Transpacific yachts head to O`ahu

Water Ways
Honolulu Star Bulletin (6/30/01)
By Ray Pendleton

By 10 a.m. tomorrow, one of the most enduring blue-water sailing events in the world will be fully underway.

The Transpacific Yacht Race, which begins offshore of Los Angeles and finishes off of Oahu's Diamond Head Lighthouse, will have begun its 41st contest in an biennial event dating back 95 years.

In fact, Transpac's historic roots date back even further than it's inaugural race in 1906.

In September, 1886, a letter to the Pacific Yacht Club of San Francisco from Hawaii's King David Kalakaua proposed a California-to-Hawai`i sailing race to coincide the following year with his 50th birthday celebration. He even offered a trophy worth $1,000 to the winner.

Why the Pacific Yacht Club didn't take Kalakaua up on his offer has never been clear, but in early 1906, Honolulu businessman Clarence Macfarlane revived the King's idea by sailing his 48-foot schooner La Paloma to San Francisco with hopes of creating a race back to Hawai`i.

Unfortunately, Macfarlane arrived in San Francisco soon after the city had been nearly destroyed by the historic earthquake and fire. Still, he was intent on conducting a yacht race to Honolulu, so he sailed on to Los Angeles.

In Los Angeles, he met with yachtsmen Charles Tutt, owner of the 112-foot yawl Anemone, and Harry Sinclair, owner of the 86-foot schooner Lurline. After agreeing on an elementary handicap system, the race began on June 11, 1906.

At the end of that first 2,225-mile race, Sinclair's Lurline was first-to-finish with a time of 12 days and 10 hours.

Since that time, the Transpac has been run every even-numbered year from 1906 through 1936, except during World War I. In 1939, it was changed to odd-numbered years to eliminate a conflict with the Bermuda Race on the East Coast.

Understandably, Transpac was not raced during the World War II years of 1942 through '46.

Transpac's starting line has been offshore of Los Angeles every year except 1928 (Newport Beach), 1923 and '32 (Santa Barbara), 1936 (Santa Monica), and 1939 (San Francisco).

The smallest fleet in Transpac's history was in 1932, during the Great Depression when just two boats took part. The largest fleet had 80 boats in 1979.

The largest yacht to race in Transpac was the 161-foot schooner Goodwill in 1953 and 1959, and her best time was 10 1/2 days. The smallest boat to race was the 25-foot sloop Vapor in 1999.

The record for the most Transpac wins on elapsed time, is a tie between three different yachts: Lurline (1906, '08, '12), Morning Star (1949, '51, '55) and Merlin (1977, '81, '87).

Roy E. Disney's 73-foot maxi ultralight Pyewacket set the current elapsed time record in 1999 of 7 days, 11 hours, 41 minutes and 27 seconds.

Disney is racing a new, improved Pyewacket this year, but he will be challenged by several other boats with the potential of setting a new elapsed time record.

If the record is to be broken, the first boat must cross the finish line before 9:41 p.m. on Sunday, July 8.

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