Honolulu Star Bulletin (07/05/97)
By Ray Pendleton
Some of the best sailors in the world, aboard some of the fastest down-wind, monohulled boats in the world, have started their 2,225 nautical mile race from Southern California to Honolulu.
Today was the start for the "Sled", "Maxi Sled" and "Turbo Sled" divisions of the Transpacific Yacht Race and these will be the boats to watch if any boat is to break the two-decade-old record held by the Bill Lee-designed sloop Merlin.
Any of the 17 boats entered have a good chance of crossing the Diamond Head finish line before 9:01:45 p.m. on July 13 to claim a new record, particularly if the Pacific high pressure ridge continues to give us 20- to 30-knot tradewinds, as it has for a week or more.
Of course, the sleds aren't the only boats in this year's Transpac. The slower, but generally more comfortable, Cruising Division boats started last Saturday and the mostly smaller and slower Division III and IV boats began racing last Wednesday.
Although the fastest boats tend to draw the most media attention, there are some notable crews, if not first-to-finish boats among the Division III and IV racers.
An exceptional crew is racing aboard a Nelson/Marek 56, aptly named Survivor. They are from a group in Ojai, California called Get Challenged, which is dedicated to inspiring and assisting those who have contracted HIV and AIDS.
Get Challenged was founded by former stockbroker Rob Hudson and it is his hope that the notoriety of racing in Transpac will help the public understand that contracting HIV doesn't mean a person's life is over.
"Say for instance the Human Resources Department hears about this race," Hudson said, "and says, 'You know, I've always had some kind of bias about hiring anyone with HIV or AIDS, but if these guys can sail across the ocean, I can certainly put 'em back in accounting.'
"Many people have died before us from this relentless disease. We're the next line of defense and sailing to Hawai`i is our way of showing the world that we're in the race. This is the race of my life. I'm going to make it to the finish line."
An all-women crew is not that unusual to see in regattas today, but having two entries out of the 39 in Transpac is still somewhat novel.
Racing aboard a Newland 37 Pegasus XIV, is the Transpac Women's Challenge team from the Alameda Yacht Club in San Francisco Bay. The skipper, Linda Newland, is driving the boat which was designed and built by her husband Dan.
The other all-women crew - sailing out of the Long Beach Yacht Club - is the Women's Sail Team aboard the Santa Cruz 50 Bay Wolf. Originally the highly competitive boat was to be co-skippered by Betty Sherman and Linda Elias, but Elias, who has been battling ovarian cancer since 1994, was forced to withdraw following emergency abdominal surgery performed just a week ago.
"While it's a terrible tragedy that Linda will not be joining us on the race, she was very adamant that we go," Sherman said. "She sees our effort in the larger context of making a positive statement for women in the sport of sailing, and we're going to work doubly hard so she'll be proud of that effort."
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