Long Beach is Transpac’s real winner
Although Roy Disney's 94-foot sloop Pyewacket was the first to finish this year's Transpacific Yacht Race yesterday, with the rest of the fleet still on the course, it's way too early to declare an overall winner on handicapped time.
Still I can, however, tell you with certainty that it and every boat after will receive a warm aloha welcome when it is finally docked after its 2,225-nautical mile voyage.
Such greetings date back to the beginnings of this 101-year-old race, even though the boats have been and continue to be docked in various locations around Honolulu.
In the early 1900s, Honolulu Harbor was the only port available for boats 50 to more than 100 feet long. But after the Kewalo Basin was constructed in the 1920s, the Transpac fleet had a new port to moor in.
Our state-run Ala Wai Small Boat Harbor eventually became the primary mooring ground for Transpac racers after a 20-foot-deep, 200-foot-wide channel was cut through the reef to the ocean in the early 1950s.
Then for decades the Ala Wai Harbor's "500 Row" became the biennial race's "Transpac Row" where the boats were ceremoniously docked in their order of finish.
Lately, however, that tradition has been scuttled as the state has been forced to condemn or remove more than 130 slips due to its near-criminal neglect of proper maintenance.
Beginning next week you will find Transpac boats scattered around the harbor between the Waikiki and Hawaii yacht clubs, as well as in various state-owned slips, as they were in 2005. One boat, Roy Disney's 94-foot Pyewacket, will be in Honolulu Harbor due to its size.
This, paradoxically, comes at a time when Long Beach, Calif., has recently spent a considerable amount of money to establish its downtown Rainbow Marina at Shoreline Village as the Transpac's mainland home.
Surrounding its newly refurbished marina, Long Beach has created 11 Walk of Fame monuments that stand 5 1/2 feet tall -- one monument for each decade of the race. Each one displays photographs and historical highlights and lists the winning boats of the races of that era.
Even a restaurant at the marina, Gladstone's, has gotten involved by announcing that each crewmember of this year's overall winning boat will receive a Gladstone's Long Beach Gold Card that entitles them to a lifetime cocktail.
"I don't know of any other major ocean race in the world that has a permanent home port that honors its history and traditions as this will," Transpac Commodore Al Garnier said. "Usually the boats just meet at the starting line and sail away. Now the public and the sailors can all get together before the start to share the adventure."
From my perspective, folks at both the state and city levels on Oahu should get a clue from Long Beach and find ways to show more respect for the century-old Transpac.
After all, it was Hawaii's King David Kalakaua who first proposed the race, and while its starting line has been up and down the California coast, it has always finished at Diamond Head.