Transpac Race 1981.

I’m sorry to intrude with a bit of light relief but the news is so depressing that I tend to regress to my younger days when life was simpler and Reagan was president. The Transpacific Race is held in odd numbered years from Los Angeles to Honolulu. The only mark of the race course is Catalina Island, which has to be taken to port. In 1981, my boat was new and I took a crew of kids.

My 16 year old son (Now almost 50) was the youngest. I was, of course, the oldest and one other crew member was in his 30s. The rest were less than 23. The race began in 1906 and has been held alternate years except for the Second World War. A guy named Richard Rheem served in the Pacific during the war and, after the war, revolutionized the race by understanding the weather in the north Pacific and the Pacific High, which dominates the race. He set a record in 1949 which stood for many years, Until broken by Ticonderoga in a famous race in 1965. Books have been written about that famous yacht and I have several in my library. Ticonderoga is 32 feet longer than my own boat yet we finished the race only a day slower.

Here is a clip of a movie I made as I expected that I would only be able to do this race once.

We came within 9 minutes of winning over all and I watch the video of the race once in a while to remember the pleasure.

At this point of the race we are well into the trade winds and changing to the 1.5 ounce spinnaker because it was windy and night was coming with trade wind squalls. The wind usually was about 25 knots and we were doing 15 to 18 knots most of the time. If our speed dropped below 15, crew members would stick their heads up from below to see what had happened. The really strong wind and the squalls were at night where the wind would occasionally hit 40 and even 50 knots for short periods. Looking at the video, you can see that it is evening and we are getting ready for a stormy night. The trade wind clouds are ahead and gather as the sun goes down.

The clip is my favorite because of how hard the kids were racing, doing what is called a “peel-off” spinnaker change that would typically be done in a short day race to avoid losing moments of time to a competitor. Here we are 1000 miles offshore. After the fifth day, we saw no other boats until the finish. It isn’t easy to keep racing hard when you can’t see another competitor.

Our best day was 286 miles in 24 hours. A tremendous speed for a 40 foot boat.


Here is our trophy for second in fleet. The fleet was 75 boats. We were one of the smallest.

Trophy Present

Here is me getting the trophy at the banquet. I was thinner then.

One Response to “Transpac Race 1981.”

  1. Brett says:

    Loved that old video. I know very little about sailing except for what I learned at the Boy Scout base in Marina Del Rey where I got my sailing & motor boating merit badges. And what an adventure for a 16 year old boy. That son of yours was one lucky kid.