Transpac Race a Tuneup for Explorer

Water Ways
Honolulu Star Bulletin (07/19/97)
By Ray Pendleton

You might say Transpac '97 was a Mickey Mouse race.

After all, a new course record was set by both the fastest monohull, the Santa Cruz 70 Pyewacket, owned by Roy Disney, and the fastest multihull, Bruno Peyron's French 86-foot Ollier Cat catamaran Explorer, which has sponsorship from Disneyland Paris.

The common denominator must be Mickey.

Respectively, the boats finished the 2,225-mile race in 7 days, 15 hours, 24 minutes and 40 seconds, and 5 days, 9 hours, 18 minutes and 26 seconds.

Nothing should detract from the fact that Pyewacket broke Merlin's 20-year-old record by some 19 1/2 hours, but it should also be noted that Explorer arrived in Long Beach just hours before her starting time on July 7 - after sailing since May 12 nearly 8,000 miles from France.

To be sure, four of the seven crew members who then raced came aboard in California, but three, Francois Coutant, Ludovic Debohan and Pascal Blouin, were part of the original delivery crew from France.

I've heard of warming up for a race, but this was a little like running the Iron Man Triathlon a day before the Honolulu Marathon.

But the huge boat - 85 feet long and 45 feet wide - and her crew are not newcomers to long distance races. In 1993, with the name Commodore Explorer, she and Peyron won the Jules Verne Trophy for circumnavigating the globe in 79 days.

Hoping to attract other ocean racing speedsters, Peyron had announced that Transpac '97 was the first qualifying race for his "ultimate event," called The Race , which will begin on December 31, 2000. Unlike nearly all regattas, The Race will have no restrictions on size or design of the sailing vessels used, only that they are the fastest in the world.

The Race will be a non-stop circumnavigation of the world, without anyone providing outside assistance. Only the most stalwart need apply.

Two American sailors, Cam Lewis and Skip Novak, crewed on Explorer in this year's Transpac and filed daily reports via the Internet and CompuServe. It gave those who were watching the race by computer a rare insight into a racer's thoughts.

"It's incredibly exciting to be sailing on the biggest boat in the fleet - a catamaran that has evolved from the earliest seafaring multihulls in the Polynesian Islands," Lewis reported. "I think the Hawaiian people will be really interested in seeing this boat and it will be something they can relate to."

"All modern racing boats are somewhat uncomfortable, shin-barking, damp and fetid experiences," he continued. "But at least we can boast that this 86-foot dominatrix produces unrivaled ecstasy!

"A few hours ago a fresh sun at the horizon illuminated flung spray across hulls and the trampoline, while flying fish dodged up and away from the deep blue ocean. Careening along at over 20 knots ... it's moments like this when there is only one thought running through your mind: Man, I could do this forever!"

And at the finish, Lewis writes, "Wow, we did it! We did it in record time..."

I am sure it made Hawaii's Rudy Choy - long time crusader for the inclusion multihulls in Transpac - very happy and proud to have his name on the new perpetual trophy that was presented to Peyron and his crew aboard Explorer at the Transpac awards banquetlast night. Perhaps even happier than those who received it.

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