The last six weeks I have been eating, drinking, sleeping Transpac – the 2,225-mile sailboat race from Los Angeles to Honolulu, that’s been held every two years for the last century. But in truth, we have hardly been sleeping. Sometimes I wouldn’t even know what day it was. Betsy, who was doing all the logistics and ETA’s for boats, would tape a schedule for the day with boat arrivals, times and tell me what day it was.
It started in early July, commuting to Long Beach for six days for the skippers meeting and staggered race starts.
But with the ultra-fast multihulls on record-breaking pace, I barely had time to get home and pack before jetting to Honolulu to beat them. The first arrived July 10th, then the fleet of 55 race boats started charging in, with the last ‘Tail End Charlie’ arriving on the 19th.
Our job is to shoot every single boat that finishes in daylight hours, and we’re committed to being out there, whether there’s just the faintest glimmer of dawn, or the last golden rays of sunset.
On a typical day we’re up at 4:00AM checking the ETAs. You never know when the wind is going to pick up, and that boat you thought was going to finish at 10:00AM, is suddenly zooming in at 7:00! It’s a hectic rally: coffee on and start assembling the camera equipment. Batteries that have been charging overnight have to be put in, along with clean cards. Settings have to be checked and changed, depending on the lighting … and we’re talking seven or eight camera bodies, and just as many lenses.
We have to rally the boat drivers and helicopter pilot, and drive to the airport or walk to the dock; and then begins a long day of tracking and waiting – punctuated by exhilarating moments photographing the exciting moment these sea-warriors arrive in Hawaii!
In this case Medicine Man looked to be finishing close to dawn. Their ETA would put them in the Molokai Channel too early, and as much as I wanted to helicopter for their finish, it would be too dark. And another boat, Runaway, was threatening to finish pre-dawn. Drat!
We loaded our backpacks, and ran down to the photo boat, and rapped on the cabin. Charity and Tim had been sleeping on the boat every night, just for this reason. Within minutes the boat was underway (and coffee on the stove) as we roared out of the harbor, and on the 20-minute splashy ride to the finish line off Diamond Head.
As it was, Runaway finished at 05:42:58. It was fun to see several Transpac veterans and longtime friends on deck, but the muted light of early morning didn’t do them justice.
But Medicine Man was roughly an hour astern. The first rays of the rising sun shot across the channel and backlit her spinnaker, which was voluptuously full and perfectly trimmed. This ended up being one of my favorite photos, illustrating the culmination of their successful voyage … and all that accomplished, even before 7:00 in the morning!
All told, we captured 90,000 images, and that makes for some very long work days, and sleepless nights, as truth be told, we are still editing galleries! Exhausting, but rewarding. And in two years, we hope to do it all again.
September is a time of transformation. New season, new schools, new clothes … it’s a time for big changes – and a time for Big Boats.
That’s the Rolex Big Boat Series regatta in particular, which St. Francis Yacht Club has hosted for more than 50 years in San Francisco Bay. Since the early 1980s,
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