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Transpac Race 2011 - Dark horse Deception

by Erik Simonson on 7 Jul 2011
Finish 2011 Crewed Lightship - Transpac Race 2011 Erik Simonson/ ©
Transpac Race 2011's six boat strong SC 50 is alive and well in this year's version of the Point Fermin to Diamond Head Race (aka Transpac). Pressure Drop talks with a dark horse in the division, the all Corinthian Deception and the owner William Helvestine.

A lot gets made of the established boats racing in the premier events like the Transpac, loaded with pro's and rock stars, but little light shown on the working class guys with the modest budget and names no one has heard of. In that vein let's take a look at the Dark Horse of the SC 50' division, Deception.

She'll be competing head to head against overall favorite, Jack Taylors 'Horizon' with their all star team and bucket load of trophies, as well four other well sailed 50's in division five, which could well supply the corrected overall winner for this 2011 edition.

Deception's owner and skipper, William Helevestine took the time before their start this Friday off Point Fermin to give us a little insight to the boat, the program and the crew, enjoy!

You acquired Deception when? Previous life of boat?

WH: In 2008, we returned from a family sailing vacation in the Bahamas’ and began thinking about a boat of our own since the five kids were in college or beyond. I had never owned a sailboat and I wasn’t getting any younger! I was inspired by a newspaper story about Paul Cayard buying a Santa Cruz 50 (Hula Girl) and sailing the Pacific Cup with his kids that year. That sounded like a great idea.

Amazingly, it also sounded like a good idea to both me and my spouse Alice Anderson. I knew of the Santa Cruz50’s but had never sailed one. I figured if that boat was good enough for Cayard, then it ought to be good enough for me. I had raced on an Olson 30 in the 1980’s and I knew I liked the ULDB’s instead of a heavier cruising boat.

Deception happened to be for sale at the time. She is the last of the SC50’s built, has a carbon deck, was built with an open transom, and she has full standing headroom throughout the cabin (which other SC50’s sacrifice in favor of a raised floor structural element in the middle of the cabin). She sailed competitively in a number of earlier Transpacs and had sailed competitively over the past 20 years in Southern California and in Seattle (where she was known as Chicken Little). In short, I thought she was lovely, so we bought her.

Previous boats you have owned?

WH: This is the first boat I’ve owned. I raced throughout the 1980’s on a friend’s Olson 30 ('Killer Rabbit'), and have periodically chartered cruising boats.

What attracted you to the SC 50 over other boats of similar waterline?

WH: The entry cost for a 20+ year old boat is a lot less than a modern 50 foot hot rod. The ongoing cost of maintaining the boat and sails is also a lot less -- although sometimes I find this hard to believe. In fact, when the riggers and boatyards suggest all these improvements they could do, I’ve been known to say ' If I had wanted a TP 52, I would have bought one.'

Cayard’s selection of the boat for himself was a big factor, and it’s a really stable boat because it’s not so light and so broad in the transom as some of the newer designs, and therefore I think is more easily driven by us amateurs. Finally, during the sales process and afterward, I got to know Bill Lee, and his extensive knowledge and continued willingness to advise on various issues has reinforced my confidence in the boat and my appreciation for his designs.

You placed second in division in last year's Pacific Cup, to what do you attribute the early success in the program?

WH: Three factors. First, our navigator Peter Shumar who did a stellar job of navigating our (and his) first long distance ocean race.

Second, we had an amazingly congenial and committed crew, not so much from a from a technically skilled viewpoint (we’re all very much amateurs), but from the sense of enjoyment and commitment to each other. We didn’t have to deal with any so-called ‘crew issues.'

And third, my wife Alice provided what had to be the best menu for any crew doing the crossing. Her job, in addition to being the squirrel for every spinnaker douse, was 24/7 care and feeding of everyone on board. That really 'fattened' the experience for us.

There are six SC 50's in the Trans Pac this year, how do you feel you stack up in the competition?

WH: We’re certainly not the most competitive and we don’t have any pros on board, but we’ll give it our darndest. We trust our navigator Peter to find us the fastest route and we’ll be whipping each other to keep trimming all the way across.

What will it take for Deception to come out on top?

Of the boats I know, Horizon is clearly the competitive benchmark with their seasoned crew and night driving wizardry, and Hula Girl (now J-World) is all turbo’d out with a couple of great guys running the boat. What we need to win is a good break on the weather decisions and then to sail consistently and not drift off in the wee hours of the night. (That’s me reminding myself.)

Your training regimen has been pretty extensive, with plenty of buoy and point to point races plus practice sails, how many days a year has the crew in general committed to the program?

WH: Good question, as I’ve never counted it up. Counting the races, practice days and also a few crew work days (they’re much more cost effective than the boatyards!) I would estimate somewhere give or take 35 days per year; more if you count the Pacific Cup last year.

But, you know, it’s never enough practice. We learn something every time we go out. We encountered situations on the Coastal Cup we had never faced before and had to go to school on. And I’ll bet that’s something everybody says about sailing. There’s always something new to learn.

Can you give us a breakdown of the crew and their background?

Peter Shumar, Navigator : His experience comes from solo navigating around the Pacific. He is also an experienced computer guy and our best driver. And when my wife is aboard, he’s the marriage counselor.

Steve Meyers, Bow: Experience prior to Deception was inshore and primarily on smaller boats. In real life, he teaches troubled teenagers who have fallen out of the public schools and been referred by the criminal justice system.

Jasper Van Vliet, Trim: Also a night driver (sings Abba songs while driving at night) and general problem solver on the boat. Jasper, Steve and Peter also sail together on a J-24 aspiring to the Worlds in Argentina this year.

Mark Van Selst, Trim: Start and inshore tactics. Lots of 1D35 and other SF Bay racing, as well as '1 ½' Pacific Cups prior to ours. A professor of philosophy, is among the most knowledgeable on how to fix the inevitable Fubar.

Michele Sumpton, Bow - 'Princess' has most of her experience in dinghy sailing and smaller inshore boats, but then did the Pacific Cup with us last year. Recently qualified for her Captain’s License. In real life, is a special education teacher for disabled kids.

Mark Coleman Trim, and a night driver - Our 'Kiwi' from Southern California, sails his own Cal 48 that he lovingly restored from the bottom up, and crews on the 68 foot Taxi Dancer out of Santa Barbara. Has offshore experience plus extensive knowledge of boat electrical and mechanical systems. In real life, is an electrical/video display guru for rock bands and other big performances.

Don Azcarate, Pit (what we call our Halyard Farm); mast; general cockpit and pole controls. Did a prior Transpac on Alaska Eagle. Is a physical trainer by profession and serves as our medical guy. (Secret fact: he sleeps with a fur covered eye shade; hence is nickname 'the beaver'.)

Will Helvestine, Mast, Halyard Farm, general cockpit and pole controls. Our youngest crewmember, Will is my son who is now a lawyer in Los Angeles. His sailing experience is mainly Caribbean charters with Dad, a Mexico trip when we first got Deception, and then sailing various races as training on Deception. When he declined the Pac Cup last year, the rest of the crew shamed him into joining us for Transpac this year. ('Dude! Your Dad’s got this boat and sailed to Hawaii and you didn’t go? What, are you crazy?')

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