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Transpac Pre-Preview

The most famous of all West Coast sailing races, the Transpac, is less than two months away. Back for its 49th edition, the biennial 2,225-mile race from Los Angeles to Honolulu will again turn out some of the hottest boats and most talented sailors in the world.

Jim Clark’s VPLP 100 Comanche, the world’s fastest monohull yacht, has entered the 2017 Transpac. Almost immediately after defending the America’s Cup, helmsman Jimmy Spithill will fly to join skipper Ken Read and arguably the most rockstar crew on earth to go and do what they do best: Go after line honors, their own 24-hour record and a new race record.

© Onne van der Wal

Arguably the biggest news of this year’s race is that the fastest monohull on earth has entered the race. Jim Clark’s VPLP 100 Comanche, stacked with some of the biggest names in the sport, will be looking to break Alfa Romeo’s eight-year-old course record of 5 days, 14 hours, 36 minutes. If conditions are right and the breeze clocks northeast and builds to 25 knots or more with the right sea state, she may be able to take aim at her own 24-hour distance record of 618 miles. The Bay Area’s own Stan Honey will once again be navigating this beast of a boat to Hawaii. While Comanche will grab the most pre-race hype, Manouch Moshayedi’s Bakewell-White 100 Rio100 will also be in it to win it, and also looking to set a new monohull course record after doing that very thing in last year’s Pacific Cup with a time of just 5 days, 2 hours, 41 minutes.

While the MOD70s are more modern and receive much more media hype, don’t underestimate H.L. Enloe’s Mighty Merloe. The boat began life as Groupama 2 and is known as the fastest ORMA 60 of all time. Skippered by Jacques Vincent, the boat and crew have been on point this year and are a major force to be reckoned with. In the right conditions, the ORMA could beat both the MODs to Hawaii and set an outright Transpac race record.

© 2017 Bob Betancourt

While the 100-footers look impressive on paper, they’re not likely to be the fastest boats to Hawaii as a trio of trimarans are all looking to break Bruno Peyron and Explorer’s now-ancient multihull race record of 5 days, 9 hours, 18 minutes. Giovanni Soldini’s foiling MOD70 Maserati will face off against Lloyd Thornburg’s MOD70 Phaedo3 and H.L. Enloe’s ORMA 60 Mighty Merloe. After watching Phaedo beat Mighty Merloe into Ensenada by just three minutes last week, no one is counting either out. Many will remember Lending Club 2’s incredible 3 day, 18 hour run to the islands during the last Transpac, but that record is merely a course record, not a race record, as LC2 withdrew before the start in order to chase the record.

James McDowell’s Grand Illusion team has won the Transpac three times. They’re currently the defending race champions. While some other boats will get to Hawaii more quickly, you can never count out a classic West Coast sled like the Santa Cruz 70 when it’s sailed by a skipper and crew as polished as GI’s.

© 2017 Phil Uhl

While the 100-footers and the ultra-fast trio of trimarans are likely to garner most of the press coverage and dominate the headlines, it’s almost a certainty that none of them will claim the King Kalakaua Trophy for fastest overall corrected time, nor the Barn Door Trophy for fastest traditionally-ballasted monohull. This fleet is as deep as they come. With classic West Coast sleds, a solid Santa Cruz 50/52 division, a Pac52 match race, a TP52 and a quiver of J/125s entered, Transpac is shaping up to be spectacular. Watch for our full race preview in the July issue of Latitude 38.

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