The 50th running of the Transpacific Yacht Race has been a roller coaster ride. It was a record year for number of boats that dropped out with various equipment failures — including one boat calling a MAYDAY and later cancelling it, and for the first time in the race’s history a yacht sank.
In addition, we lost one of our own.
According to their Facebook Page, “The Chubasco team and crew are saddened by the passing of Boat Manager Jim Lincoln. Jim had just competed in the 50th TransPac on board the class winner Chubasco. He passed away in his sleep on July 24th, four days after finishing the race. He was a fixture in the Long Beach sailing community, a member of Alamitos Bay Yacht Club and will be truly missed.”
Clergyman Charles R. Swindoll is quoted as saying, “Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.” How our Long Beach fleet of entries dealt with the challenges they met speaks to who we are as a community. I feel blessed to be surrounded by some of the most compassionate people around that make the most of difficult situations.
The Chubasco team put their full energy into healing from their loss. Team member Ben Wheatly said, “We are moving forward — Saturday morning we all met and hugged as a crew along with Jim’s family members. We all agreed Jim would want us happy and enjoying ourselves. The pain is still there and I’ll mourn every sunrise and sunset as we bring the boat home.”
In the early hours of July 15, a distress call was sent from Long Beach boat OEX. Owner John Sangmeister and crew reported an emergency issue with a rudder post and that the boat was taking on water. Almost immediately, Pyewacket, owned by Roy Disney, retired from the race to render assistance to OEX.
Soon after arriving safely at the dock, John Sangmeister and Team OEX went into high gear nominating Roy Disney and the Pyewacket crew for US Sailing's Hanson award for their dramatic rescue. Team OEX proudly wore “Transpac 2021” aloha shirts to the closing ceremonies — attesting to their preparation for the next TransPac.
Other Long Beach entries also took the challenges in stride:
Aloha — The Vanderspek family Hobie 33 dropped out early and motor yacht Happy Days came to the rescue to tow Aloha home. Heidi Blair explained, “My dad Bob Blair never fails to amaze me with his generosity, love for others and the true definition of family. My brother-in-law Kyle Vanderspek and his crew were sailing to Hawaii when the rudder snapped on the second day of Transpac 2019. We got the call on Thursday that they were in distress and my dad along with brother Kyle, Alan Vaught, and Hugh Vanderspek immediately reported for duty to save our family approximately 250 miles off of Mission Bay.”
On Cal Maritime with Long Beach cadets Ryan Schack and Hailey Thompson on board, the boat endured an electrical poltergeist. According to Max Mooseman, the cadets were prepared and overcame all obstacles to finish.
Flying Fiche II expressed gratitude to Race and Welcoming committees as well as owner Chris Wacker and sponsor Laserfiche in their daily postings. They summarized 2019 with, “When the wind and waves lined up — like when we were coming down Molokai Channel, especially — we weren't sailing in the way we do in the coastal waters of SoCal. It was a surfing session on a 50-foot board that has a spinnaker attached to help drop in. We were able to get into this mode much more often this year, and it enabled us to finish the race faster by an entire day. The difference in top speeds was huge — 17.5 knots last time compared to 24.5 this year.”
Medicine Man, according to Navigator Lisa Meier, had a team that worked well together: “With iconic skipper Bob Lane, who has sailed 18 Transpacs on board, along with so many other experienced sailors, one of our strengths was giving one another consideration.” The team overcame the electrical anomalies experienced during the race thanks to strong communication skills.
Onde Amo — Stephen Ashley of Shoreline YC. Ashley was the mainland co-chair for the TransPacific YC and lead on those efforts as well as the mainland host for activities at Shoreline YC. In addition, his boat suffered an unusual number of challenges. Despite the setbacks, even after retiring from the race, Onde Amo continued their “never give up” attitude and were greeted by an enthusiastic crowd as they entered the harbor.
Rapid Transit — Fifth generation TransPac sailor Joel Buffa proposed to the beautiful DeeAnna McBride, the ring made its way across the Pacific and she said yes.
Trouble — David Stotler wrote, “Spirits high as rudder damage issues forced a return on Sunday after the first 200 miles into the course to Honolulu.” The Trouble team didn’t miss a beat, they quickly booked Honolulu flights and were at every event and then some.
Zimmer — Mike Gebb, whose father Sheldon is a two-time TransPac veteran, raced with his daughter Sam and son Will. First time TransPac racer Michael Tande was on board, and when losing the rig seemed imminent and the MAYDAY call was made, told me, “An incredible calmness came over skipper Mike Gebb as he directed us in the light of disaster. His seamanship knowledge and composed demeanor enabled us to cancel the MAYDAY and successfully finish the race.”
Many agree this was one of the roughest Pacific crossings in recent memory, and it’s good to be home.
Long Beach’s own “Safety at Sea” guru Bruce Brown, who sailed the race on board Amazing Grace, introduced John Sangmeister during closing ceremonies. Below is the entire text of John Sangmeister’s moving speech:
"At approximately 0151 July 15, nearly 200 miles off the California coast, the sailing vessel OEX was competing in the 2019 Transpac Race to Honolulu. OEX was sailing with a full reef, jib and stay sail. At that moment, we experienced catastrophic rudder system failure tearing a large hole in the hull of the boat. We were rapidly taking on water. We tried to plug the hole with no success. The rudder post swung violently, wrecking internal structure and momentarily pinned Erik Berzins' leg, trapping him in the rising waters. Brendan Busch radioed a Mayday. We received responses from the U.S. Coast Guard, Pyewacket and Bolt. The crew of Pyewacket diverted to us.
"Nine men — eight husbands and seven fathers — were aboard OEX that fateful morning. Erik Berzins, Ryan Breymaier, Brendan Busch, Mat Bryant, Chuck Clay, Randy Smith, John Turpin and Greg Weeger remained calm and made a heroic attempt to save the boat. With waves breaking over the transom into the cockpit and the Pyewacket in sight, I directed the crew to enter the rafts and abandon ship at 0220.
"We are grateful to the United States Coast Guard and the entire crew of Pyewacket for their efforts on our behalf. We have known Roy and members of his crew for over 35 years as friends, teammates and worthy competitors. We hold them in the highest esteem both on and off the water. Their rescue of the OEX crew came at an extremely high personal price — their retirement from the Transpac race.
"The rescue was affected with the highest level of seamanship. Both teams worked calmly and efficiently and with tremendous cooperation. Once aboard we were welcomed graciously and the Pyewacket crew made every effort to accommodate us.
"The Arthur B. Hanson Rescue Medal Program was established in 1990 by friends of the late Mr. Hanson, a highly respected and accomplished ocean-racing sailor from the Chesapeake Bay. The purpose of the Rescue Medal Program is to recognize significant accomplishments in seamanship, and to collect case studies of rescues for analysis by the United States Sailing Association (US SAILING) Safety-at-Sea Committee for use in US Sailing’s extensive educational and training programs.
"Upon returning to the mainland, on behalf of the OEX crew I nominated Roy Disney and the entire crew of Pyewacket for US Sailing's Hanson award, which recognizes significant accomplishments in seamanship and valor. It is my privilege to serve on US Sailing Board of Directors. I am pleased to report that US Sailing’s President Cory Sertl, and the Board of Directors have unanimously concurred with the nomination, and have authorized me, on behalf of US Sailing to present Roy Disney and his crew the Arthur B. Hanson Rescue Medal.
"Please come forward as your name is called: Roy Disney, Tom Addis, Mark Callahan, Paul Cayard, Scott Easom, Brad Jackson, Robbie Kane, Ben Mitchell, Mark Towill, and Gary Weisman."