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Life Is F–king Great!

"Life Is F–king Great!" Such is the sentiment of Peter Heiberg, who yesterday was first of the 14 competitors across the Singlehanded TransPac finish line at Hanalei Bay, Kauai, with his Palmer/Johnson 49 Scaramouche. Curiously enough, the hardest part of the race for him was the first few miles, as he reported in a Facebook posting.

With her solar panels, windvane steering device and roller-furling headsail, Scaramouche looked decidedly cruisy on her long beat out of the Bay. Little did Peter Heiberg suspect that he’d take line honors at Hanalei.

©2014 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

"My biggest fear, a real wake-in-the-night, adrenaline fear, was just getting out of San Francisco Bay. My roller-furling jib is more than I can handle in a short-tacking situation, and the fact that we were starting against a strong flood tide in the usual 20 knots or so of wind, plus the expected fog, made for a very scary start. But like most fears, the anticipation was worse than the reality. It was a real battle, as I had to make something like 22 tacks, but there was no fog, so that removed the fear-of-death-by-deep-sea-ship under the Gate."

That wasn’t the end of the Vancouver, BC sailor’s early challenges.

"Then I had an hour or two of decent sailing before getting clobbered by a brisk northwesterly. It blew in the low 30s for a few days, and it was really something to try and sleep while the waves smashed into the hull, making an unbelievable racket. When I went into the cockpit on the morning of the second day, there was a fish there, so I guess he had it worse than I. But I really felt for the guys in the smaller boats, many of whose boats sustained at least a little damage. Those guys are a lot tougher than I am."

Heiberg says that the rest of the race was "just pleasant sailing."

"Once I managed to get the spinny pole up on port to wing out the headsail, it stayed up the whole race while I read. I took it down once to correct a chafe problem, but other than that I basically read for 1,500 miles. I could furl the jib with the pole up and so when the wind got silly — there were many more squalls than I’m used to — I would put a reef or two in the main, roll up a bit of jib, and go back to reading. I never jibed; never did much of anything but read eight or so books."

What do you mean I’m in front of the fleet?

"About halfway through the race, someone pointed out to me on the radio that I was in front of the fleet. Naturally I jumped up and ran around trying to make the boat go faster, but couldn’t really think of much to do, so I went back to reading. I did get my towing generator out of the water, but running the engine was such a hassle that I soon put it back in."

Then came the finish.

"I had to interrupt Nelson Mandela’s autobiography for the finish, which was pretty amazing, with a Hawaiian canoe full of paddlers cheering me on. The race committee climbed onboard and took over, furling sails, anchoring, and so forth. Meanwhile, I drank. I was greeted by family. I don’t say this often, but for just a few minutes life is fucking great!"

As of this posting, six of the 14 boats have crossed the line at Hanalei Bay. Al Germain’s Wyliecat 30 Bandicoot finished yesterday, followed five hours later by Rick Elkins’ Custom Wylie 39 Lightspeed. Next to finish was Joe Balderrama’s Express 27 Archimedes.

Just before midnight on Sunday, Daniel Willey, having been at sea for more than 15 days, crossed the line on his Nautical 44 Galaxsea. He remembered perhaps the most exciting moment:

"I awoke to my autopilot blaring, and I went from sound asleep to charging into the wheelhouse filled with adrenaline in about two seconds. I’d been hit by a massive squall at 2 a.m. and had my big kite up. Water was pouring into my cabin as the entire starboard rail was underwater. Getting the kite down in those conditions was incredibly hard, and made me think twice before hoisting it again.”

Four more singlehanders are expected to arrive before noon today, Kauai time: Przemyslaw Karwasiecki on the Mini 6.5m Libra, Nathalie Criou on the Express 27 Elise, Ken ‘The General’ Roper on his Finn Flyer 31 Harrier, and Gary Burton on the Westsail 32 Elizabeth Ann.

Seen here clawing toward the Golden Gate, Steve Hodges aboard the Islander 36 Frolic is currently the overall race leader.

©2014 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Line honors and corrected time honors are, of course, very different things. Currently Steve Hodges is the overall leader with his Islander 36 Frolic, followed by Al Germain on Bandicoot and Joe Balderrama on Archimedes.

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