Pyewacket leads thoroughbred trio after yesterday's Centennial Transpacific big boat class start

A spectacular start in moderate breeze sent Roy Disney’s Pyewacket, Randall Pittman’s Genuine Risk, and Hasso Plattner’s Morning Glory off to Hawaii shoulder-to-shoulder in the Centennial Transpacific Yacht race to Hawaii Sunday.

Nearly a hundred spectator boats watched the trio of long-striding thoroughbreds – the three fastest-rated contenders in the 75-boat fleet disappeared into the lingering mists of a morning fog lined up left to right in the above order with a clear advantage over 17 rivals in Divisions I and II.

Sailing upwind through the San Pedro Channel faster than the winds of 8-11 knots, they passed the west end of Santa Catalina Island 20 miles offshore – the only mark of the 2,225-nautical mile course – in 1 hour 45 minutes in a straight line with Pyewacket leading Genuine Risk by 100 yards and Morning Glory another 100 yards back.

Disney said by phone from his boat later Sunday that: “these boats do have a way of getting away from everybody else,” but he didn’t see much of his last Transpac start.

“I had that damn camera in my hand trying to pan around and let the audience see everything that was going on,” he said. “It’s cold out there but we’re feeling good. It’s really nice to get past the island quickly.”

The start of Disney’s 15th and last Transpac coincided with the 50th anniversary of the opening of Disneyland in nearby Anaheim, California.

Morning Glory’s navigator, Peter Isler, also phoned in to say that with the wind blowing from 250-260 degrees south-west at the start off the Palos Verdes Peninsula. “We thought we were going to have trouble laying the island [without tacking], but in the end we all laid easily.”

However, initial wind prospects for the race were so-so, although chances of breaking the record of 7 days 11 hours 41 minutes 27 seconds set by Disney’s previous Pyewacket in 1999 were good because these boats are so much faster in similar conditions.

“Hopefully, we’ll have enough [wind] to break the record, but it’s not gonna be a windy year,” Isler said. “I was conferring with [Pyewacket navigator] Stan Honey before the start and he agreed that it would be kind of a light to moderate run into Oahu. About the third day we’ll be spinnaker running.”

The communications vessel Alaska Eagle confirmed that dim view earlier Sunday, noting that “the weather has gone to hell in a hand basket. Boat speeds are down significantly with only a handful of boats [already at sea] covering more than 200 miles in 24 hours.”

Bengal 2, Yoshihiko Murase’s Ohashi 52 from Japan, tried for a pin-end start against the larger boats but ran out of time and had to peel off to let Dan Sinclair’s 70ft Renegade sweep past the marker. Robbie Haines drove Disney’s maxZ86 Pyewacket just to windward, while Pittman, taking time to the gun from Ken Read, had the 90ft Genuine Risk at mid-line leeward of Plattner on Morning Glory’s helmsman, flanked by Russell Coutts on the German maxZ86.

Those three quickly pulled away from the pack, although the fourth-rated boat, Windquest, Doug DeVos’s older maxZ86, “rounded the island only a couple of minutes behind us,” Isler reported.