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Solo TransPac Fleet Are Off

Mirage and Solar Wind duel toward the Gate at the start of the 17th Singlehanded TransPac.

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©2010 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Not in living memory has the Singlehanded TransPac fleet sailed out the Gate faster than they did this Saturday. And by living memory, we mean that of Ken ‘The General’ Roper, who is sailing in his 11th — out of 17 — TransPac aboard his Finn Flyer 31 Harrier. "I’ve never made it under the bridge so fast," he told his daughter Lee. With a fresh 20-knot breeze and a massive ebb to flush them out of the Bay, the 14 starters in this year’s running of the 2,120-mile jaunt to Hanalei Bay, Kauai, met some spectacular swells outside the Gate. While they might have wished for calmer seas — an offshore low earlier in the week had also set up some good sized rollers to add to the mix — there’s little doubt the racers were pleased to have any wind at all. (The last two runnings of the race started frustratingly light and slow.)

Dream Chaser, Harrier, Solar Wind and Culebra beat feet out of the Bay Saturday morning — a delightful change from the last two editions of the race.

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©2010 Latitude 38 Media, LLC
The Class of 2010 (back l to r): Dave King, Adrian Johnson, Al Germain, Gary Gould, Paul Nielsen, Ken Roper, Ronnie Simpson, Adam Correa; (front l to r): AJ Goldman, Jeff Lebesch, Sam Burns, Ben Mewes, George Lythcott, John Hayward and Max Crittenden.

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©2010 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Before the fleet even made Pt. Bonita, reports came in that the wind had built to 30-plus. The bright side of the heavy winds was that every boat in the fleet had made it past the Farallones by the first check-in Saturday night, but the downside were the grumpy seas. We won’t name names, but more than one skipper reported making unexpected offerings to Neptune over the leeward side.

Jeff Lebesch’s Hammerhead 54 trimaran Hecla caught air more than once as she hurtled toward Hawaii. A blown-out spinnaker block last night might hurt his chances in the standings, but barring any other damage, he’s still a shoe-in for the barn door trophy.

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©2010 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Yesterday morning saw the return of Ben Mewes on his Black Soo Mirage. "My solar panel wasn’t charging my batteries," he reports. A quick change-out to new batteries, a slightly better solar panel installation, and a nap left Ben refreshed and ready to set sail, which he did around 10 p.m. last night. Unfortunately, he’s still having issues and is on his way back to the Bay. Hopefully a borrowed generator will do the trick and he’ll head out again, a la Dwight Odom who, in the ’08 race, returned to the Bay three times to fix electrical issues before finishing the race on his Saga 43 Na Na.

A bleary (in more ways than one) Ben Mewes points to his newly reinstalled solar panel last night before restarting his race.

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©2010 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

A day after the rest of the fleet started, and as Mirage was sailing back to the Bay, Sam Burns on the Catalina 309 Southernaire set off. A faulty SSB forced Sam to delay his start so he could track down a rental sat phone in order to send in position reports.

About the same time Mirage sailed out the Gate for the second time, Al Germain on the WylieCat 30 Bandicoot reported — via a passing container ship — that he was returning to the Bay due to communication issues. Turns out his sat phone got wet, then a plug on his SSB was damaged, so he was unable to communicate. He’s since made the difficult and undoubtedly frustrating decision to withdraw from the race.

Bandicoot (foreground) was forced to retire today because his communications failed.

latitude/LaDonna
©2010 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

In the meantime, the rest of the fleet is chugging along. The position reports on the race’s website show that about half the boats are going for a rhumb line route, while the rest are dipping south. With the high stationary for the moment, it will be interesting to see which boats made the right call. We’ll post updates throughout the race, but you can also check the race’s site for position reports and racers’ logs, which are always fascinating.

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