Transpac 2005: Well someone has to bring up the rear of the division, right?

With communication re-established, the author describes the end of his race.

My last communication to you from onboard Enchilado was on July 21 (my birthday) when we had passed the halfway point and were 1,150 miles from our finish line. If your wondering why a week has passed without word from us, it's because our Sailmail Email cut off our onboard service due to abusive overuse on our part and because the last 3-4 days out we were under strict electrical limitation, trying to save precious voltage in our perpetually depleted battery banks. As a matter of fact we finished the last 15 hours of the race with 11 volts in batteries, all electrical systems turned off, and operating with a $200 handheld VHF accompanied by a $200 handheld GPS. By now, you all must know that Morning Glory established a new single day record for the race and she also smashed the elapsed time race record by almost a full day. You're also probably aware that all three MaxZ86 sleds broke the previous record set by Pyewacket's predecessor in 1999. So since I've been out of communication, I'll restrict myself to reporting our personal experiences between my last update of July 21) and our finish at Diamond Head light at 7:02 PM on July 25. Not more than 10 hours after dousing our spinnaker for the evening after losing its' halyard the evening I dispatched my last update, we completely blew it to smithereens and "castrated the bull" as we say, when we saw the shreds dragging alongside Enchilado. At that very instant, my stomach convulsed, knowing that we were competitively out of the race, the red-bull spinnaker being the only one onboard. Being a downhill race, we were like a Mercedes powered by a lawnmower engine. "Ok, no worry, get it onboard; we got a 1,000 miles to go yet." That's how my 49th birthday started out at 6AM. For the next four days we ran dead down wind with wing-on-wing sail configuration in10-15 knots of ENE trade wind and 3-4 foot following seas. Beautiful weather, genoa poled out to port and solent and mainsail over the starboard rail. We were running between 7.5 and 8.5-knot boat speed with the occasional 10 knots on a 15-18 knot puff. We calculated that we were between 2 and 2.5 knots slower without our spinnaker, but making respectable headway. Obviously slipping back into 7th place in our division but trying to stay within the peloton while focusing on learning the boat on its maiden voyage with a novice crew. We slipped into our routine; of eating like kings, planning fuel consumption to ensure at least a five gallons reserve to be able to cruise into the marina after finish-line arrival, and curtail excesses of energy consumption like HF radio transmission, showers, computer use, etc. We started reading up on the suggestions offered at the skipper's meeting in reference to the final approach and the Molokai Channel. It quickly became clear that this was a treacherous channel and could easily be the most exciting part of what had mostly been a moderate Transpac passage. The strategy was laid to head for the mid-point of Molokai Island, hug the northern coast until reaching the westernmost point then running across the Molokai Channel to Koko Head on Oahu Island where we could jive and run a straight line to the finish at Diamond Head light. Cool. Textbook stuff. Now this is what really happened. We overstood our mid-point Molokai Island point (mind you we were now navigating on magnetic compass, no electronics). Once we realized our mistake we altered course to the original mid-point and decided to turn on my handheld GPS to confirm our visual perceptions. Having overstood ¾ of Molokai Island put us right on the northeastern ridge of the channel. This is the sector where the tradewinds, after blowing freely for 2,000 plus miles, hit the high cliffs on the islands on either side of the channel and form a phenomenal venturi effect to squeeze in through the islands and continue on to the south pacific. So now we are wing-on-wing in 35 knots true wind with 6-8 following seas. On an exceptionally larger roller, the stern was lifted, the rudder lost bite, and Enchilado broached. The helmsman over corrected on the broach recuperation, accidentally jived the main; immediately blowing the deck bloke and boom preventer; noticing his mistake, overcorrected to his original heading and jived again. At this time I was near the genoa winches and watched in slow motion as the mainsail traveler car was blown off its deck track and the main with boom dangling uncontrollably and dangerously over the ocean at 90 degrees to boat axis. We quickly rounded up which allowed us to make three quick lashings to the boom and put in two reefs on the main. Having regained control of the boom and being highly reefed, we set our new course to Koko Head and run with the seas. The wind was screaming through the rigging and with reefed main and partially furled genoa, we still ran at 6-7 knots and occasionally surfed past 9. We had sustained some deck cosmetic damage, bent two stanchions, lost the traveler and another deck block and decided to run in the final six hours to the Diamond Head line with this conservative sail-plan. So this was the Hawaiian surprise people smilingly alluded to on the marina gangways before our race departure. Nice surprise, but we got through it and after more than 2,300 miles traveled, the novice crew responded well. After crossing, we were greeted by the yacht clubs "follow-me" boat and escorted to our Med-tie (stern-to) dock (no anchor) now what? That resolved we were given the traditional warm welcome with photos, hugs, Mai Tais, and aromatic leis around our necks. Mm, mm, good. What a race. What a committee, what club coordination. Can't be beat… Enchilado - Over and out. The author can be reached at: