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A lonely start for Double Bullet II

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by Rich Roberts

Honolulu Hawai`i (July 6 1999) -- All alone on a still, misty sea, the 76-foot catamaran Double Bullet II of Cabrillo Beach Yacht Club set off for Hawai`i Tuesday afternoon as the last starter in the 40th Transpacific Yacht Race to Hawai`i. There are no other multihull entries this year. The monohull classes all started earlier.

But skipper Bob Hanel and his crew of five were in good spirits as they headed for the west end of Santa Catalina Island in 7 knots of a southwesterly wind. A few minutes before the gun they asked the race committee for the positions of Zephyrus IV and Pyewacket - the powerful first-to-finish favorites that started three days earlier so the game is on between the tortoise and the hare. Multihulls normally sail faster than monohulls.

Bob Dixon, who will alternate with Randy Smyth as watch captain, said the lonely start wasn't disappointing.

"Being a catamaran sailor for 20 years, I'm used to it," Dixon said. "Everybody has their own thing, and this happens to be ours."

Meanwhile, out in the middle of the Pacific, the 30-foot Doublehanded entry Two Guys On the Edge from Waikiki Yacht Club was still nearest Hawai`i, but the maxi sleds Zephryus IV and Pyewacket were coming fast. Les Vasconcellos and Bruce Burgess stretched their lead on Cruising division leader Hurricane from 8 to 18 miles but lost 116 miles to Zephyrus IV, which started four days later last Saturday.

At the current rate, the fastest boats should take over the pace Thursday or Friday and if they're thinking of breaking the old Pyewacket's record of 7 days 15 hours 24 minutes 40 seconds set in 1997, they'll have to finish by 4:24 a.m. PDT Sunday.

Bob McNeil of San Francisco, co-owner and skipper of Zephyrus IV with Bob Parrish of San Diego, told the Ko Olina Resort & Marina Media Center by Iridium satellite phone Tuesday, "It's very much a race. We gained a little bit [on Roy E. Disney's Pyewacket] last night. Don't know why, [but] it looks like they were trying to sail low."

For the first time, Pyewacket reported a more southerly position than its rival, perhaps indicating that navigator Stan Honey was positioning the boat for a better angle in the trade winds.

"I'm told that we're in the trade winds," McNeil said. "It feels like it, but I'll need to see some sun before we start looking for grass skirts. Right now we're in a nice breeze of 24 knots and there's a light rain. The wind has been up and down from this to 16."

The five Division 1 boats all made less mileage than the previous day. Pyewacket, which logged a record-tying 337 on Monday, made 288 Tuesday, while Zephyrus IV dropped from 333 to 297. For the race, Zephyrus IV is averaging 12.3 knots two-tenths faster than the old Pyewacket's record average in '97.

"There's a long way to go," McNeil said. "We're not even halfway down the course. This race is just beginning."

Farther backbut not very far in Division 2 was the black-hulled Velos, a 14-year-old Tanton 73 that's about the same size as Zephyrus IV and Pyewacket but enjoys a 62-seconds-per-mile handicap on those two because of its heavier displacement and older technology. Velos currently is projected to finish within the 1 1/2 days handicap owed by the Division 1 boats.

Photos of the starts, e-mail from boats, daily position reports, crew lists and other information are available on the race web page.

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Last Modified: Tuesday - 19990706.16:00 HST
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