Alfa Romeo leads Transpac fleet

Alfa Romeo logged 269 nautical miles from Sunday's 1300 start through the Monday 0600 roll call. Neville Crichton's super maxi is averaging 14.6 knots, nearly a knot faster than Morning Glory's average during her Transpac record-breaking run in 2005.

A sampling of what the Division I and Division II boats have experienced during their first day at sea come from Ernie Richau, Magnitude 80's navigator and Philippe Kahn aboard Pegasus 50.

Form Richau, “We passed Catalina Island sailing upwind with our AP 1 jib up at about 3pm. The wind was from the west at about 13 knots. Before sundown we were west of San Nicholas Island close reaching in about 20 knots of breeze. Early this morning we changed to the Blast Reacher and continue to have 16-18 knots of wind from about 320 degrees.”

Kahn and Mark Christensen, reported gusts up to 25 knots and swells 3 meters high washing waves and flying fish over their Owen Clarke Open 50 deck. At 0100 they threw up more sail area and “cracked the sheets and stood on to 14 to 16 knots.” According to Kahn, they are “cold, wet and battered by waves, yet happy as can be. We sailed fast and smart.” They are on pace for a doublehanded Transpac record.

Having much better conditions at and following their start, Division I yachts and the Division II sleds are destined to skirt the Pacific high and are setting up for fast races to Hawaii. Alfa Romeo and Pegasus 50 are on course to establish new course records for the world's most enduring and greatest yacht race. Alfa Romeo is looking at toppling Morning Glory's 6:16:04:11 record and Pegasus 50 is going for a new doublehanded record.

Reports from the boats that started last Monday and Thursday in light to drifting conditions are of a different nature.

Meals can be the highlight of your day when you are out at sea, and Admiral Mark Forster captured a look of sheer ecstasy for all of us. Take a look at Passion's blogspot, http://www.sailblogs.com/member/passion95/ and you will agree that Suzette's barbecued ribeyes and garlic mashed potatoes aboard Passion brought even more joy to the crew than Gib Black's boiled hot dogs, potato salad, Bing cherries, girl scout cookies served on a stars and stripes paper plate along with a Budweiser aboard Chasch Mer.

The 4th of July feasts were cleaned up quickly and it was back to business for the Transpac fleets that have been out on the water for the better part of a week. The 1300 starting gun for Divisions I and II must have been heard west of the Baja Peninsula. It was a signal for Transpac 09 sailors to start cracking the whip and hoist their spinnakers. The weather is warmer offshore and winds have clocked. The frontrunners are flying their spinnakers and will be able to keep them flying all the way to Hawaii.

Crews resort to different measures to keep spirits high when voyages don't go as expected. The deck of the Lynx has been doubling as a dance floor. Some boats preoccupied with ferreting out the source of leaks and troubleshooting computer problems, yet the beauty of being offshore touches everyone differently and still heartens even those with hundreds of thousands of ocean miles behind them. This from Admiral Mark Forster as we approach a full moon. “Sailing at night in a smooth sea with the moon peaking out from the clouds is just a wonderful experience. While I was steering it came out and then appeared in the tell tale window. You know I am always amazed with what Mother Nature can spring on you to brighten your day. “

Alfa Romeo leads Division I on distance covered, but Flash, Tom Akin's TP 52, is leading the division on corrected time.

Grand Illusion, James McDowell's Santa Cruz 70, is setting the pace for the fleet of sleds, which includes Ragtime, a Spencer 65, which was built in 1964. The sleds are trucking along with the Division I yachts, but Alfa Romeo has over a 25-mile lead on Magnitude 80, which in turn, is over 40 miles out in front of Akela, Bill Turpin's Reichel Pugh 78.

Both Alfa Romeo and Magnitude 80 have had more mileage pass under their bottoms than nearly all of the boats in Division III. Cipango is holding onto the lead in Division II and has 1648 nautical miles to go before crossing the finish line.

Nearly all of Division I and II are sailing at average speeds above 10 knots. Criminal Mischief and Relentless 52 are the speed demons in Divisions II and IV. Relentless 52 is the frontrunner among the Division IV Santa Cruz 52's

While Passion has chipped off more miles than other boats in Davison 5, Might Tongaro is ahead on corrected time.

Tim Fuller and Erik Shampain are nearly 100 nautical miles ahead of the next closest Division VI boat, J World. Relentless' duo has been making some great decisions and good speed toward Hawaii despite being shorthanded.

Charisma, Alejandor Perez Calzada's Sparkman & Stephens 57 is over 100 and in some cases, over 200 miles ahead of the other boats in the Aloha Division VII.

urray Spence, Alfa Romeo's Captain, briefs us with a snapshot of what the first 16 hours were like aboard Alfa Romeo, starting with the international team's send-off from Transpac Pier to their high speed flight around the top of Catalina Island and SW to skirt the high.
Reports Spence on the Aloha Send-off, ” What a great send-off for the start of the Transpac. Firstly the crowds at the dock and then the many spectator boats at the start. Picture perfect skies and a favourable wind.”

Spence's take on the Start, “Everyone agreed that we should have a conservative start being such a long race – yeh right! Ben Ainslie nailed the pin end right on the gun. Maybe that was conservative for an AC helmsman!”

Around the top of Catalina, “We were on the wind to Catalina, but soon put some good distance on the fleet, eventually losing sight of Magnitude 80 by about 4pm.”

Alfa's set up for the second third of the 2.225 nautical mile sprint to Hawaii, “The breeze freshened from then and we were soon into a reef averaging about 15 kts. About 2am the breeze had lifted enough to change to the Jib Top and soon the reef was shaken out too.”

And now Neville Crichton, Murray Spence, Ben Ainslie, Stan Honey and a rocket ship full of top offshore talent is blasting toward Hawaii. Spence reports that Alfa Romeo was, “averaging around 19kts boat speed and looking forward to the sunrise.”

Alfa Romeo is adding to the excitement of the Los Angeles to Hawaii Transpacific Yacht Race, the world's most enduring and greatest yacht race.

www.transpacrace.com

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