Not since troop ships departed for the Pacific Theater in World War II has the Bay seen as many sailors waving goodbye under the Golden Gate as it does every July in even-numbered years. Starting July 12 and ending the 19th, some 85 boats and several hundred sailors will have departed our local waters for Hawaii in two separate events, the Singlehanded TransPac and the Pacific Cup. Though not the largest combined fleet — in 2000, there were 85 Pac Cup boats and 23 singlehanders — it’s still a lot of boats and people sailing into their own Pacific Theater.
The first to bid adieu were the 22 solo sailors in the 30th Anniversary Singlehanded TransPac Race, which started off Corinthian YC at noon this past Saturday, July 12. Twenty-one men and one woman sailed out the Golden Gate under hazy skies and moderate breeze — only to camp within a stone’s throw of the Farallones for much of the night. At the Sunday morning check-in, some racers reported not only single-digit speeds, but single-digit distances in the previous 12 hours. Then the cycle repeated itself: moderate, shifty breeze through the day, followed by a mostly windless night. More of the same is expected today. The small low pressure system causing the parking lot conditions is not expected to give way to more consistent breeze until late tomorrow or Wednesday
Despite the fact that many boats are barely 100 miles into the 2,120-mile race, the stories are already starting to flow into race headquarters. One boat turned back due to electrical problems, but expects to restart. At least one skipper has caught fish. Alan Hebert on the SC 27 Ankle Biter had the rather unique problem of a sea lion trying to climb aboard. He finally discouraged it with a few flogs of his foulies.
Seattle’s Al Hughes, sailing his third Solo TransPac aboard the Open 60 Dogbark, is currently the lead boat, but Jeff Lebesch’s Hammerhead 54 trimaran Hecla and Don Gray’s Jutson 30 Warriors Wish aren’t far behind. But it’s still a long way to Hanalei Bay, Kauai, and anything can happen. In a bit of déjà vu from 2006, most of the fleet is currently sailing north of the rhumbline in hopes of meeting the good wind when it finally fills in. For more on the participants, their boats and their always-entertaining daily logs, go to the Singlehanded Sailing Society website at www.sfbaysss.org.
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Frenchman Thomas Coville and his 105-ft maxi trimaran Sodeb’O are less than 200 miles from breaking fellow countryman Francis Joyon’s singlehanded West-East transatlantic record. Coville has a lead of 192 miles against Joyon’s track from 2005, when he set the record of 6 days, 4 hours and one minute aboard his first IDEC shortly before losing her to the Brittany Coast. Although Coville is projected to break the record, it could be a closer margin than it appears right now, as his average speed has dropped to right around 17-knots and he’s in a zone of strengthening high-pressure. Stayed tuned at www.sodebo-voile.com/accueil.html.