Racing

Singlehanded Transpac Finishes Up Page 2

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Fourth to finish, late Monday, was Max Crittenden on Solar Wind. As he describes his ride, “Solar Wind is my second boat, a Martin 32 built in 1980 in the Vancouver, BC area. It’s a great sailing boat that affords ‘many opportunities’ for creative maintenance and detail design enhancements.”

The thing about the Singlehanded Transpac is that, sure, any and every ocean race represents somebody’s dream but this one is a deeper reach, a bigger ask, a more compelling statement than most any other. That is, how many of us have ever told a boss, a spouse, the people you’ve known since high school, I’m going to race my boat across an ocean all by my sweet self.

Which is probably why the Singlehanded Transpac also brings out the best in people surrounding the participants. The tradition, as photographed by Kathe Hashimoto, is that all gather “under the tree.”

To his surprise, George (“the 2010 Single-Handed Transpac is my Mount Everest”) Lythcott was greeted, not by the one family member he had been led to expect. No, the welcoming party looked like this, but a lot more jumpy and feelie in the moment . . .

Lythcott sailed an Express 27, Taz!! and made the crossing in 18 days. . On Day 17, he wrote, “I was hand-steering last night about 3 am. The sky was mesmerizing. The moon was behind some clouds, but through the open spaces I could see thousands and thousands of stars and the haze of the Milky Way against the black background. I was lost in the thought of being out in the middle of the Pacific alone, and as I looked straight up I saw an area where there were no stars. Hey. Then I realized I was looking at a black cloud. I looked for the edges, and it was massive, tracking behind me. Probably the size of Manhattan. I went below quickly and suited up. Foul weather pants and jacket, life jacket, harness and hat. I tethered myself as I stepped into the cockpit and all hell broke loose. The wind went from 14 knots to easily 25, and changed directions by 180 degrees. It started to rain heavily. The sails started banging around and the auto-pilot, now confused, shut down. I took the helm and started sorting things out. First, the #1, which was back-winded and poled out on the port side. Luckily, instead of breaking, the pole de-telescoped. I pegged the tiller, went forward, and took the pole down. The sail was now just flapping loudly. Next, deal with the main. Back at the helm, I eased the preventer. I was now steering Taz!! upwind toward Hanalei Bay.

“In the rush, I hadn’t closed the hatch and the inside of the boat got wet again. The only time the dampness still bothers me is early in the morning when it gets cold. I have nothing to cover me. Last night I used the spinnaker, the one I saved from the headstay yesterday. I hand-steered Taz!! another one and a half hours, until the wind returned to 62 degrees magnetic and dropped to 15 knots. Then I reset the sails and let the auto-pilot steer. I sat for a while watching the sky and looking for more squalls. They were there but off my port side and not a worry.

“Today, I’ve been thinking about how wonderful this experience continues to be. I am trying to memorize it. There may be other attempts, but there will never be another first time.”

Young former Marine Ronnie Simpson, sailing in the name of Hope for the Warriors, looked back on his own final day at sea and recalled, "I knew we were going fast. Fortunately, the GPS was there to show that I was traveling at more than 13 knots for what honestly felt like 30 seconds, indicating a highest speed of 15.2. I was soooooooooo stoked. I have seen 20 knots in a sportboat and 25.6 on a catamaran, but to reach 15 while solo on a tradewind swell in a 30-foot keel boat is a whole different ball game. That will go down as my best pure sailing moment ever to this point.

"So, uh, yeah. It's over. I'm in Kauai after completing my first Singlehanded Transpac. Was it worth it? Yes. Was it everything I thought it would be? No. it was more. Was crossing the line in Kauai the best single moment in my life? It's a distinct possibility. Finishing this race, in that very moment, was the realization of a dream. Two years ago, this goal of singlehanding to Hawaii nearly killed me, and it took everything I owned, stranding me in a foreign land with nothing. Except for the dream. And again this year, this goal of going solo across an ocean took a year out of my life, threw me for a loop, depleted my checking account and actually started adding grey hairs to my 25 year old head. But now that i've done it, it seems like the time, money and effort involved in every facet of achieving this dream were all great investments.

"To Don Gray and everyone who was has supported me along the way: Thank you. This may be a solo ocean race, but there are a million people who have made this possible for me. Just know that you helped someone realize a dream and gave me a great experience that i'll carry with me forever."

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