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Sleds get underway with 3 knot winds

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by Rich Roberts

San Pedro, Calif.- (July 3 1999) -- The featured start of the 40th Transpacific Yacht Race became sailboat racing's version of water torture Saturday when 14 boats crawled across the line in less than 3 knots of wind.

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Photo Courtesy Maddy McJones at LAYC

Instead of the usual brisk sea breeze from the west, what little wind there was came from the southeast. All boats started on port tack, heading southwest to pass the west end of Santa Catalina Island - the only mark of the 2,225-nautical mile course to Hawai`i.

Zephyrus IV and Magnitude - two boats that lost their masts in the first two days of the previous race in 1997 - were setting the pace as the fleet drifted into the mist of the San Pedro Channel. Roy E. Disney's new Pyewacket, rated a co-favorite to finish first, trailed badly in the early going.

But the conditions were ominously similar to the '97 start, when the fleet found strong wind later the first night and it kept blowing all the way. Disney's old smaller Pyewacket flew to an elapsed time record for monohulls of 7 days 15 hours 24 minutes 40 seconds and five other boats broke Merlin's 20-year-old record.

Eight smaller monohulls that started in only slightly stronger wind Friday had made little progress when they reported their positions Saturday morning. That was the pattern experienced by the Cruising class that started Tuesday and by the weekend was sailing in winds of 15 to 18 knots from abeam, but the wind probably hadn't yet swung far enough behind them to allow them to hoist spinnakers.

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Among the early starters, Kim Stebbens' 41-foot Hurricane from Seattle continued to lead the Cruisers, averaging 6.7 knots, a few miles ahead of Doug Jones' 49-foot yawl Pacifica from San Diego.

There was no official report Saturday from either of the Doublehanded entries, although the 30-foot Two Guys On the Edge from Waikiki Yacht Club reached owner Dan Doyle with an Iridium satellite cell phone and reported that its marine radio had been knocked out by a splash of salt water. Skipper Les Vasconcellos said Two Guys had logged 190 miles in the previous 24 hours - as much as any of the larger Cruisers.

The 25-foot Vapor from Long Beach, smallest boat ever to sail the Transpac, remained out of touch but was also believed to be experiencing radio problems and not in distress.

Tower, a 45-footer from Waikiki YC, led the 41-foot Glama! in the Division IV fleet by five miles.

The dark green, 75-foot Zephyrus IV, owned by Bob McNeil of San Francisco and John Parrish of San Diego, executed a tricky tacking maneuver a few seconds before the gun and was nearly at full speed - such as it was - when it crossed the line near the committee boat. Doug Baker's Magnitude, Bob Lane's smaller Medicine Man, the Alamitos Bay Syndicate's Stealth Chicken - all from Long Beach - and Philippe Kahn's Pegasus from Santa Cruz were all farther down the line in good position.

Pyewacket was caught in the middle of a slow-speed tack from starboard to port at the gun and lagged behind, sagging slowly off to the right as Zephyrus IV soon pulled clear, taking Magnitude with it. Two other ultralight "sleds" - Mongoose and Cheval - struggled to cross the line about three minutes after the gun.

Photos of Saturday's start, daily position reports, crew lists and other information are available on the race web page.

The 40th Transpac is sponsored by Iridium North America, the world's first global telephone and paging company. Several boats are carrying the phones. Through a constellation of 66 low-earth-orbit satellites circling the globe, customers can make or take calls and receive pages in the most remote regions on Earth. Additional information regarding the Iridium system is available at the web site or by calling 1-888-Iridium.

More TransPac 99 News

Last year's (97) race
WYC TransPac 97 Nav Station

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Last Modified: Saturday - 19990703.18:43 HST
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