July 10, 2017

Transpac Records and UFOs

Bill Lee’s 68-ft sled Merlin started the Transpac on Thursday. Pro sailor Morgan Larson drove the start. "My dad was supposed to come up from New Zealand to do the race, but asked that I take his place. It’s an honor to be on such a legendary boat," said Morgan before the start. "I’m looking forward to this." Morgan’s dad, Bobbo, was among Merlin’s original 1977 crew who held the Transpac record for 20 years.

© 2017 Doug Gifford / Ultimate Sailing

Zoom out on the tracker for the Transpac Race, underway from Los Angeles to Honolulu, and you’ll see two clumps of boats. Out in front is a trio of fast trimarans, led by the ORMA 60 Mighty Merloe. Around the halfway point between the mainland and the islands is almost everyone else. In between the two groups is one lone monohull, the 100-ft speedster Comanche.

The big picture, as of this morning.

© Yellow Brick Tracking

Skippered by Ken Read with navigation by the Bay Area’s Stan Honey, Comanche set a 24-hour Transpac record on Friday. Comanche’s 24-hour run (measured from the 8 a.m. roll call) was 484.1 miles, a 20.2-knot average. The previous record of 453 miles was set by Wild Oats XI in 2015. Prior to that, the 24-hour record was 431 miles, set by Alfa Romeo II in 2009 when they set the monohull course record that still stands.

The record-seekers aboard Comanche.

© Sharon Green / Ultimate Sailing

Alfa Romeo II’s monohull course record time from 2009 was 5 days, 14 hours, 36 minutes, 20 seconds. Comanche will need to finish by 12:36:19 a.m. Hawaii time on Wednesday to break the record. Stan Honey is actually looking to break his own record, as he was also the navigator aboard Alfa Romeo II in 2009. Stan has said that what’s key is not necessarily having a windy race (this one suffered from light air off California), but just having the wind be consistent.

Flotsam has definitely been an issue. For instance, at Sunday’s roll call the monohull Rio100 reported that they’d hit an unidentified floating object and lost their port rudder. After a couple of hours of repairs they were back racing with starboard rudder only and no emergency rudder.

The MOD70 trimaran Maserati also broke a rudder in a collision with a UFO. "We were sailing fast at 28-30 knots when we heard a big bang," skipper Giovanni Soldini reported. "We immediately stopped the boat and managed to retrieve the rudder blade that was still attached by a retaining line. That was quite a difficult procedure because it was during the night, with lots of wind and waves." The port and central rudders were unaffected, and Maserati continued their course south of the rhumbline. "We wanted to avoid the areas with more debris," Soldini explained on Sunday. "But yesterday, during the day, we saw at least 15 floating objects, including a net, a very big rope line, a buoy with an iron pole, and many smaller buoys. At one point, we caught a large piece of plastic sheeting on one of the rudders."

Mark Dowdy’s Bay Area-based Santa Cruz 50 Hana Ho dropped out on Thursday with mechanical problems. They turned back to Long Beach. For more news and to follow the race, see http://2017.transpacyc.com.

Hungry for the Rich

According to sharks, rich people just taste better than poor people. 

Somebody on Facebook
©Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Here’s a photo to give a belly laugh to those who are envious of the obscenely wealthy crowd that owns mega-yachts. We don’t share that envy, but we got a big laugh out of it anyway.

These slides, always customized with the boat name, are very popular on large charter boats in the Caribbean and in the Med, where every toy is mandatory for a boat to be marketable.

But there is danger lurking everywhere. We were told that a while back, West Coast sailing great Kimo Worthington somehow broke a leg going down a slide on Jim Clark’s 292-ft Athena.

In any event, the best caption we’ve heard for the above photo? "Shark Sliders."

Sunken Barge to Be Removed

Working together, the US Coast Guard, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Office of Spill Prevention and Response, the San Francisco Department of Emergency Management, Vortex Marine Construction and the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) District are planning for the removal of the sunken 112-ft freight barge Vengeance. The Vengeance capsized on April 7 south of the Bay Bridge.

Coast Guard Sector San Francisco continues to enforce a 350-meter safety zone around the sunken barge.


Global Diving and Salvage has cut the barge into two pieces and is expected to use a crane to lift the pieces tomorrow, Tuesday, July 11. All fuel aboard the Vengeance — approximately 2,700 gallons — was removed by the salvage company on June 14.

Mariners are requested to abide by the 1,148-foot safety zone and monitor local media channels, as the safety zone is subject to change. Marine information broadcasts to local mariners will continue while the safety zone is in effect.

Huge Crowd Paddles Out for Jack O’Neill

In one of the larger paddle outs we’ve ever seen, an estimated 6,000 people were both in the water and on shore to pay their respects to the late Jack O’Neill. Click here for the Santa Cruz Sentinel story. 

© 2017 Santa Cruz Sentinel William Scherer

The surfing community has one of of the most communal and joyous rituals to honor the lives of those who have passed with the ‘paddle out’.

On Sunday in Santa Cruz, an estimated 6,000 people took to their surfboards (and other craft), paddled beyond the surf, joined hands, cheered and splashed the water to pay their respects to the late Jack O’Neill, who passed away in early June at the age of 94. 

Surfer Magazine called it the "largest such event in Santa Cruz’s history," which saw platoons of surfers, a few dozen kayaks and a small flotilla of sailboats in the waters off Pleasure Point, where O’Neill had an oceanfront home and loved to surf.

"Thousands more paddled out for Jack across the world, with ceremonies in the U.K. and Canada, and forthcoming paddle outs in South Africa and Australia," Surfer said. 

The O’Neill company also recently put together a short, poetic documentary titled I Knew Jack O’Neill, which highlights some of the late wetsuit pioneer’s lesser known sailing antics. "An adventurer who charted his own course," the narrator recited, "like those Wednesday night sailing races in Santa Cruz where he cut across the kelp beds off Black Point, looking for that edge."

In what we’re calling the Main Event of this year’s Transpac, Phaedo3 and Maserati crossed the starting line yesterday and are sprinting for Honolulu — and possibly into Transpac history.
It’s that time of year when hundreds of West Coast sailors are having to make decisions — some of them quite expensive — about how to outfit their boats for Mexico and perhaps the South Pacific and beyond.