Honolulu Star Bulletin (07/17/99)
By Ray Pendleton
Have you visited Transpac Row this year? You know, that string of 30-or-so slips in the Ala Wai Yacht Harbor where the Transpacific Yacht Race finishers tie up.
In past decades, hundreds of people would flock around those moorings, celebrating with the boats' crews, and generally marveling at their bravery and tenacity in crossing 2,225 miles of open ocean.
Fragrant flower leis were hung on every sailor's neck and strung across each boat's bow. Barrels of mai tais were on hand to wash down plates of pupus. And one boat's aloha party would flow into the next to arrive - for days on end.
Things aren't exactly the same as we approach a new millennium.
As to why this is so, it could be that people have just become blase about such things after witnessing events like moon walks and solo circumnavigations. Or, maybe the old wood ketches and schooners had more charm, or, maybe all those greeters of the past have gotten too old to party.
What ever the case, the drop in public attendance is very noticeable, but in one respect, it's not a bad thing. Friends and family still welcome the boats with leis and refreshments, and because of the smaller crowds, you are much more likely to be able to chat with crew members about the highs and lows of their voyage.
One example that comes to mind was when one Waikiki Yacht Club entry tied up at the dock after its win in the double-handed division.
Appropriately named Two Guys On the Edge, the 30-foot Sonoma is owned by Honolulu businessman Dan Doyle, but it was raced by two of his friends, Les Vasconcellos and Bruce Burgess. Those two guys would have disappeared in a large crowd, in the same way that their 30-footer was dwarfed by the 70-foot boats berthed on either side of it.
With fewer people, most of their well wishers were able to ask questions about their trip and actually hear the answers, instead of just seeing the look of accomplishment on their faces.
One of the more frightening stories I'm sure everyone quickly heard was about an incident at night near the end of the race.
"Throughout the race we just pushed the boat really hard," Burgess said. "We never put anything up less than the big kite."
"The waves had built up off Ilio Point (on Moloka`i) about 20 feet a part," Vanconcellos said. "We came off one at about 19 knots and the boat buried itself into the next wave - we just stopped, water filled the cockpit and the boat turned over."
"Suddenly there were dolphins jumping straight out of the water around us, like they were laughing at us," he added.
Fortunately, they were able right their boat, and with Burgess manning the bilge pump and Vasconcellos at the helm, they got back on their course for the Diamond Head finish line.
Then, in what might seem like a scripted commercial for the race's major sponsor, they were able to call and page the boat's owner at the Waikiki Yacht Club with an Iridium satellite phone when nothing else would work.
Of course, this is just one of the many stories heard this year on Transpac Row.
Nearly all the boats are in by now, but if you hurry on down, you'll probably find there's more than one sailor who will be happy to give you more.
HoloHolo Hawai`i Ocean Sports News