In this corner, approaching from the south, Magnitude 80. And in this corner, approaching from the north, Bella Mente. They shook hands back on the mainland, and they came out fighting on July 8. Now it's decision time.
There's plenty of breeze, and both Bella Mente and Magnitude 80 are making speeds in the teens.
The Transpac press officer landed in Honolulu about noon, lit up a phone on the taxiway and read this email exchange between Dan Nowlan, US Sailing Offshore Director, and Transpacific Yacht Club Commodore Bill Lee.
Dan: 'At 2200 HST both boats were equidistant from the finish. However, Bella Mente was on port pole on the lay line to the Molokai Channel. Magnitude still had a couple of gybes to come, which means she has to sail farther.'
Bill: 'That long port-pole approach from well north was how Merlin beat Drifter by 17 minutes in 1977.'
(And set the record that Bill Lee held for twenty years.)
Some time in the night, either Bella Mente or Magnitude will cross the 100-miles-to-go mark and trigger the Goldbrick transponder readout for the entire fleet to switch from a six-hour delay to real-time reporting. And that will be a jump. Your transponder page will have a new look tomorrow.
Doogie Couvreux checked in with this update from Bella Mente, which we are advised was lengthened by five feet, to become a Reichel-Pugh 74, for this race:
'We're in the final stretch. We hooked up with a nice squall last night that picked up to about 28 knots of wind speed. It was all hands on deck to get the weight moved aft and all the crew weight too. We gybed and have been aiming for Hawaii. It's a very close race with Magnitude right now.
'Everything becomes a little more difficult when we are trying to figure out where they are, with a six hour delay on the tracking. They have been doing a good job to use that delay to their advantage and sneak away from us. The outcome of this race will probably be decided in the next 12 hours, depending on wind direction and strength. The boys are working really hard on the handles and the drivers are taking every wave they can. The boat is settled into a nice groove, and the off watch is trying to get some rest before a big push tonight.'
Compared to Wednesday standings, there is only one fleet where the corrected time leader has changed. That would be Division 6, from the first-wave start on July 4, where Charles-Etienne Devanneaux's Beneteau First 40, Naos Two, working close to the layline, nipped the farther-north Hobie 33, Peregrine. For the day at least.
Estimated arrivals for Bella Mente and the Andrews 80, Magnitude, are ranging from 0600 HST to 0800 HST. Both are too deep to tie up at Transpac Row in Ala Wai Harbor, so they will berth instead at Aloha Tower/Honolulu Harbor. Apparently, size matters.
For the rest, we'll soon load up Transpac Row. You probably can't pick out the speckof Diamond Head that, yes, is in there somewhere . . .
And thanks to contributions from the new Disney Aulani Resort and a lot of elbow grease, The Shack is all spiffed up. This is Transpac headquarters at Ala Wai Harbor, and that's the Ilikai, a Transpac icon, in the background . . .
Around the fleet: They were a little grumpy aboard the 1D35, Alpha Puppy, caught in a light spot. Sherry Smith reports: 'It's tough being on a planing boat with a rating influenced by surfing ability - and not being able to surf. This is a waterline race again.'
Less grumpy on the SC70, Deception. Peter Shumar reports: 'What a glorious afternoon. After a light period, we slowly inched the boat toward an oncoming squall and have been riding a never-ending wave of squalls for the last four hours. They all seem to be localized, so we're hoping that our frenemies aren't getting this little alley of breeze, 17-25 knots pushing us where we want to go.'
The good news is what's ahead. The Molokai Channel is pumping, sports fans. Bring it on home.
Transpac race here