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Two 'Idiots' On the Edge welcomed at Ala Wai

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
by Rich Roberts

Honolulu Hawai`i (July 12, 1999) - Two Guys on the Edge slipped into Ala Wai Harbor late Sunday night between racing machines more than twice their size, whose crews stood in awe.

Les Vasconcellos and Bruce Burgess, representing the Waikiki Yacht Club, finished at 11:04 p.m. HST to complete the 40th Transpacific Yacht Race in their 30-foot boat in 12 days 10 hours 4 minutes 31 seconds. That beat all eight of the larger Cruising division boats with which they started June 29 and could wind up being faster than some of the larger, fully crewed racing boats that started three days later and were still at sea.

"I've been calling us two idiots on the edge for about six months now," Vasconcellos said as greeters swamped him and Burgess in leis and embraces.

Two Guys On the Edge is a Sonoma 30 owned by Dan Doyle of Honolulu, who was unable to race because of a business deal and recruited Burgess to take his place three days before the start. It was one of two entries in the Doublehanded class. The other, the 25-foot Vapor of Long Beach, has been out of radio contact since the class started.

Three of Pyewacket's record-breaking crew, Robbie Haines, Ben Mitchell and Dan Crowley, came out to watch the middle-of-the-night arrivals, which also included the ultralights Cheval from San Pedro, Mongoose , San Diego, and Medicine Man, Long Beach. Haines was asked if he would consider doing a two-man Transpac.

"Never!" he said. "They did a great job."

Vasconcellos marveled at the larger boats alongside and their crews of 10 or more. "What does everybody do all day?" he said. "We kept busy, but they've got three guys for every job."

Busy indeed. Vasconcellos and Burgess estimated that they averaged six hours maximum sleep a day.

"We tried to get as much time off together as we could," Burgess said, joking.

Their closest call with catastrophe came only 20 miles from the finish at the exit of the Moloka`i Channel where the seas clutched their little boat in troughs and the wind blew more than 30 knots. The boat was doing nearly 20.

"The waves built up and got very close together," Vasconcellos said. "They're great for surfing, but a squall was coming through at the same time. We kept going faster and faster. We'd take off on one wave, find the next wave and go a little faster, and the last time there was no place to go. The next wave was right there."

The bow was buried and the boat suddenly stopped and was laid flat. Two handheld GPS navigation devices floated away but the boat came upright fairly dry.

Earlier in the race, the boat's headsail halyard broke and Burgess climbed the mast to fix it in about 15 knots of breeze as the boat swayed from his weight aloft. But he made almost a conscious decision to suppress any fear and enjoy the thrills.

"Going south at those speeds, you gotta love it," Burgess said. "Every day we were kicking ourselves to keep pushing hard. I wouldn't trade this experience for anything."

Steve Popovich's ULDB 70 Cheval, which started four days later, arrived at 11:47 p.m. HST to claim second in Div. 2 after Grand Illusion, which apparently won the Governor of Hawaii Trophy for best overall corrected handicap time about 11 hours earlier.

Cheval had one woman among its 10-person crew: Linda Elias of Long Beach, a cancer survivor who was unable to sail the previous two races and can't wait for the next.

"I'm going," she said before even stepping off the boat. "I just don't know on what [boat]. I was thinking as we sailed into the Moloka`i Channel, tomorrow it's gonna be over, and that's kind of sad."

Cheval bumped into a whale the second day out. "He missed the keel and rudder," Popovich said. "We just saw his back."

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

Arrival Party Photos are at http://holoholo.org/transpac/99arrivals/

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Last Modified: Monday - 19990712.10:03 HST
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