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J/121 and J/125s crush 50th Transpac Race!

by J/Boats 28 Jul 2019 03:47 PDT 10-25 July 2019
Hamachi team celebrates on arrival last night - Transpac 50 © Rachel Rosales / ManaMeans

First organized by the Transpacific Yacht Club in 1906, the biennial Transpac Race attracted a record fleet of 90 boats for its 50th edition. Three waves of starts over a four-day period got the fleet onto the 2,225.0nm race track from Los Angeles to Honolulu.

The early starters on Wednesday, July 10th (Classes 6 to 10) dove south for better winds that never fully materialized; and they continued to be plagued by lighter airs relative to the rest of the fleet as they surfed to Diamond Head. The second wave of starters on Friday, July 12th (Classes 3-4-5) had favorable, windy breezes, after fetching Catalina Island on starboard tack, the fleet simply bore off, set Code Zeros, then A3s and A2s as they flew down the track for the rest of the race! However, the third group starting on Saturday, July 13th (Classes 1-2) was not as lucky as they dealt with light winds for their escape from California. As a result, the big winners in the "wind lottery" in the first 72 hours were the second wave of starters.

J/125s crush 50th Transpac Race Overall!

For the first time in the fifty years of Transpac Race history, a one-design class nearly swept the entire top five results overall- the famous J/125s!! Congrats to all four teams!

Winning was Shawn Dougherty & Jason Andrews's Seattle-based J/125 HAMACHI, taking both Division 3 and Overall honors. Taking silver in both class and overall was Zachary Anderson & Chris Kramer's San Francisco-based J/125 Velvet Hammer. Fourth in class and overall was Mark Surber's San Diego-based J/125 Snoopy (ex-Derivative). And, fifth in class and overall was Tom Garnier's J/125 Reinrag from Los Angeles.

J/121 smokes Division 6!

Congratulations to Scott Grealish's J/121 Blue Flash from Portland, Oregon! They easily won the "first wave" of starters overall (five classes in total). Amazingly, Blue Flash was eighth boat to finish on elapsed time and won Division 6 by 4 1/2 hours corrected time!

Also, in that first wave of starts was Division 7, Paul Stemler's classic J/44 racer-cruiser, named Patriot, took the silver in her group.

For the first time, the 50th Transpac also had a Corinthians Division. Winning Corinthians overall was Tom Garnier's J/125 Reinrag 2, plus they won it in Division 3 as well. Winning Corinthians in Division 6 was Scott Grealish's J/121 Blue Flash, and taking fifth overall. Finally, winning Corinthians Division 7 was Paul Stemler's J/44 Patriot, taking eighth overall.

To give you an idea of what it is like to sail a 2,225.0nm race, take some time to read the various J/crews' blogs they were posting over satellite phone links. Some of them are pretty amusing.

J/121 Blue Flash - Scott Grealish

"After all the training we had done in the light airs Cabo San Lucas Race and the moderate winds in the Ensenada Race, and sail testing off San Diego prior to the race, we were excited to see what kind of legs we would have on our new J/121 in the open Pacific on a 2,225nm race track. We had no idea what to expect in the forecasted 10-20 kts winds, other than to push hard, keep experimenting with sail combinations for wind/wave angles and press on regardless.

On Wednesday, we had a good start, good lane, and we got to the right of fleet. A Farr 57 and Swede 55 were water-lining us, but we got around Catalina quickly in 16-18 kts breeze. The Farr just in front of us and the 55 just behind. We were pleased with our speed, using the water ballast upwind helped at this stage and we were fast.

Based on the forecast and grib files, we could see the Pacific High was split in two, the east side was weaker, and the 500 mb pressure line was wobbly. We hoped for a solid High that would recede NW, tighten the gradients south, produce more winds, but that that didn't happen. Initially, we had to go south after passing Catalina, which adds a lot of miles. But, that was not enough, in retrospect, as we never got the winds the Friday starters got for the whole race.

