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Is 46 Seconds the Magic Number in the Transpac?

The 2021 Transpac is off! The first seven boats started yesterday. They’re currently facing light southerlies as they look to escape the L.A. basin and find the breeze.

Express 37 Spindrift V
Andy Schwenk’s Richmond Yacht Club-based Spindrift V at the start of the 2021 Transpac. The Express 37 is currently first in ORR overall. Novato-based Cecil and Alyson Rossi’s Farr 57 Ho’okolohe is leading for line honors. But there’s a lot of sailing to be done between here and Honolulu. The rest of the divisions will start on July 16 and 17.
© 2021 Sharon Green

While waiting for fleets to get some traction on the racecourse, reader Rodney Morgan, who sails with Captain Dave Fullerton aboard the Express 37 Mudshark, sent in a note reminiscing about close Transpac finishes. He wrote in saying, “I’ve been going through Transpac records — what fun. I’ve been trying to find a closer one-design finish than that of the Olson 40s Prime Time and Spellbound in the 1983 race. Granted, sleds and the IOR were a terrible mix for handicapping. Prime Time gave Spellbound all of 22 minutes, 42 seconds over the course — one minute for every 99 miles. Spellbound ended up finishing in front by 46 seconds after 2,225 miles!”

The Olson 40 Spellbound sailing on San Francisco Bay.
© 2021 Latitude 38 Media LLC / Richard

Rodney described the finish. “The 46 seconds equaled three swells, where Prime Time, starboard pole and on layline, stalked for a couple of hours.” Spellbound, with Rodney aboard, on port pole and running out of jibe time, went for it. “We rounded down hard, jibed in the windless trough, and came back up on the same swell and pointed to the finish. The round-down threw Greg Paxton off the helm and into the Channel, only to be scooped back up by hanging on to the tiller. Pretty darn exciting it was. Downwind, we could hear the Prime Time crew cheering when we crashed and a collective groan as we righted and took off.

“Now, ’83 may have been the high point for actual ‘one-design’. There were 12 very similar Santa Cruz boats racing, with 11 finishing within 12 and a half hours of one another — not likely to happen again. Do you have any insights as to a closer finish between similar racers in a long-distance race?”

Curiously, we just wrote a story about the 1981 Transpac when, once again, 46 seconds made all the difference. In that Transpac, Merlin, chartered by San Diego Yacht Club staff commodore Nicholas Frazee, missed out on breaking Merlin’s standing Transpac record by 46 seconds.

You can read the full story of the 1983 Transpac here. If you are sailing in the 2021 Transpac, just remember: Every jibe counts. Despite the finish line being about 2,250 miles away, the race could come down to 46 seconds (or less?) at the finish.


  1. christopher Nash 2 years ago

    I just love the jibe in the Molokai Chanel. This being the last jibe to the finish at Diamond Head, after more than 2000 mile at sea, and many ,many jibes before it. You want to finish , but the swell and big beautiful waves drives the feeling that you like this and want more. Wave after wave and the last jibe, bang and you are off to a few Mai Tai`s and a Lai. Awesome. Do you wonder why they go again and again? Wave after wave for days.

    • rod morgan 2 years ago

      Chris, thanks for the reply….that was our only crash of the race, had to get it out of the way…Felt good to beat Skip Allen…You probably don’t recall, but we sailed together on your Mom’s Farm many times…She took me on my first boat race, ” The Buckner “, on the Moonshadow, and then asked me to be her Bow for the rest of the year…which started my career in the trade…I did her Farm’s backstay in the companionway mod…She was one of the few that treated a PTSD vet with kindness, before we knew what PTSD was…The Best…You have made the only response to my question and I’m thankful
      you did…
      Rod Morgan

  2. Christopher M Nash 2 years ago

    Rod, wonderful story about Jocelyn who was way ahead of her time when it came to personal understanding of how people cope. I am proud that we sailed together and , yes, the backstay lead to center front cockpit was perfect since we still have it there( I ended up with the boat before Joc`s demise). I was right behind you in `83 on Montgomery Street. Greg Paxton does not miss on many jibes but that channel jibe with those close trough`s make it difficult. I recall having a wave over our stern as the bow went into the front wave , onto the deck, just below the Bowmans butt, as I made it thru that Molokai jibe. I stalled for just a moment to relish to moment and listen to the boat and wave, MADE, and with a little kick , off we went on that last jibe. I can feel it now. Fun writing with you Rod and thanks for the memories of Mom. Best, Chris Nash PS I enjoy watching some of the kids I helped teach to sail , on their way to Hawaii right now.

    • rod morgan 2 years ago

      Chris, Jocelyn and Jim Jesse approached me at Chris Corlett’s Memorial, ” I don’t remember your name
      but, damn, I loved sailing with you, I wish I had helped you out in the trade more, you should have been a Star “…I puddled the floor…Gosh…A life highlight…
      Paxton didn’t blow the jibe…we put it off as long as possible, knowing…Warren Seward & I left the transom for port side mast, we unloaded the rudder going foreward, heeled to port & the keel knew just when to bite & finish the turn, Paxton couldn’t, he was in the water…the swells were long, wide &
      far enough apart….while in the trough, the boat surfed on her beam till we popped back up & took off…I would love to see the non-existant video from Prime Time…
      Yep, Joc has a place in my heart forever…hope You & I cross tacks in the future…Rod

  3. Bob Gardiner 2 years ago

    Thanks for the for the story.
    Spellbound seems to like close finishes.
    After the the 2010 Pacific Cup, I was using the bathroom and another competitor muttered about a lousy 5 minutes. Turns out it was the 4th place boat in division C. Spellbound was the 3rd place boat.

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