Transpac Yachts Take Aim at Record

Water Ways
Honolulu Star Bulletin (06/28/97)
By Ray Pendleton

They're off!

The Transpac Yacht Race - sometimes called the Honolulu Race - has officially begun.

At 10 a.m. our time today, Transpac's first of six boat divisions started at a line off Point Fermin, near Los Angeles, for the 39th running of one of the oldest long distance yacht races in the United States.

Those first seven boats - all competing in the Cruising Division - are heading out on a 2,225-mile race course, first envisioned by King David Kalakaua in 1896, but not actually begun until ten years later - sadly, after his death.

The original race in 1906 consisted of three yachts. One, the 48-foot schooner Paloma, was owned by Honolulu businessman Clarence Macfarlane who had promoted the race. The second boat was the 112-foot ketch Anemone, owned by Charles Tutt of New York, and the winning boat, with an elapsed time of 12 days, 10 hours, was the Lurline, owned by California oilman Harry Sinclair.

Because Transpac officials have been attempting to consolidate the finish for all of the entrants in recent years, they have staggered the starts for this year's 39 boats, so the next two divisions - comparatively small, but faster boats - will not start until July 2. They will be followed by progressively larger and faster boats on July 5, and by the extremely fast multihulled catamarans and trimarans on July 7.

For the fastest of the monohulled boats - known as Ultralight Displacement Boats (ULDBs), or sleds - the real race will be against the clock and the 20-year-old elapsed time record of 8 days, 11 hours, 1 minute, and 45 seconds, set by the near-legendary 67-foot, Bill Lee-designed sloop, Merlin.

Merlin is back this year, hoping to show the newer boats a thing or two with an added flair to her transom and a new canting keel which will reportedly swing 10 degrees, or so, to either side for increased stability.

Other boats to watch for a record time as they cross the Diamond Head finish are sure to be the five maxed-out "turbo sleds": Transpac's last first-to-finish boat Cheval, owned by Hal Ward, the perennial contender Pywacket, owned by Roy Disney, Victoria, owned by Mike Campbell, the winning boat in Transpac '93, Silver Bullet , now named Luna Barba and owned by Canadian Anthony Sessions, and the newly built Magnitude, owned by Doug Baker.

Another new boat that will likely be in the hunt for an elapsed time record is John Parrish's Reichel/Pugh-designed maxi Zephyrus IV. At 75 feet and 30,000 pounds displacement, she will be the largest yacht in this year's race.

Over Transpac's long history, its Corinthian nature has always been quite obvious. Millions of dollars have been spent by hundreds of boat owners with nothing more than a trophy and bragging rights to be won for their efforts. Now, all that may have changed forever.

For the first time, parimutuel betting is available to anyone interested through the Tradewinds Yacht Club of Costa Rica, in association with the Tradewinds Casino and Sports Book, San Jose, Costa Rica.

According to its Internet press release, a variety of wagering is offered, from win, place, show bets, to exactas and trifectas. There will even be a big "Barn Door" (first-to-finish) and last-to-finish bet.

Perspective bettors can call toll-free 1-800-664-0092 to set up an account in Costa Rica and they will be given another 800 number to place bets. Additional information and daily position reports will be made available on their World Wide Web site at

Water Ways

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