We’re now 96 hours into this 48th edition of the Transpac, and the biennial L.A.-to-Honolulu classic is living up to all of the pre-race hype and then some.
With the Pacific Ocean continuing to warm to near-record levels during what is now predicted to be a super El Niño occurrence, this year’s race is no ordinary Transpac. The normally stationary Pacific High and easterly trade winds of the northeast Pacific have instead been displaced by two depressions that have stirred the pot for the entire fleet and created a navigator’s showdown of epic proportions.
Monday’s first wave of starters in Divisions 7 and 8 look to be the winners of the weather lottery, though the entire scenario looks ‘complex’ to say the least. For Monday’s starters, staying north of the rhumbline during the middle of the course should pay dividends and keep the fleet in pressure for longer, also allowing an early jibe to port and a relatively hot angle into the islands later on down the track.
Thursday’s 18 starters departed Long Beach yesterday in Champagne conditions that will gradually go lighter, with the entirety of the fleet playing the south hard. The southwest-bound racing fleet should converge with winds near the northwestern quadrant of the north-moving tropical storm Dolores and create a ‘slingshot’ effect that may allow the fleet to get in touch with the lingering depression to its west and the re-forming trades, if they can punch through a hole of light winds. For Saturday’s big-boat start, the routing looks even more touch and go, with the possibility of going from ‘hero to zero’ at a moment’s notice.
Paul Stemler’s J/44 Patriot continues to lead Division 7 and the fleet overall according to the YellowBrick tracker. Tracy Obert’s custom Stephens Waring-designed 59-ft ketch Marjorie is battling close with Patriot and currently leads Division 8 with the two boats sailing flawlessly and continuing to pull away from their pursuers. The Bay Area is well represented by Dean Treadway’s cold-molded Farr 36 Sweet Okole, which currently sits second in Division 7 and eighth overall, and is well positioned in the middle of the fleet and making a subtle move to the north of rhumbline. Alex Farell’s turbo 1D35 Alpha Puppy played the north hard to be the most northernmost boat in fleet by a country mile, but has now altered course to the southwest and looks to be consolidating behind the leaders. Dave MacEwen’s Santa Cruz 52 Lucky Duck is battling for the lead of the always-thrilling Santa Cruz 50/52 fleet, currently in third place on corrected in Division 5.
The final divisions will start tomorrow at 12:30 and 1 p.m.
When your intent is to break a prestigious ocean crossing record, picking the perfect ‘go’ date is, of course, crucial. It appears that Renaud Laplanche and Ryan Breymaier’s instincts were spot-on Wednesday morning, when they made the unexpected decision to withdraw their 105-ft maxi tri Lending Club 2 from the Transpac (before they’d even started) and instead pursue the outright Los Angeles-to-Honolulu record independently.
At this writing, 48 hours after they started, the smokin’-hot tri is within about 100 miles of the halfway point, blasting west at more than the 30 knots. If conditions remain favorable, they could knock many hours — and possibly close to a full day — off the outright record of 4d, 19h, 31m, 37s, set in 2005 by Frenchman Olivier de Kersauson and crew aboard the 110-ft tri Geronimo. That benchmark is 14 hours faster than the Transpac race record set in 1997 by the 86-ft maxi cat Explorer (5d, 9h, 20m).