Pegasus Racing and Pegasus 77 Sails To Transpacific Win

HONOLULU — A full moon lighted the way past the Diamond Head finish line for Philippe Kahn’s Pegasus 77 and a second consecutive “Barn Door’ victory in the 42nd Transpacific Yacht Race from Los Angeles early Monday. Kahn’s arch-rival later described the path laid by the lunar reflection on the water as “like sailing down the moon river,’ but Roy E. Disney and his crew aboard Pyewacket were nearly five hours behind in a match of powerful sailing machines.

The Barn Door is a 3 1/2-by-4-foot slab of carved Hawaiian koa wood that goes to the boat with the fastest elapsed time for the 2,225 nautical miles. Four Aloha boats that started five days earlier finished ahead of Pegasus 77 by as much as 15 hours, but their elapsed times were days slower. Finishing at 3:15 a.m. local time, Pegasus 77’s time was 7 days, 16 hours, 31 minutes, 17 seconds, the fourth-fastest ever for the race but nearly five hours off Pyewacket’s record of 7:11:41:27 in a windy 1999 race. Pyewacket’s time this year was 7:21:18:01.

“Records aren’t something you can control,’ Kahn said. “Either the weather was going to cooperate or not. We did break a record for the daily run, and what was interesting about that is we did it without a lot of wind.’ A day earlier, with no more than 18 knots of breeze, Pegasus 77 completed a 24-hour run of 356 miles, breaking the record of 353 set by Magnitude in 1999.

When the wind increased late in the race, Pegasus 77, then in a commanding position against Pyewacket, seemed to have a shot at the record. At the time, Pegasus 77 still had an outside chance of achieving a rare Transpac sweep: fastest-elapsed time and first in class and fleet on overall corrected handicap time.

But, ironically, a 40-year-old Cal 40 whose crew included Pyewacket’s usual navigator, Stan Honey, finished in time late the same morning to correct out on Pegasus 77 by about half an hour. However, Bill Turpin’s Transpac 52, Alta Vita of San Francisco, has the inside track on the honor with about a two- hour edge and needs to finish before 7:12 a.m. local time Tuesday to clinch it.

Illusion was first overall on handicap time through most of the race but slipped back as the larger, faster boats accelerated in stronger breeze. But, flying a full-blown spinnaker in 30 knots of following wind, they flew down through the finish line, surfing at 16 knots to beat nine other Cal 40s in a revival of the class that dominated the race in the late 60s.

The outcome of the Pegasus 77-Pyewacket contest was determined early on, not by boat speed but by strategic differences of opinion.

” We led them past (Santa) Catalina (Island) by a mile, but then we went right and they went left, and they were right and we were wrong,’ Disney said.

The Pyewacket crew was stunned by the second day’s morning roll call and position report that showed Pegasus 77 100 miles south of them.

” We were surprised how low (south) they went the second day,’ said Peter Isler, who replaced Stan Honey as Pyewacket’s navigator.

Then, when the shift they were expecting failed to produce a lively breeze, they had to eat their mistake and give up a lot of miles to find better wind south. That’s when Pegasus 77 came slightly north to drop into a controlling position directly in front.

Mark Rudiger, Pegasus 77’s navigator, said, “It was (wind strength) pressure versus angle, and I’ve learned the hard way over the years that the first half of this race you have to go for the pressure and the second half you can start working on angle. So I just tell the guys, ‘Send the boat the fastest way it can go.’ Speed rules.’

Rich Roberts
Long Beach Press Telegram