J/121 and J/125s Crush 50th Transpac Race!

J/125s crush 50th Transpac Race Overall!

For the first time in the fifty years of Transpac Race history, a one-design class nearly swept the entire top five results overall- the famous J/125s!! Congrats to all four teams!

Winning was Shawn Dougherty & Jason Andrews’s Seattle-based J/125 HAMACHI, taking both Division 3 and Overall honors. Taking silver in both class and overall was Zachary Anderson & Chris Kramer’s San Francisco-based J/125 VELVET HAMMER. Fourth in class and overall was Mark Surber’s San Diego-based J/125 SNOOPY (ex-DERIVATIVE). And, fifth in class and overall was Tom Garnier’s J/125 REINRAG from Los Angeles.

J/121 Smokes Division 6!   Congratulations to Scott Grealish’s J/121 BLUE FLASH from Portland, Oregon! They easily won the “first wave” of starters overall (5 classes in total). Amazingly, BLUE FLASH was eighth boat to finish on elapsed time and won Division 6 by 4 1/2 hours corrected time!

Here is a race wrap up from Scott Grealish from J/121 BLUE FLASH:

“After all the training we had done in the light airs Cabo San Lucas Race and the moderate winds in the Ensenada Race, and sail testing off San Diego prior to the race, we were excited to see what kind of legs we would have on our new J/121 in the open Pacific on a 2,225nm race track. We had no idea what to expect in the forecasted 10-20 kts winds, other than to push hard, keep experimenting with sail combinations for wind/wave angles and press on regardless.

On Wednesday, we had a good start, good lane, and we got to the right of fleet. A Farr 57 and Swede 55 were water-lining us, but we got around Catalina quickly in 16-18 kts breeze. The Farr just in front of us and the 55 just behind.  We were pleased with our speed, using the water ballast upwind helped at this stage and we were fast.

Based on the forecast and grib files, we could see the Pacific High was split in two, the east side was weaker, and the 500 mb pressure line was wobbly. We hoped for a solid High that would recede NW, tighten the gradients south, produce more winds, but that that didn’t happen. Initially, we had to go south after passing Catalina, which adds a lot of miles. But, that was not enough, in retrospect, as we never got the winds the Friday starters got for the whole race.

After rounding Catalina, we held on to our J2 jib for some time, sheeted to the rail. We wanted to hold higher (to the right) of the fleet so we could set our Code Zero once we could get the wind around to 75-125 TWA. Once we did that, we ran our genoa staysails underneath double-slotting- that was fast!  Once the wind moved further aft, we had what we called our “A10”, basically an A3/A5 flat reaching kit, flew the J4 on the inner forestay- that was even faster! Two days into the race we were constantly in the high teens boatspeed, hitting 22.5 kts at time in just 17-19 kts TWS. Note, we also used this combo in the reaching we encountered going into the finish like in the Molokai Channel in 20-30 kts TWS.

For the main part of the course for a good 7+ days, the wind dropped into 12-16 kts TWS. We were further north than most of our class/ fleet. We used our A2 chute (running kite) up to 18-21 kts TWS with large spinnaker staysail underneath. Late at night, we’d switch sometimes to the A5/ J4 for squalls. The staysails were very effective!

As for driving and boatspeed, connecting wave-sets was key, especially once we got up to 15 kts plus boatspeed. Like sailing our J/88, you had to watch to not go too high or too low on TWA’s downwind. We watched our VMC constantly and would adjust our angles based on wave trains and wind angles/ pressure. Basically, we’d sail between 150 to 160 TWA for best VMC. 165 was too deep, 145 was too high.

Finally, I have to give a shout-out to my crew- ‘Thank You, for being such a fantastic team!’ We sailed all amateur with three youths (my son- Sean- and two other 20-somethings) and three “old guys” (50-something’s). As I’ve told others- sometimes we needed their energy, sometimes they needed our wisdom, and sometimes the roles reversed. But, they always stayed focused.

Andrew (our navigator) and I would spend 20 minutes pouring over the GFS grib files, surface analysis, 500mb pressure lines, yellow brick tracker, routing at various polar percentages, then give a discourse about why we needed to do such and such an angle, etc. Then, in the end they’d say ‘so you mean, sail fast, right?’ Haha, right! Reflecting on the experience, it was priceless to share it with friends, my son Sean, and having the added bonus of collecting silverware, we didn’t expect that!”

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