Transpac 2005: Light winds after the start

Divisions I and II are plagued with light, fluky air off the start

Lat 33-29.4 N Lon 119-08.5 W The 43rd Trans Pacific Yacht Race 2005 successfully executed their first of three staggered starts yesterday. The 1 PM start if Point Fermin just outside Long Beach was witness to 4-6 knot winds right off the nose, from the SW. Between the little wind and the busy line with two helicopters in the air and a dozen spectator boats, the emotions were mixed between frustration and exhilaration. The line was accented with the typical competitive spirit but slow going with the four knots and calm seas. Division V, Aloha A and B, as well as the 14 Cal 40 one design division were efficiently led to one start by the race committee, all across cleanly and a farewell Aloha from Committee chairman. I was slightly surprised when skipper and owner, Cesar de Saracho asked me to take the wheel and drive the start. A lot of traffic and large headsails with little steerageway was an equation for some incidences, but all got off clear. Then the winds died to less than 1 knot after three hours into the race. The "stationary" pacific high was south and a flat pancake. Not sending any signals of being strong and defined and as a result, we were experiencing the fluky behavior associated with this high before it settles into its summer stationary mode. By 1 AM (12 hours post race start) we were still only halfway to the west end of Catalina Island, which is less than 15 miles from the start line. The fleet wallowed in a vacuum all night until a southwest breeze filled in around 8 AM (7/12). It's 2:30 PM with visibility less than 4 miles and we have over eight boats in sight. We are currently in 2-4 knots of fluky wind. We have decided to sail rhumbline, slightly south of the "great-circle" route, but are concerned about the added distance of going further south (80 mi) for what appears to be maybe 5 knots more of wind. With performance cruising displacement, the additional speed potential with 5 knots more of wind probably won't payoff the extra distance sailed. We're betting the pacific high will swing north in the next couple of days and maybe bring some winds to us on rhumbline or slightly south of it. Spirits onboard are good, we got a feel for what Enchilado can do in a breeze this morning when we received 10 knots and made 7.5 knots with the asymmetrical up. Within 2 miles we could clearly see Incredible, Madrina, and Charmed Life. All in our division, but all to which we owe handicap times to. Maria Teresa, the skipper's wife fractured her big toe and lower jaw in a salon fall climbing the companionway, two days before the race and was diagnosed the day before the start. No one could hold her off her boat, and she is onboard manning her watches and working the sails just like the rest of us. She feels good, and the pain is under medication. We had sirloin steaks with mushrooms and green salad "a la Teresa," with a glass a wine to toast Enchilado's maiden voyage. While I was helming the spinnaker reach at a record speed (so far) of 7.5 knots, Cesar, Maria Teresa, and son's were busy below trying to repair a faulty switch on the generator so that we could make some freshwater. Problem remains unresolved and winds have died back to 3-4 knots while we make 2 knots W. We are crossing our fingers for air, but don't see anything for the next 24-36 hours and with just our luck the wind will fill in on Friday when Divisions III and IV make their start and fly under us. Enchilado - Out