Transpac 2011 - Friday's 34 Transpac starters made short work of clearing the west end of Catalina Island and cracking sheets for a track south of the rhumb line, Los Angeles to Honolulu.
Already, overnight, theirs is a very different race from the one that started on Monday for the 10 smallest raceboats and eight cruisers in the Aloha division. That race stalled on the first night, and crews struggled for days to reach the synoptic breeze that blows down the coast and bends off toward the islands as a classic tradewind.
At Saturday morning roll call, the Open 60, O Canada, showed a fastest speed over course of 11.4 knots, followed by Doug Baker's Magnitude 80 at 11.2. These morning reports, collected by the communications vessel, Alaska Eagle, bypass the six-hour delay in transponder signals and so provide the freshest view of position and conditions. (The six-hour delay will continue until the first boat closes to 100 miles from the finish at the Diamond Head Light.)
Kevin McMeel, navigating O Canada, filed this dawn report: Just sent in our position. Sailed 218 miles thru the water since we started 17 hours ago. Hat score: Lost three hats in the first hour. Skies just went from black grey to white grey as dawn arrived. We are flying. Predawn best speed was 21 knots, when I could see through the spray. Got our second-biggest sail up, the Genoa, just before six. Needed all hands for that. It seemed like a long, wet night after the half moon disappeared at about 0130. Saturday night will be better.
Meanwhile, three of Monday's 19 starters have dropped out. The Aereodyne 43, Crash, reported a massive fresh water leak and not enough water to safely continue toward Honolulu. The Catalina 38, Peregrine, which Steve Smolinske brought all the way from Seattle, Washington to race, declared irreconcilable watermaker problems and withdrew. And Narrow Escape, all the way down from Nanaimo, British Columbia for doublehanding by Greg Constable and Doug Backhouse, dropped out on Friday with a busted autopilot. All are returning to ports in Southern California.
The 46th running of the biennial Transpacific Yacht Race continues with 50 boats now on the course, sailing a rated distance of 2,225 miles from Point Fermin to Diamond Head. The Pacific High is (at last) nicely formed, growing, and pumping out the breeze that makes for a classic Transpac. And yes, we know that's hard vittles to chew for struggling Monday starters, but better late than never. Keep an eye on how that 200-mile north-south spread plays out for Monday starters. Below is a NOAA projection of how the Pacific High will look as of next Tuesday.