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Cruisers weigh in for Transpac '99

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by Rich Roberts
JAN. 15, 1999

Early indications are that the Cruising class will swagger with a significant presence in the 40th Transpacific Yacht Race to Hawaii this summer, perhaps accounting for half of the total entries.

Entry chairman Dan Nowlan said he had filled requests for 70 entry packets, "half from cruisers, as well as a few from traditional-type Transpac entrants," he said. Also, he said, the first two entries-"the earliest I've ever received"-included one from a cruiser, Robert Pace of Oceanside, who entered his Kelly/Peterson 46 Esprit before Christmas. He was followed by Robert Bussard of San Diego, who entered his Olson 40 Uproarious in the conventional monohull class.

Introduced in the previous race in1997, cruisers are generically described as deep displacement boats with real furniture on board--throwbacks to the Transpac's classic days before fiberglass and ultralights when crews sat down for dinner and slept in real bunks every night. When it became evident that weight was a detriment to speed in what is essentially a downwind race, such refinements went out the porthole.

Now, while others go for records, there is room for those who want some comfort with their competition.

The Cruising class is a legacy of Hugh Lamson, the Transpacific Yacht Club board member who championed its development in Southern California racing in the early 90s. He brought it to the Transpac with a modest seven entries among the 38 starters in '97. Lamson, 80, died late last year after laying the groundwork for a larger turnout this year. He has been succeeded as Cruising class chairman by Dr. Fred Frye, who won the class in '97 with his Tayana 52 Salsipuedes.

Upon request, the Transpac board of directors also has approved a double-handed sub-class of cruisers, providing the applicants pass scrutiny of their boats and sailing skills and have completed an offshore qualifying race.

The Cruising Class will start June 29, four days ahead of the main monohull fleet on July 3.

Medicine Man and water ballast revisited

New limitations on boats with water ballast or canting keels are being refined by the Transpac board of directors to prevent boats so equipped from gaining an unfair advantage over boats with conventional ballast-i.e., fixed keels--that are already designed to the Transpac "speed limit," or maximum potential.

Bob Lane of Long Beach is having ballast tanks installed in his Andrews 56, Medicine Man. In its standard configuration in 1997, Medicine Man, assigned to Division III, had a three-day head start on the larger ULDB 70s and was actually the first of six boats to beat Merlin's 20-year-old Transpac record with an elapsed time of 8 days 6 hours 31 minutes. Roy Disney's Pyewacket ultimately posted the fastest ET: 7:15:24:40.

Faced with the uncertainties of rating the speed potential of boats with the new technology, the board last year amended the Sailing Instructions for 1999 to disallow moveable-keel boat designs or those with water ballast systems that had not raced before July 31, 1997. At the same time, previous competitors such as Medicine Man were allowed to retrofit for '99, subject to having their ratings changed to include a temporary cushion to keep them under the Transpac speed limit, should their performance dramatically exceed their rating.

Transpac has moved to determine a reasonable cushion to protect the speed limit in '99. The cushion will be in terms of seconds-per-mile, based on a boat's IMS handicap certificate and computations by its designer and US Sailing. A boat rated within that cushion would be required, in effect, to "slow down" by reducing sail area, the length of its spinnaker poles or by altering other rating factors.

Transpac is, for now, more comfortable with water ballast than with canting keels, although Merlin sailed with such a reconfigured arrangement in '97. According to the '99 rules, canting-keel boats such as Merlin are "grandfathered" to be eligible. The same applies to a Schock 40 because its prototype, the Red Hornet, competed before the '97 deadline, although not in the Transpac.

It was Transpac's understanding that no other new canting-keel designs would be able to meet the start date for '99, anyway. Meanwhile, officials expect to develop accurate handicapping procedures pertaining to water ballast and canting keels before the race in 2001.

Transpac notes

Presentations for potential Transpac participants who want to know all about the race are scheduled Thursday, Jan. 28, at California Yacht Club in Marina del Rey and Tuesday, Feb. 9, at Long Beach YC, starting at 7:30 p.m. Speakers Jan. 28 will include DAVE ULLMAN, BRAD AVERY, JOHN JOURDANE, ROY E. DISNEY and ROY PAT DISNEY. Dinner is available earlier for $20.

Speakers at Long Beach will include ULLMAN, JOURDANE, Cruising class chairman DR. FRED FRYE and Transpac veteran and board member LOU COMYNS. Dinner is $16.

A trend in offshore sailing safety may be evolving. Del Rey YC will require all crew on deck between dusk and dawn during its race to Puerto Vallarta in February to wear a personal flotation device (PFD) equipped with a strobe light and a whistle. Transpac earlier passed a similar rule for 1999-the first for any major offshore race in the world.

Entry forms are available by writing to DAN NOWLAN at 4224 Point Loma Ave., San Diego, CA 92107. Nowlan also may be contacted by phone or fax at (619) 224-0198 or e-mail .

Cruising Class entries must be a minimum of 34 feet in length overall with a Southern California Region PHRF Random Leg rating between 27 and 195 and a ULDB performance rating factor of less than1.8, ensuring a class of comparable performance levels. Standard monohulls must have a rating of 140 or lower. Multihulls must be 45 feet LOA.

Entry fees paid before March 1 are $600 for boats under 50 feet, $800 for 50 feet and longer and $2,500 for Category C advertising entries. After March 1 the fees jump to $750 and $1,000 for under and over 50 feet. Members of US Sailing receive $50 discounts. . . .

Sailing Instructions, with entry information, are available on the race website:


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