Honolulu Star Bulletin (3/24/01)
By Ray Pendleton
ATTENTION, all blue water sailors. If you have a sailboat home-ported in Hawai`i, you have an excellent opportunity to win a first place trophy in the 41st biennial TransPacific Yacht Race this summer.
According to race organizers, as of last week and 3 1/2 months before the first start, there have been no entries from Hawai`i. That means the official "First Hawai`i Boat to Finish" trophy could go unclaimed this year.
This is not to say that entries have been lagging in general. To the contrary, with 24 entries so far, race officials think the final total could top the previous five races. Forty-nine boats raced in 1989.
"The encouraging thing about this list is it's not our usual suspects," said Entries chairman Jerry Montgomery. "When you combine these (entries) with the ones we usually get, the turnout is going to be impressive."
Some measure of credit to this increase in entries can, no doubt, go to the organizers this year for creating the new "Aloha," "40" and "50" classes. These classes have created added incentive for owners of smaller, older, slower and often, more comfortable cruising-type boats.
"The Aloha fleet is going to be very well represented," Montgomery said. "And the top end of the overall fleet is going to be very competitive."
His prediction for the top end of the fleet is reinforced by the fact that Merlin, Medicine Man and Pyewacket - three of the most familiar boats in recent Transpac history - are among the 11 latest race entries.
In all, a total of five first-to-finish "Barn Door" trophies have been won by Merlin and two of Roy E. Disney's boats named Pyewacket.
It was the Bill Lee-designed Merlin, after all, that brought the new term "sled" into the Transpac lexicon and launched a design revolution for downwind sailing.
That 68-foot ultralight displacement boat set the Transpac record in 1977 by sailing the 2,225-mile, Los Angeles to Honolulu course in 8 days, 11 hours, 1 minute and 45 seconds - and it held up for 20 years.
Finally, in 1997, Disney's second Pyewacket managed to eclipse that time by 19 1/2 hours and a later incarnation of Pyewacket dropped the record again, in 1999, to 7 days, 11 hours, 41 minutes and 27 seconds.
It was also in 1997's record-breaking race that Bob Lane's Andrews 56 Medicine Man was a record holder for about two days. Making the most of a three-day head start over the bigger sleds, it broke Merlin's decades-old record by some four and a half hours, until Pyewacket broke that record.
Medicine Man has been constantly upgraded each race since then, including the addition of a longer, sleeker 61-foot hull under the old deck.
"For the last race, we turbocharged the rig," designer Alan Andrews said. "And now, we've added a new hull to enable the extra horsepower of that rig to be used to its full potential."
Nevertheless, race organizers believe Pyewacket's strongest competition will come from new boats that have yet to enter.
Anyone thinking they might like to have a shot at the First-Hawaii-Boat-to-Finish trophy should contact entry chairman Jerry Montgomery by fax at: (562) 427-3116, or by e-mail.
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