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Ragtime Takes Top Honors in Tahiti

As luck would have it, every arrival was at night. Last night Fortaleza was greeted at the line by the commodore of the Tahiti YC and others, who welcomed the crew with an armload of cold Hinano beers.

© Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Latitude‘s Tahiti bureau chief (ahem!) stayed up until the wee hours last night to help welcome Jim Morgan’s Santa Cruz 50 Fortaleza, the fourth and final finisher in the newly reconstituted Tahiti Race. Although it was three in the morning by the time the weary crew reached the downtown quay in Papeete, they were greeted with fresh flower leis, rum punch and the sweet melodies of a traditional Tahitian band.

Fortaleza corrected out to finish second overall, with Chris Welsh’s Spencer 66 Ragtime taking top honors as the overall winner. As reported earlier, Doug Baker’s Andrews 80 Magnitude 80 took line honors, crushing the old record by more than 3.5 days, with Bob Lane’s Andrews 63 Medicine Man finishing second. In fact, the first three finishers broke the old mark, set by Fred Kirschner’s SC 70 Kathmandu when the race was last run 14 years ago.

The unique Tahiti Race trophy is truly a piece of sailing history. Past winners include such legends as Eric Tabarly and Jake Wood.

©2008 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

In addition to the fact that the Tahiti Race is nearly 1,400 miles longer than either the TransPac or the Pac Cup, another obvious difference is that racers must deal with the threat of little or no wind when crossing the equatorial zone (ITCZ).

But for both Ragtime and Fortaleza the notorious ITCZ was a non-issue: "The doldrums really didn’t exist for us," said Welsh when we caught up with him last night in Papeete. Both Rags and Fortaleza dove south on longitudes farther east than the frontrunners, and ended up sailing in consistently stronger winds — up to the low 30s during a few squalls.

Another essential difference between this and the Hawaii races, is that about half of the course required reaching rather than running. Chutes were set rarely, if ever, south of the equator. Look for a complete report in the upcoming issue of Latitude 38 due to hit the stands on August 1.

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