sail sank below the horizon a scant hour later. I must admit to some separation anxiety. Now it is normally not a good idea to leave our competition, whom we think we are beating, out on a flyer that might see them pick up an advantageous private wind that could slide them right past us. But three things made us choose to do this. First, it is the closest jibe to the course home, by 10 degrees. Second, the wind is light, and we don't dominate Far Far in these conditions. Staying with her in these conditions might just backfire. Third, there is usually an intensified trade wind as we make landfall on the island of Molokai. We want to be there first.

Locomotion: Considering our lot in the race, spirits on board remain upbeat. Clear skies last night allowed for our best view of the incredible stars that are visible in mid-Pacific, far away from mankind's interfering light sources. Noticeably fewer flying fish than normal due to the calm seas. They seem to need bumpy conditions to get air, and Lordy knows there ain't no bumps on this mill pond today. Moving onto more sobering matters, our water supplies are dwindling. We are cautiously optimistic that with a little further tightening of rations (down to a little over a quart per man per day), we should be able to make it four more days. This would correspond with a mid-day arrival Friday. If the slow going does not improve, we have some decisions to make regarding outside assistance, since further rationing (to less than a quart a day) doesn't make sense physiologically. Based on our current calculations, if we can average 7K or better from our current location to the finish, we should be able to both attend the trophy banquet Friday evening and not run out of water. We are racing the "trophy banquet" clock, more than our class competitors, at this juncture.

Pegasus 101 (Philippe Kahn): This is the best sailing that I have ever done. It's like crossing an ocean on a 505 [skiff]. The boat is that nimble and that "on the edge," and with the two of us it's exactly the same dynamics as a 505 or a 470 crew. The sails are a bit bigger. What is remarkable is that we are pacing a fleet of fully crewed racers.

The Transpacific Yacht Club has joined with Casio Computer Co., Ltd., in a sponsorship agreement to make the company's Oceanus watch the official timekeeper of the 44th biennial race. The Oceanus is a solar-powered chronograph watch with a time signal-calibration function developed by making full use of Casio's advanced electronic technologies.

Transpac supporters also include the Long Beach Sea Festival 2007, Gladstone's Restaurant, Ayres Hotels and L. Gaylord Sportswear.

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