After rounding Catalina, we held on to our J2 jib for some time, sheeted to the rail. We wanted to hold higher (to the right) of the fleet so we could set our Code Zero once we could get the wind around to 75-125 TWA. Once we did that, we ran our genoa staysails underneath double-slotting- that was fast! Once the wind moved further aft, we had what we called our "A10", basically an A3/A5 flat reaching kit, flew the J4 on the inner forestay- that was even faster! Two days into the race we were constantly in the high teens boatspeed, hitting 22.5 kts at time in just 17-19 kts TWS. Note, we also used this combo in the reaching we encountered going into the finish like in the Molokai Channel in 20-30 kts TWS.

For the main part of the course for a good 7+ days, the wind dropped into 12-16 kts TWS. We were further north than most of our class/ fleet. We used our A2 chute (running kite) up to 18-21 kts TWS with large spinnaker staysail underneath. Late at night, we'd switch sometimes to the A5/ J4 for squalls. The staysails were very effective!

As for driving and boatspeed, connecting wave-sets was key, especially once we got up to 15 kts plus boatspeed. Like sailing our J/88, you had to watch to not go too high or too low on TWA's downwind. We watched our VMC constantly and would adjust our angles based on wave trains and wind angles/ pressure. Basically, we'd sail between 150 to 160 TWA for best VMC. 165 was too deep, 145 was too high.

Finally, I have to give a shout-out to my crew- 'Thank You, for being such a fantastic team!' We sailed all amateur with three youths (my son- Sean- and two other 20-somethings) and three "old guys" (50-something's). As I've told others- sometimes we needed their energy, sometimes they needed our wisdom, and sometimes the roles reversed. But, they always stayed focused.

Andrew (our navigator) and I would spend 20 minutes pouring over the GFS grib files, surface analysis, 500mb pressure lines, yellow brick tracker, routing at various polar percentages, then give a discourse about why we needed to do such and such an angle, etc. Then, in the end they'd say 'so you mean, sail fast, right?' Haha, right! Reflecting on the experience, it was priceless to share it with friends, my son Sean, and having the added bonus of collecting silverware, we didn't expect that!"

J/125 Hamachi blog - Shawn Dougherty / Jason Andrews

July 14, 1700 - After solid 10-20 for the first 40 hours it got light this morning. Hamachi switched to its A2.5 at the 4am watch shift and worked south/southwest in 10 kts most of the day. The lighter air and flat seas allowed us to do some much-needed house keeping, which included going up the rig and doing a check as well as configuring halyards. We flew the drone for the first time and captured these pictures of the boat and crew with Matt Pistay aloft. A general funk has permeated the boat and its been traced to many damp socks and gear. It's now 5pm and the skies are clearing and the wind is filling.

July 15, Sunday, 1730 - After a slow and cloudy Sunday, we had a nice evening sail under partly to mostly cloudy skies and nearly full moon. The skies cleared this morning and the wind filled around noon. Currently 15-20 kts and Hamachi is rumbling along. The boys are eagerly lined up awaiting their turn to drive and the Godfather Fred is sitting in the barko lounger critiquing their performance. The Hamachi crew had a relaxing lunch of fresh spaghetti bolognese on the back patio. The tunes were pumping. Everyone is well fed, rested and loving the experience!

July 16, Monday, 1600 - Hamachi is approaching its halfway point so we passed the flask, flew the drone and had a dance party... all while hauling the mail!

July 18, Wednesday - Team Hamachi is laying down the gauntlet-time to do the serious business of racing.... to win it all. Transpac is a race within a race within a race. There are four J/125s, an above average collection, who are competing with each other to be the fastest J/125 on the west coast. Each boat has donated to a prize for the first across the line. This was our main focus going into Transpac, as its been a friendly rivalry and a great chance to meet other J/125 owners. All four J/125's are racing within Division 3, which is highly competitive and comprised of 13 boats. It's a great honor to win your class at Transpac, especially in a class this competitive. Finally, there is an overall winner based on corrected time for all 92 boats.

For Team Hamachi, we have been tracking the other J/125's from the start. After day 2 we started tracking other boats in our Division and were both surprised and excited to see Hamachi climb our Division ladder. Then on Tuesday, Hamachi started trending towards the top of the overall standings and now we've held the #1 in ORR (fastest boat overall) title for 24 hours.

The crew is ecstatic but a little uneasy. We like being a pursuit boat, quietly seeking to pass the leader. We are not used to being the boat everyone is watching and trying to take down.

