There's more to Transpac than Pyewacket

Water Ways
Honolulu Star Bulletin 07/12/03
By Ray Pendleton

The 42nd biennial Transpacific Yacht Race's now-54-boat fleet is well past the halfway point on its 2,225-nautical-mile trade wind run from Los Angeles to Diamond Head.

And as you would expect, nearly all media attention so far has focused on the two boats most likely to win the coveted "Barn Door" trophy for first-to-finish in the shortest elapsed time - Roy E. Disney's record-setting, 73-foot Pyewacket and Philippe Kahn's 77-foot Pegasus 77.

But, of course, there are many other intriguing stories that can be told.

For instance, among the 10 Cal 40s entered this year is John Harrison's Seafire, sailing out of O`ahu's Kaneohe Yacht Club.

Harrison could not be aboard for the race as he is recovering from unexpected back surgery in May, so Gary Brookins, owner of Brookins Boat Works in Honolulu, is his stand-in skipper.

This last minute change was surely a disappointment for Harrison, but it has allowed him to provide those of us on his e-mail list with a delightful rendition of the reports he has received from Seafire as she races across the Pacific.

It was reported early in the race that Seafire was third in class and fourth in fleet, and only 48 seconds away from third in fleet.

"Not too shabby for a boat weighing in at 17,226, or nearly 1,000 pounds heavier than the nearest rated Cal 40!" Harrison said with pride.

Last weekend, as the fleet found itself in diminishing trade winds, Seafire reported the need for flying progressively lighter sails - down to her biggest and lightest, a .5 ounce kite.

"That seemed to add about a quarter-knot to the boat speed," Harrison said. "(Then) to add to the sail area and to catch as much of the winds coming over the starboard stern-quarter as possible, several pieces of laundry were strategically affixed to appropriate lifelines."

Seafire has one of Hawaii's top weather forecasters aboard, "Weatherguy" Rick Shema, to find the best and fastest course to the islands. But apparently it has been his attire that has gotten the most attention from the rest of the crew.

"Rick discovered in his haste to depart for California, he had mistakenly packed his wife's foul weather gear trousers rather than his own," Harrison reported. "Other crew members were heard to compliment the fit, but Rick sternly rebuffed their indelicate offers."

Although most of the boats racing in Transpac offer little in the way of creature-comforts for their crew, Seafire certainly isn't one of them.

"Brookins reported the water-maker was run while the engine was run to recharge the batteries," Harrison said. "He took the opportunity to verify that the hot water heater - which is warmed by the engine coolant - was working as designed by taking a hot shower.

"Our boat may be a bit slower than the other Cal 40s," Harrison added, "but we're the only boat with hot and cold running water, and two showers!"

It also appears that Seafire's crew hasn't been required to suffer any food deprivation during the race.

"The midpoint party had a dinner feast of Lobster Newburgh," Harrison noted, "and skipper Brookins reports he is gaining, not losing weight."

So if Seafire's crew looks a bit healthier and cleaner than everyone else on Transpac Row when they tie up after the race, you can now understand why.

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