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Pyewacket takes lead, Cruisers take a pounding

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July 8 Position reports

by Rich Roberts

Honolulu Hawai`i (July 8 1999) - The strong winds that sent hopes soaring for a multi-boat assault on the Transpacific Yacht Race record subsided Thursday, leaving Roy E. Disney's Pyewacket in front of Zephyrus IV for the first time as they sailed through a battered fleet of Cruising division competitors.

The generally older and heavier displacement vessels started four days ahead of the high-tech "sleds," which had caught up with them in the five days before Thursday morning's roll call. Two Cruisers and two other boats reported damage.

Endeavor III, a 40-footer from Victoria, B.C., had lost its starboard shroud, the cable that supports the mast from the right side and was continuing slowly under reduced sail. Eleanor Clitheroe, co-skipper with her husband Randy Bell, told the race communications boat Alaska Eagle that their problem was no cause for general concern.

Wendy Siegal's Willow Wind, a Cal 40 from San Diego, broke its boom but was proceeding with a shortened version.

Two Guys on the Edge, a two-man 30-footer from Waikiki Yacht Club that started with the Cruisers, was still posted as nearest Honolulu at 710 miles, but skipper Les Vasconcellos told owner Dan Doyle in Honolulu by Iridium satellite phone that the boat had halyard problems.

"They reported a wild [Tuesday] night [with] 35-40-knot squalls," Doyle said. "Top boat speed in excess of 21 knots. Unfortunately, the masthead spinnaker halyard parted and they have a problem with the main halyard, which makes getting to the masthead without climbing an impossibility.

"They have had some electrical problems charging the batteries, but other than that all is well. They are a little disconcerted about not having heard from Vapor."

Vapor, at 25-feet the smallest boat ever to race in the Transpac, has not been heard from since it started nine days ago, but race officials find reassurance in the fact that no automatic distress signals have been received.

Also reporting a problem was William Rawson's 43-foot Sweet Caroline from Australia. Rawson said he would need a tow into the harbor after he finishes because his engine wasn't working.

The big winds were more of a thrill for the seasoned racers, such as the crew aboard Fred Howe's War Path from Santa Cruz, which filed an e-mail with the race web page in which Steve Howe described Scott Halsman steering down waves at 21-knots: ''It was borderline control. We curved off a giant wave with the wheel locked over and then the boat took off down the face. Yesterday's 24-hour run was 285 miles, just shy of a 12-knot average, probably a record for a 52-foot boat in Transpac."

War Path was one of several boats in contention for overall handicap honorsa chase currently led by James McDowell's ULDB 70 Grand Illusion, followed by Bill LeRoy and Jim Cascino's 50-foot Gone With The Wind from St. Francis YC.

Pyewacket moved to 12 miles in front by dipping south as Zephyrus IV continued due west. Bob McNeil and John Parrish's big green boat was well above not only the direct line to Hawai`i but the Great Circle arc that in most years has been foolhardy for Transpac racers because of the Pacific High, a zone of light wind that has been behaving erratically this year. The divergent moves left observers to wonder what was in the minds of two of the world's top ocean racing navigators, Pyewacket's Stan Honey and Zephyrus IV's Mark Rudiger.

Meanwhile, Bob Hanel left San Diego with his crew on a seagoing tug in an attempt to salvage his 76-foot catamaran Double Bullet II, which capsized 188 miles offshore in 8-10-foot seas Tuesday night. Hanel hoped to home in on the upside-down craft before the battery of its Emergency Position Indicator Radio Beacon (EPIRB) went dead in an estimated 48 hours.

Manouch Moyashedi's 50-foot M-Project returned to Newport Beach after dropping out with a rudder problem.

Alaska Eagle communications officer Grant Baldwin told the Ko Olina Media Center by Iridium phone that prospects of a record were diminishing with the winds.

"The wind is way down," Baldwin said, noting reports of 12 to 18 knots from several boats and even less from others. "At this morning's weather report it doesn't look very promising."

The deadline for a record is 4:24 a.m. PDT Sunday.

Photos of the starts, e-mail from boats, daily position reports, crew lists and other information are available on the race web page.
Also, the boat Pegasus has its own web site.

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Last Modified: Thursday - 19990708.12:54 HST
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