So, needless to say, the dance parties have stopped, along with the drone flying. We spend every moment pushing to boat to go as fast as possible. Living below is like driving your VW camper van down a black diamond mogul run. We constantly pull weather and position reports, and we are gybing to find the best wind and wind angles. We are 920 miles from the finish and SENDING IT. Our current 24 hours record is 336.0nm (a 14.0 kts average). Top boat speed is 21.8kts (David Rogers).

Summary: This may be the last at sea update as time is now very short: eat, sleep, sail fast, repeat...

Here are two well-done videos by the HAMACHI Team and commentary from co-owner Jason Andrews: "Team Hamachi had a magical run to Hawaii. We power reached across the line at 16 kts at 2:21 am Sunday (7/21) morning to complete the 50th Transpac in eight days 16 hours and 21 minutes, which gives us a corrected time of eight days 0 hours and 52 minutes.

It's been a hell of an adventure and one that will not be repeated anytime soon. We were fortunate to start on the "right day" and the high pressure materialized in a manner that allowed us to power reach the whole way to Hawaii in winds that averaged between 15-20 kts. We never saw winds above 22 kts except for a few minutes, and always between midnight at 2 am to make it more exciting. We couldn't have asked for a better crew and having one additional crew member became a clear advantage in the heavier wind versus the other J/125s. It's going to take several days to catch up on sleep and begin to process the magnitude of this adventure and accomplishment. We have really appreciated all the support from our friends, family and Pacific Northwest sailing community. Mahalo!" A few videos from Hamachi for your amusement:

Transpac Delivery - San Francisco to Los Angeles

Transpac Race Analysis, with Dobbs Davis and Hamachi's Navigators/Tacticians (David Rogers & Fred Laffitte)- watch it!! VERY informative and enlightening.

KITV-4 Honolulu - A Look Inside the J/125 Hamachi- "crib TV" at its best! LOL!

J/125 Snoopy blog - Mark Surber

July 16, 1830 - Transpac day 5. The last 24 hours has been fast. Great trade breeze, great tunes, beautiful sailing and we remain in touch with our other J/125 competitors. Before the trade winds, the game was straightforward: Sail to the right point to enter the trade winds in the desired position against your competitors. Once entered into the trade winds, the game is even simpler: sail as fast as you can to the right corner (depending on its location, on the west/southwest side of the high, or northeast of Hawaii).

We did a great job executing on the first, entering the trades just to the south of our competitors. Since entering into the trades yesterday, we have sailed as fast as we could while near-parallel tracking our competitors (Hamachi north and ahead, Velvet Hammer directly to the north, and Reinrag2 south and behind).

It was funny, about three hours ago we saw Velvet Hammer for the first time since day 1. We were sailing a bit higher and they a bit lower and we came within sight. Almost as soon as we saw each other, we again diverged to our private missions.

What happens next is the effect of the high. The wind slowly changes direction in a clockwise fashion until it is almost directly out of the east heading into Hawaii. The effect of this is that we slowly turn towards the north and ultimately jibe toward Hawaii. Thus, the boats to the north, will gain on the boats to the south. If all things stayed as they are now, Hamachi would likely be ahead of us, Velvet Hammer close to slightly behind, followed by Reinrag. Of course, this slow right turn won't fully develop for a couple more days making any outcome possible.

All aboard is very good. Typical breaks and fixes, but nothing worth writing about. Food remains my most pleasant surprise. Kinda like the Jetsons... just add water and presto! A ten-course meal (almost). The flying fish watch continues. No one has been hit, but one about a foot long flew over Pike's head while he was driving. Then an hour ago, a baby was found on the deck grasping at every last breath to reach Scott. He had made the hazardous voyage onto the boat only to fall a foot short. So sad. We took a picture.

Weather continues to warm. I wore swim trunks, a dry shirt and straw hat today. A bit cold for 20 kts breeze, but way better than sweating in the foul weather gear.

(Oh, we just hit 20 kts again. It's just not as special as it used to be!)

