Sailors enjoy halftime in Hawaii
Although Ala Wai Harbor has hosted boats involved in international regattas for decades, they have nearly always been berthed there during the summer months when our trade winds are the most prevalent.
That fact may be part of the reason why so many local sailors have e-mailed me with questions about the 10 identical 68-foot boats they have recently seen moored there.
Water Ways readers learned three weeks ago these yachts are competing in the Clipper 07-08 Round the World Race, which began and will finish in Liverpool, England. Hawaii is just one stop in their 35,000-mile, 14-leg, 10-month contest.
The boats were originally scheduled for a six-day layover here while sailing from China to California, however the dismasting of two of the vessels made an extended stay a necessity. New masts and rigging for both boats had to be flown here from England, plus it was felt the rigging of all the boats should have a thorough inspection.
There was a bright side to this longer stop for repairs though, as it also allowed the crew members an unexpected holiday in Hawaii for sightseeing and other activities.
Along with swimming and surfing at Waikiki Beach, many of these sailors found their way to the top of Diamond Head and up to the North Shore as well. Some crew members even made trips to Maui and others flew to the Big Island to view the latest volcanic eruptions.
One 'round-the-world sailor, Neil Withers, who has been taking a sabbatical from his regular job as a firefighter with the London Fire and Rescue Service, took time to meet some of his contemporaries here in the Honolulu Fire Department at the Waikiki station.
Two other sailors, Thea Clifford and James Norris, met with Mayor Mufi Hannemann to ask him to add his signature to a growing list of dignitaries from around the world who have signed the Wilberforce Petition, a scroll calling for an end to modern-day slavery.
Still, as with every vacation, the time quickly came for the crews to get back to their principle objective: To compete in a circumnavigation of the globe and to reach the finish line by early July.
The race had to get under way again, and although the two dismasted boats had several days of work left to make them seaworthy, the race committee decided to get the other eight on their way on April 5.
The two remaining yachts had their new masts stepped early this week and finally sailed out of the harbor on Wednesday, after a traditional Hawaiian blessing at the Hawaii Yacht Club.
They won't be competing directly with the rest of the fleet, but because it was decided their dismastings were outside the control of the crew, they will be awarded points for this leg as determined by their average finishing order in the race's previous seven legs.
We are told they will likely make it to their next port -- Santa Cruz, Calif. -- in time to hit the next starting line with the rest of the fleet.