Vic-Maui fleet is navigating Pacific High

Water Ways
Honolulu Star Bulletin (07/04/00)
By Ray Pendleton

A trans-Pacific yacht race began last Tuesday, but unless you are a true sailing fan, it may not be one with which you're familiar. It is called the Vic-Maui 2000, and as its name suggests, it races a course from Victoria, Canada to Lahaina, Maui.

The race is organized by the Royal Victoria and Lahaina yacht clubs, and although it has many similarities with other mainland-to-Hawaii regattas, it has several unique features as well.

The Vic-Maui is not nearly as old as the venerable "Transpac" race from L.A. to Honolulu that got its start in 1906. The Vic-Maui's first race was held in 1968, but like Transpac, it is held biennially, so this year marks its 17th running.

Also, the entry list isn't nearly as long as another even-year trans-Pacific contest, the Pacific Cup, that races from San Francisco to Kaneohe this summer. The Pacific Cup will have a reported 70 yachts competing, whereas the Vic-Maui had an even 20 boats at the starting line this year.

Perhaps the biggest difference in the Vic-Maui Race is in the fact that the start takes place in the Straight of Juan de Fuca in British Colombia. That means the race is not only trans-Pacific, but international as well.

The location of the Vic-Maui start also makes the race longer in distance than both the Transpac and the Pacific Cup, but surprisingly, not by much.

Due to the nature of the mainland's coastline and our global geography, Transpac's rhumb line measures some 2,225 miles, Pacific Cup's is 2,070, and Vic-Maui's is 2,308.

There is one major consideration the Vic-Maui racers have in common with every other race from the mainland to Hawai`i: the Pacific High.

That same atmospheric ridge of high pressure that is normally positioned between Hawai`i and San Francisco and provides the Islands with its cooling northeast trade winds, is the engine that drives all boats sailing down from the West Coast.

As winds circulate counterclockwise around the Pacific High, race navigators must find a way to sail their vessels in just the right pressure gradient below it. Too close to the High and a boat will be becalmed. Too far from the High and a boat may travel a much longer distance than its competitors.

The Vic-Maui's flare-signalled finish, offshore of Kaanapali, is also unique to this race. After the excitement of their spinnaker-sprint through the Pailolo Channel, the racers pull under the lee of the West Maui mountains and make their way in calm waters to Lahaina Harbor. There, in the best island tradition, whether winners or also-rans, they are greeted with alohas, flower leis and refreshments.

This year, the most glaring similarity shared by Vic-Maui 2000 and the other transpacific yacht races is the boat and its owner that holds each races' elapsed-time record. All three are held by the famous Roy E. Disney and his turbo-sled Pyewacket.

Disney captured the Vic-Maui record in 1996 with a time of 9 days, 19 hours, 36 minutes and 30 seconds.

This year, only two boats - James McDowell's Santa Cruz 70 Grand Illusion and Dan Sinclair's Andrews 70 Renegade - are likely to challenge that record, and they will have to cross the finish line before 4:36 next Friday morning.

If you would like to keep track of the Vic-Maui 2000 race, its daily progress can be viewed on the Internet. Or, after July 4, race information will be available by phone at (808) 661-7389.

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