Water Ways

By Ray Pendleton

Saturday, March 20, 1999

Transpac excitement
already building

WITH the start of the Transpacific Yacht Race still more than three months away, it may seem a little early to even bring the subject up, but believe me, the race organizers have plenty to talk about.

For starters, this biennial regatta from Southern California to Honolulu, popularly known as Transpac, will be conducting its 40th race.

And, having begun in 1906, it is the oldest, long-distance yacht race still being run.

During its 93-year history, the number of entries in Transpac seems to have have ebbed and flowed, primarily in response to the world's general economy.

In 1932, during the Great Depression, Transpac saw its smallest fleet ever -- just two boats.And, from an all time best of 80 entries in 1979, it has dropped in recent years to a fleet of about 40.

It is therefore exciting to hear Transpac entry chairman Dan Nowlan report from California that he has already accepted 24 entries.That is well ahead of the '97 race's early entries, and he estimates the final list will approach 50.

"If you look at the boats that aren't entered, that you know will enter," Nowlan said, "you can see the turbo-sled class is going to have three or four more boats, and we expect more 50s."

ALONG with the prospect of more entries due to an improved economy, other than Hawaii, of course, two other factors may have played a part.

First, Transpac officials have really worked at attracting more cruiser/racers.

Those are the boats that are reminiscent of the days whenblue-water racing was done with a certain amount of creature comfort.

The days of sit-down dinners aboard a boat you could actually live on -- unlike the empty shelled, downwind sleds that now are the elapsed-time record holders.

Cruiser/racers may not be as fast as the sleds, but once they get here, the crew may just discovered they gained a pound or two during their two-week passage.

Another factor is that entries have increased in the 30- to 40-foot range this year.So much so that Transpac has announced an additional staggered-start day for this division.

As it stands now, the slower cruising division will start off Point Fermin on June 29, the 30- to 40-footers will start on July 2, the faster 50- to 80-footers will start on July 3, and the fastest boats, the multi-hulls, will start on July 6.

As in the last few Transpacs, the race organizers hope that by allowing the slower boats a head start, it will avoid starting line congestion and it will tend to compress the overall finish in Honolulu.

Of course, it is the race's finish here that is foremost in the minds of Transpac's Honolulu Committee, headed by Kaneohe Yacht Club's Bob Towle.

WHEN you are dealing with the prospect of 50 boats converging on the Diamond Head finish line, combined with providing hospitality for their crew, family and friends, there are a whole lot of ducks that need to be put in a row before mid-July.Towle's work started when the '97 race ended.

Hospitality for the above mentioned crew, family and friends might also be something of a concern for local businesses.Restaurants like the Chart House and the Harbor Pub that volunteer to provide an aloha greeting for an arriving boat have always been rewarded with increased patronage, and occasionally rides on their adopted vessels.

Maybe other businesses need to start planning for Transpac now, too.

Ray Pendleton is a free-lance writer based in Honolulu.
His column runs Saturdays in the Star-Bulletin.
He can be reached by e-mail at

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