July 17, 2017: HONOLULU, HI - A large wave of finishers in the 2017 Transpac have arrived in the Ala Wai last night and in the pre-dawn hours to start to fill up the slip spaces set aside in the Marina for the finishers, known as Transpac Row. From tallest mast to shortest, most of the race entries are moored here, bedecked with leis and ti leaves as symbols of Aloha hospitality from a culture that recognizes the special nature of having completed a long sea voyage.
After crossing the finish line, all boats are escorted to the narrow (sometimes treacherous) entrance to the Ala Wai Yacht Harbor, a safe haven from the Pacific swells. Donned in their flowered shirts, the crews stand on deck to be greeted like conquering heroes by the amplified sounds of native drums, slack key guitar music and a loud and resounding “Aaaahhh- looohhh – haaaaah” given by staff commodore Howie Mednick from the second deck of the Hawaii YC.
“We welcome you to Hawaii, and ask only that you do Drink well, Sing well, Eat well, Sleep well… and Drink well some more!”
"Winners and non-winners alike given warm Hawaiian welcomes upon arrival, any time of day or night" - photo credit ©
Boats then proceed to their assigned slips, get boarded and inspected for rules compliance, and then are released to the awaiting leis and hugs of family, friends and well-wishers. Regardless of the time of day or night, every crew is given an Aloha Party of food and drink, some more traditionally Hawaiian than others, with the unshaven and weary crews growing their smiles with each re-told story and re-acquaintance with terra firma.
This is a unique feature of Transpac among the world’s ocean races: nowhere else will you find this intimate and embracing level of hospitality and respect. Finishers of the Volvo Ocean Race and Vendee Globe will experience their re-entry into life ashore under the glare of TV lights, crowds and microphones, whereas at Transpac it will be under the flickering flames of a tiki torch and the inner glow from a Mai Tai.
The lore of this hospitality reaches far and wide, as evidenced by not only entries who come every two years from around the Pacific Basin, but also those who come from the other side of the world. This year two entries from Europe were here to have the Aloha experience.
One was Michael St Aldwyn’s J&J 50 Zephyr from the Royal Yacht Squadron, with many of the team hailing from London and Lymington. Despite the reception another English crew received in Hawaii in 1778 when Captain Cook met his demise on the island of Hawai’i, David Sharples was effusive in praise of the race, the help given by TPYC, and the reception received at their finish at 7:11 PM last night.
“We have sailed in many races, and there is nothing like the warm reception we had here,” said Sharples. “This was a great race, and from here we are off next to Australia for the Sydney-Hobart.” This is a typical path for many yachts from overseas as they pursue the items on their bucket lists… another for St Aldwyn is black marlin fishing, which Hawaii offers on the Kona Coast.
Another entry from another seafaring nation in Europe was Karl Otto Book’s Wasa 44 Cubanaren from Norway, the first to finish in Division 7 at 3:24 AM this morning. Book is an active racer, competing in a variety of regattas and a variety of boats throughout Europe. His modest-sized team of four started their journey a year ago at the ORC World Championship in Copenhagen, where racing on a Landmark 43 they placed 6th in a competitive class of 59 boats in Class B.
“We really enjoyed this race, and had no problems except for one broken afterguy,” said Book. “We sailed the boat well I think, but we don’t know if we will continue to have our lead when Azure comes in.” At their current rate of speed Rod Pimentel’s Cal 40 is only 2.5 hours behind Cubaneren in corrected time, and they will be asking for time in redress for having diverted mid-race race to assist the Division 4 Santa Cruz 52 Medusa with fuel. If given more then this margin, Azure will likely take the prize in this class as the last finishers come in today, tonight and tomorrow.
Book says they were considering going south and west to Australia, but have changed their plans to stay in this hemisphere for a while. “We will cruise around the islands for a week, then go back to California, down to Panama, the Caribbean, Cuba, then the East Coast, possibly the Bermuda Race next year.”
Another story from today was the morning finishes of Scott Grealish’s Farr 400 BlueFlash, hampered by an ailing steering system since the second day of the race, and thus on training wheels of having to use smaller sails while nursing their steering system. Grealish said they may have tried to push harder, but with only a crew of five this was difficult, and three of the five were teenagers: son Sean, Kyle Collins, and John Ped were all 18 and 19 years old, with Kyle celebrating his 18th birthday today at their Aloha party.
Another teenager finishing today was 16 year old Will Vanderwort on board Ross Pearlman’s Jeanneau 50 Between the Sheets. “I’m really interested in keelboat and match race sailing, but my dad started a tradition of bringing [us kids] on the Transpac, and this was my turn. I think it was great, I really enjoyed it.”
Transpacific YC’s handling of this race is full-service: not only are there dozens of volunteers to handle all aspects of this complex race, but a prerequisite for membership in this club is in having done this race at least once, so everyone has a passion to replicate its special and unique features every two years. Planning for the next race begins immediately after the last, with a new Commodore installed and dates set within weeks after the Awards… this year the torch will be passed from Bo Wheeler to Tom Hogan.
There are already ideas floating around about expanding the reach and appeal of this special race to include more multihull classes, re-examine the Barn Door Trophy criteria, and other notions. Start dates for 2019 will be examined to consider moon phases, consolidation of the fleet into being in the same weather, weekend start days to encourage more spectating, etc.
“It's a balance between tradition and innovation,” said Dan Nowlan, TPYC Commodore for the 2015 race. “This is a unique race, and we want to preserve its character, but also invite entries to come from all over the world.”
For more information - position reports, photos, videos and stories new and old, visit the event website at https://2017.transpacyc.com.