Ray Pendleton Water Ways

Ray Pendleton

Big boats vie for
sailing’s Barn Door

AFTER reading last week's Water Ways about the large number of Cal 40s entered in this year's Transpacific Yacht Race, one reader had a request.

"I enjoyed the history and the nostalgia," he said, "but how about writing something about the big, fast boats that are after the Barn Door?"

For the uninitiated, the Barn Door is a 3 1/2-by-5-foot koa wood trophy that's awarded to the monohulled boat that sails Transpac's 2,225-mile course -- from Point Fermin, Calif., to Oahu's Diamond Head finish line -- in the shortest elapsed time.

In recent years, the Barn Door has been won by large boats called maxi sleds, like the 2001 winner Pegasus, a 77-foot Reichel/Pugh-designed sloop owned by Waikiki Yacht Club's Philippe Kahn.

Surprisingly, even though this year's Transpac will have the largest fleet we've seen in a number of years, at the moment, there are just two maxis entered: Pegasus and Roy E. Disney's Reichel/Pugh 75 Pyewacket.

It may be remembered that Pyewacket holds the Transpac elapsed time record, set in 1999, of seven days, 11 hours, 41 minutes and 27 seconds.

As I noted last week, Disney's winning navigator, Stan Honey, has opted to sail his own Cal 40 in Transpac this year. This has forced Disney to recruit another well-known navigator, Peter Isler, a veteran of America's Cup racing aboard Stars and Stripes.

"It's gigantic shoes to fill," Isler said. "It's more like snowshoes or Shaquille O'Neal's sneakers."

Coincidentally, Isler and Honey taught navigation classes together at Yale Corinthian Yacht Club.

Nevertheless, after hearing the reports of the recent Newport Beach to Ensenada, Mexico, race, it would appear Disney made the right choice.

Although considerably shorter than Transpac, the 125-mile Ensenada Race is the largest international yacht race in the world (461 entries this year), and it's often used as a tune-up for boats that will be racing to Hawaii.

Including Pyewacket, 25 Transpac entries raced to Ensenada this year.

According to Southern California boating journalist Rich Roberts, Pyewacket won the race, set a record and beat out the new Andrews 77 Alchemy, a boat it had been chasing the last two-thirds of the race.

Many Ensenada races have been won or lost close to the finish in Todos Santos Bay, and so it was this year.

"We jibed about 32 miles from the finish, on the lay line (straight for the finish)," Isler said. "Their mistake was that they should have jibed first."

It may have been the other boat's mistake, but it was Isler's call that won the race and set a course record of 10 hours, 44 minutes and 54 seconds.

You can bet there will be many of those kinds of decisions during Transpac that will make the difference between winning and losing the Barn Door.

As Pyewacket's only competition in Transpac this year will come from Pegasus, it will be a one-on-one situation from the start.

"I think that it's a match race, with Pyewacket favored because they are Pyewacket," Kahn said diplomatically. "We'll just try to keep up with them and see if we can get lucky."

And, of course, having a top-notch navigator can't hurt either.

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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