J/125 Reinrag 2 blog - Tom Garnier

July 16 - 1700 - Last night in the Pacific was spectacular. The wind was blowing us towards Hawaii with enough pressure to allow Reinrag 2 to surf from 12 to about 20 kts on the smallish two to four foot seas. The air was in the low 70s, chilly with wind on wet clothes, but pleasant to my New England accustomed senses. Oh, and the moon was full and shining down on all, the white foam of breaking waves, the sparkle of the spray from the bow, and the ghostly white of the spinnaker curl in trim.

As I relieved Tom and took my turn at the helm, he admitted understatedly, "Ok, maybe I had fun for a few moments there." Pointing out that, there is something here in these moments of driving a small boat across this wide ocean that make it worth the price of admission.

The expense, the months of preparation, even for a boat and crew that's done it before, and the time away from family and career. Why do we do it? And, why do we come back and do it again? We do it for last night, that feeling.

Behind the wheel, I started to think how I can describe it. I chuckle to myself as I think in my SoCal raised way, "it's just awesome dude!" And in a way it is... a feeling of awe. No, not so much in the natural world around us; it is just too alien.

The ocean raging from the trade winds, the tiny sails of the jellyfish, the moon and Jupiter beside it are indifferent to our passing (although the porpoise do check in on us from time to time).

No, I feel the awe about the humanity invading this night so far from land. This boat, these five primates on it, riding, crashing, bursting towards Hawaii.

I stand behind the wheel, my feet firmly planted on the deck, through which I feel the boat almost as though it were an extension of my body. The pitch and roll of the boat tells me what the waves are doing, though I see only a crest reflecting the moonlight. The boat pitches down and begins to roll to leeward as the stern is lifted by the oncoming wave. Like a dinghy, I shift my weight unconsciously to windward and will the boat to catch (in fact, I move the wheel to leeward and the boat rolls windward). She catches the wave and accelerates. Tom is watching the sail and grinds in to keep her pulling as the apparent wind shifts forward. The boat is now doing half again as much speed as before and I hunt by feel and moonlight for a second wave to catch, or a clean exit from the one I'm on. Eventually the boat slows and Tom eases the sheet.

There are instruments to help... a compass, apparent wind angle, boat speed etc... but these are secondary checks. Surfing is done by feel. You feel the wave, and you move the boat... and it's a wonder. Standing at the wheel, riding over the ocean is just awesome.

J/145 Katara blog - Roger Gatewood

July 21 - 0630 - We're on the final approach! Yesterday in the afternoon, we took some of our medicine and went West to get to the corner despite non-ideal VMC numbers. We gybed on to port tack for the 500+ mile run in to Molokai where we'll gybe again near Kalaupapa in the accelerated pressure zone that surrounds the NW corner of Molokai. From there we will gybe down that coast and around it's western edge before lining up for a final gybe over to starboard to finish the race off Diamond Head in Honolulu. We're told that channel has some of the finest big-boat surfing conditions seen anywhere. I'm looking forward to the ride. Might be a bit more excitement than we originally anticipated as we're almost guaranteed to hit it at night. Luckily, we've had an excellent near-full moon to guide our way each night.

Wind pressure was lighter than hoped for yesterday afternoon and in to the night, so our arrival has been delayed slightly. Estimating some time in the early morning on Monday.

Conditions being quieter we've been able to get most of the crew caught up on sleep and everyone seems to be doing well.

Just witnessed an absolutely stunning sunrise on deck with the Blue watch. They've got the reigns until Green takes over in about an hour. The fight to capture the most miles in this final push is on, and the helmsmen are focused as can be.

Inventorying the food reserves, we appear to have sufficient rations aboard to sail right past Honolulu and head for Fiji instead. The only things running low are the chocolate covered espresso beans and the trail mix.

Our trusty little water maker has been treating us right. We run it about an hour a day during charging and it whips up 6-8 gallons of good tasting safe potable water straight out of the sea.

It's pretty weird on port tack at the moment after nearly a week on starboard. Exercising muscles we haven't tried in a while and we had to do some clean up as everything went flying from its starboard tack optimized positioning. Roger was threatening to lead crew-yoga on the foredeck to get everyone stretched out again, but it's still mighty wet on that end of the boat.

The captain just gave up the helm a bit ago and is now sitting back and enjoying a nice hot up of tea as he surveys our progress. Seems to be having a blast.

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