There is something special about watching the start of a Transpacific Yacht race.
The third and final start is Saturday at noon — the Point Fermin lighthouse is the best viewing spot for those not on a boat.
If you want to catch the boats as they head out, Pine Avenue Pier )or as it has been temporarily renamed “Transpac Pier at Rainbow Harbor”) is a prime viewing spot. Gregg Young on guitar and Ross Harper on steel drums will be providing music for the Aloha Send off. The boats pass in review, a cannon is shot and the boats and teams are announced by Long Beach YC staff Commodore David Westerfield.
I love that here these boats are starting a 2,000-mile race, yet they jockey for the best starting position.
Veteran sailor 2014 LBYC Commodore David Stotler, sailing on board Trouble, a Santa Cruz 50 owned by Tom Camp, explained, “You are so amped up you can’t help it. Months of time has been invested in the boat and the team. It is such a relief to finally be at the start line.”
Watching the start of the 1961 race is one of my earliest memories. The start was on a Tuesday, July 4, and our family slept on the boat a four-day weekend in the newly opened Alamitos Bay Marina.
We took our 35-foot wooden power boat; a Hunter named “Zorro del Mar,” out to the start line. It was a miserable choppy mess out there. My mom had prepared a Hawaii style buffet lunch. Hawaii had just obtained statehood in August 1959 and Hawaiian style was all the rage. I think she even made a pineapple upside down cake. My dad prepared the obligatory Mai Tais for their guests on board.
My brother John brought a date. Climbing the wooden ladder to get on the boat at the dock scared her. As I recall, I think she got terrible case of seasickness.
That was a pinnacle experience for me. Watching all those boats line up at the start line, and seeing all those crews on board. I remember, as a 3-year-old, thinking that when I bring a friend getting on board will be fun to them, they will be a good sport — and not get seasick!
It was a good year — there were 41 entries — including two tall ships with Japanese Merchant Marines cadets on board. Even the Italian Navy had an entry, a 69-foot yawl manned with Italian Navy cadets. United States Coast Guard cutter Dexter was the escort vessel manned with Coast Guard reservists on a summer training cruise.
LBYC 1991 Commodore Lou Comyns (a third generation Transpac racer) was on Nomad a L35, as his daughter Cindy Lou (a fourth generation Transpac sailor) told me. She was 5 at the time and didn’t start meeting him at the finish until 1963.
Chubasco, a 1939 Sparkman Stephens 67-foot classic sailing yacht that was part of last Thursday's starting fleet, took second in her class that year.
Now at the final start on Saturday, my 3-year-old grandson will be there watching for his first time as the boats head to Diamond Head. And with him will be my husband, a TransPac veteran from the race of 1989. He wasn’t a sailor when we started dating, but thanks to my brother John, we took him on a sea trail early on — he was a good sport and didn’t get seasick.
Fingers crossed my grandson remembers this historic 50th running of a race that started in 1906.