Changes ahead for Transpac

Water Ways
Honolulu Star Bulletin (11/18/00)
By Ray Pendleton

The Hawaii Yacht Club had a standing-room-only crowd at last Wednesday night's sneak preview of the new video "Transpac - A Century Across the Pacific."

And judging by the applause during the 40-minute highlight of the two-hour video - and the line that formed after to purchase the full-length version - the co-producers Roy E. Disney and Leslie DeMeuse have a hit on their hands with Hawaii's sailors, at least.

Incorporating 17 different subject segments ranging from sailors overboard to women on board, this historic documentary of the 100-year-old Trans-Pacific Yacht Race is surely a must-have for every sailor's video library.

Coincidentally, the Trans-Pacific Yacht Club (TPYC) sent out a news release this week announcing some historic changes for next year's Transpac.

For the first time, certain boat classes will be allowed to officially compete with internal water ballast, a major stabilizing factor in the Whitbread 60 design that competed in the 1997 - 98 Whitbread Round the World Race.

Now called Volvo Ocean 60s, due to the sponsorship change in next year's round the world race, these boats - whose design is at the extremities of the sport - are a closely tailored fit for Transpac 2001, according to TPYC commodore Sandy Martin.

"They're right on the edge, but they rate within our limits," Martin said. "If a few of them enter, they could have their own class. It would add a new dimension to the race."

Unofficially, Transpac has already seen one Whitbread 60. In 1995, Neil Barth of Newport Beach, Calif., sailed his America's Challenge - formally Yamaha - as an "invited guest" in his preparations for entering the Whitbread two years later.

Another change for Transpac 2001 will be the appearance of two new boat classes, the Transpac 40s and 50s.

"The Transpac 40/50 rule is intended to produce two classes of fast, monohull keelboats of similar performance that can be sailed with minimum risk by both professional and amateur sailors," said yacht designer Bill Lee, principal architect of the new class rules.

The classes were also created to provide line-honors (first-to-finish) incentive for smaller boats that could never hope to win the famous Barn Door trophy traditionally awarded to the monohull with the fastest elapsed time.

Both the Transpac 40s and 50s will race boat for boat for their own line honors next July.

The Transpac 40s will be limited to 41 feet in length and will be allowed to carry internal water ballast, similar to the Volvo Ocean 60s.

The Transpac 50s will be limited to an overall length of 52 feet, but unlike the 40s, will not be allowed water ballast.

In each case, the two new boat classes will have similar fractional rigging, but will use masthead spinnakers and even the huge masthead "Code 0" headsails as were seen in the '97 - '98 Whitbread race.

"They'll be exciting boats," said yacht designer Alan Andrews.

So far, two identical 50s designed by Andrews are under construction in California at Dencho Marine in Long Beach and Westerly Marine in Costa Mesa.

A third is scheduled to start soon and others are in the design process.

Rules for the new classes also permit the "grandfathering" of similar existing boats into the classes.

Their only limitation is their displacement cannot be lighter nor their sail area larger than the newer boats.

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