Not in living memory has the Singlehanded TransPac fleet sailed out the Gate faster than they did this Saturday. And by living memory, we mean that of Ken ‘The General’ Roper, who is sailing in his 11th — out of 17 — TransPac aboard his Finn Flyer 31 Harrier. "I’ve never made it under the bridge so fast," he told his daughter Lee. With a fresh 20-knot breeze and a massive ebb to flush them out of the Bay, the 14 starters in this year’s running of the 2,120-mile jaunt to Hanalei Bay, Kauai, met some spectacular swells outside the Gate. While they might have wished for calmer seas — an offshore low earlier in the week had also set up some good sized rollers to add to the mix — there’s little doubt the racers were pleased to have any wind at all. (The last two runnings of the race started frustratingly light and slow.)
Before the fleet even made Pt. Bonita, reports came in that the wind had built to 30-plus. The bright side of the heavy winds was that every boat in the fleet had made it past the Farallones by the first check-in Saturday night, but the downside were the grumpy seas. We won’t name names, but more than one skipper reported making unexpected offerings to Neptune over the leeward side.
Yesterday morning saw the return of Ben Mewes on his Black Soo Mirage. "My solar panel wasn’t charging my batteries," he reports. A quick change-out to new batteries, a slightly better solar panel installation, and a nap left Ben refreshed and ready to set sail, which he did around 10 p.m. last night. Unfortunately, he’s still having issues and is on his way back to the Bay. Hopefully a borrowed generator will do the trick and he’ll head out again, a la Dwight Odom who, in the ’08 race, returned to the Bay three times to fix electrical issues before finishing the race on his Saga 43 Na Na.
A day after the rest of the fleet started, and as Mirage was sailing back to the Bay, Sam Burns on the Catalina 309 Southernaire set off. A faulty SSB forced Sam to delay his start so he could track down a rental sat phone in order to send in position reports.
About the same time Mirage sailed out the Gate for the second time, Al Germain on the WylieCat 30 Bandicoot reported — via a passing container ship — that he was returning to the Bay due to communication issues. Turns out his sat phone got wet, then a plug on his SSB was damaged, so he was unable to communicate. He’s since made the difficult and undoubtedly frustrating decision to withdraw from the race.
In the meantime, the rest of the fleet is chugging along. The position reports on the race’s website show that about half the boats are going for a rhumb line route, while the rest are dipping south. With the high stationary for the moment, it will be interesting to see which boats made the right call. We’ll post updates throughout the race, but you can also check the race’s site for position reports and racers’ logs, which are always fascinating.
Whether they were on the Bay with reefs tucked in, or elsewhere around the world under full sail, sailors the world over hoisted their cloth on Saturday to celebrate the 10th annual Summer Sailstice. With a 13-hour head start over those of us on the West Coast, the likely winners of the ‘first to sail’ honors for this global celebration of sailing started their sunrise sail at longitude 120°E on Lake Diashan in Shanghai, China.
Later in the day, the Bay tossed up traditional summer fare with sailors blown away by 25-35 knots of gusty central Bay breezes that tested the crews of boats racing in both the OCSC Perpetual Trophy and in the YRA’s Summer Sailstice race. Those that sought more clement conditions found some shelter from the breeze in Clipper Cove with its easy access to the Summer Sailstice festival ashore on Treasure Island.
One of the hallmark events of the Treasure Island festival is the annual boat building contest which attracted five teams for a day-long boatbuilding competition sponsored by WoodenBoat Magazine, Berkeley Marine Center and MAS Epoxies. All five boats were launched at 5 p.m. and all floated — even with crew aboard! Everyone apprehensively headed out on a frothy Clipper Cove in breeze up to 30 knots for a race around a mark and back that ended with a photo finish. After the votes from all competitors were tallied, Berkeley Marine Center took the top honors, closely followed by Team Hutchinson Marine Services.
On the docks hundreds of sailboat rides, organized by Club Nautique and Tradewinds Sailing Center, were given to Bay residents who came to check out the sailing scene. They were treated to rides that rivaled a day at an amusement park, with their $5 donations going to support Treasure Island Sailing Center’s community sailing programs. While ashore, sailors were entertained by Pacific Island dancers, some sea chanteys, and rock ‘n roll by ‘Bowjones’ with drummer Mike Tosse.
With today being the actual solstice, Summer Sailstice continues through midnight tonight when entries close for all those who managed to sail in the past three days. If you did sail but haven’t signed up, get in on the prize drawing by registering at www.summersailstice.com