On the Way… Transpac 2011!

Ok, Ok… I’ve been lagging at getting a report out on our progress and the happenings in the 2011 Transpac. We have some catching up to do. So with no further ado, we bring you the Race Thus Far…

Our start was at 1pm on Friday off of Point Fermin in Los Angeles. The smaller boats had taken off four days earlier and struggled in light breeze before finally reaching the offshore flow and taking off. Our start had solid breeze and a pretty typical wind angle, making it a looooong starboard tack drag race out to Catalina Island. Since the powers that be (i.e. the race committee) had decided to start ALL the fleets together (for the sake of ‘spectacle’…. hmmm, what could possibly go wrong?) and us Santa Cruz 50s were among the smallest boats to be starting, we were determined to start near the starboard end of the line (even if it meant taking a ‘second row’ start) so that every 70 footer in the race wouldn’t be rolling over the top of us for the first 25 miles. So we picked a big boat as a blocker (and if you’re going to go big, why not go all in…) and let Magnitude 80, the largest boat in the race, carve a nice big hole on the line which we then took advantage of. I think we lost sight of them before we could see Catalina Island!

And so we were off. Good boatspeed. Good positioning. Good breeze. We had the Heavy #1 jib up in a building breeze. About 3/4 the way over to Catalina we were impressively keeping pace with a lot of bigger boats but alas, we had our first mishap: the strapping at the top of the jib gave up the ghost and the halyard pulled out of the top of the #1. Hmmm…. didn’t see that one coming. The crew rallied quickly, and the #3 was on deck and hoisted within minutes. The breeze was building and as we got close to the island the water was very flat, so the smaller sail didn’t hurt us much beyond the distance lost to all the other boats during the sail change. In the calm water, josh went up the rig and retrieved the halyard, and Geoff made quick work of the repair to the sail. As we passed the West End on Catalina Island, the breeze was getting soft so we changed back to the newly repaired #1. Through the afternoon and into the evening the breeze built, and we cracked off ever so slightly in anticipation of some coming weather developments (more on that shortly), changing back to the #3 and carrying that through the night.

Saturday brought cloudy weather (marine layer conditions), but nice breeze. We changed to the Blast Reacher somewhere mid morning, and were posting good speeds throughout the day. Our 6am Saturday to 6am Sunday run was 244 miles. That works. And we continued to push south… now, about that: the Transpac is often a balancing act, with the shorter course being up north along the great circle route from Long Beach to Oahu, but the greater likelihood for good wind a bit farther south. So…. short distance, or faster sailing? A week ago, it looked like the whole course would have pretty reasonable breeze for us at this time, so I probably would have gone for the shortest route. But things change, and shortly before our start and thereafter the forecasts started to show an increasing ridge that would affect our racecourse as the Pacific High increased and expanded south and east. Right were we were heading. That’s not a good thing for us folks sailing wind-powered boats, so we started to take efforts to avoid the ridge early on…. hence our southerly route. It looks like the big and fast guys and gals are going to get past the developing light spot, but we stand to get slowed significantly, so we are doing what we can to prevent that! IF we sail fast, and IF we sail smart, we just might be able to avoid the really ugly stuff. Looks like most of the other boats in our fleet are doing the same.

So back to the boat and Sunday morning: we were working south, the wind was veering slowly to the right (north)… that can only mean one thing in a Transpac…. Spinnaker Time! Yep, day 2 and the kites are up?? In a nice (partially) sunny morning with 16 knots and small swells, we set the A2 and were off. Just perfect for our team to get some helm time and practice in. Soon the 10 and 12 knots we had been seeing earlier were pedestrian. Now were are talking 15, 16. Good times indeed. As the afternoon progressed, the breeze built and hadn’t veered as much as we expected so we down-shifted to the A3 to keep from going too far south. But by evening the breeze had softened again and we REALLY wanted to make up some time with a couple of other boats in our class, so we peeled back to the A2… and the team rose to the challenge. The driving for the first night with a spinnaker up (one of the toughest things we have to do) was solid.

And what a night. The moon was spectacular in the early evening, lighting up the water to the south of us, back lighting the main and spinnaker. It really is a whole different sensation of speed at night… a strange inversion where it almost feels like we on the boat are frozen in place, but with the water shimmering and rushing by you rather than the opposite. And as the visual distractions decrease, the audible take the center stage. The rushing hiss of water. The spray over the bows. The grunting and groaning of the sheets and rigging under the strains. Really, there is nothing like it in the world.

Now we are waiting for the daily position report and taking a look at updated weather. We are in 16 knots of breeze from almost due North, scooting along at 10-12 knots with A2 and spin staysail flying. Skies are partially cloudy, which is ok… we’ll have plenty of sun soon enough. Most of the gang just had breakfast. Some wet gear from the lumpier upwind days is out drying. And we are getting into a routine. Everyone is working great together, and despite the fact the we have three Toms aboard, the confusion has been kept to a minimum. NIcknames helped on that front. Tom Wood got renamed “Carbo” (short for carbon) to bring him into the era of composite construction… Tom P. is now “Sug,” short for sugar… a nickname not earned by his behavior on the boat, I might add, but by his professional calling!

So that’s about it for now. My turn to go grab some breakfast. More soon, I promise…

All the best,

Wayne Zittel & the Hula Girl Team

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1 reply
  1. Anonymous
    Anonymous says:

    Wayne- I’m very jealous, after the full moon treatment we had on the way to Cabo I’m a believer. Best of Luck! Drew

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