TRANSPAC 2019: the numbers are in!

by Sharon Green August 25, 2019


Transpac 2019: the numbers are in!

Transpac 2019 has come to a close for most … the trophies have been awarded and racers long returned to families and work. Even most of the race boats have been delivered back to their home ports by now. 

However, our team at Ultimate Sailing is just starting to turn the page on this epic and historic race. Let me tell you why.

Taking a photo is easy right? You pick up your phone, press a button and post. It’s a snap!

But for us, there is no ‘snap’ in ‘snapshot!’ The daunting volume of images captured by our team during the 50th Transpacific Yacht Race surpassed any other event in the nearly 40-year history of Ultimate Sailing. Let’s just say it was a whopper!

Transpac entrants

First of all, we had 90 boats entered to commence in five different starts, on three different days, off Point Fermin. Those boats were berthed everywhere from Alamitos Bay to Rainbow Harbor, Cabrillo Marina, and many slips in between. ‘Talk about trying to be in a million different places at the same time!

Transpac Starts July 2019

 So we called on a SWAT Team of pro photographers to capture the various dockside activities and dock-outs, then swarm the racecourse. We had two photographers in a chase boat on the pin end of the start line, and two more in another boat on the Race Committee end – where we also had a photographer stationed! ‘Then a drone operator on the water, plus me (Sharon) in the air.

Team photos

That’s seven photographers in all, each with the same charge: get great shots of every single boat.

To top it off, I rendezvoused with the fleet at Catalina for more shots (with the exception of the final start; where a southerly resulted in the racers heading northwest after the start) to catch those final shots of the teams before they ventured across the Pacific.


Then the reverse, on the receiving end in Honolulu; with 81* boats arriving at random hours over a seven day period. A minimum of two from our team of four on-the-water photographers rotated on and off the photo boat for the finishes, to capture the approach, drone shots,Ronnie launching drone

the classic longshot of the finish line abreast R2 buoy and Diamond Head,

plus close-ups of the joy and celebrations. From pre-sun-up to the last glimmer of light: they were on station to photograph these moving moments. And that doesn’t even include me, zooming back and forth in the helicopter, capturing the excitement of the Molokai Channel! At times, flying out beyond Molokai to get my shots before the sun fell below the horizon.

Helicopter group

Even that didn’t go without a hiccup or two …

On July 18, with Barn Door frontrunner Comanche advancing toward Honolulu, the docks were abuzz with excitement. But a 9 PM ETA meant we wouldn’t get any photos of their powerful approach. I decided to take the helicopter out to intercept them off the northeastern shore of Molokai.

We were capturing thrilling shots and footage of Comanche crashing through the waves when suddenly the helicopter made a strange noise.


‘We’ve gotta land,’ the Captain said and with that, he abruptly put down at the closest point of land, at Kalaupapa.

A few phone calls later a repair crew choppered in, and we watched in the cool windy evening as the mechanics tore into the aircraft. I wasn’t about to get back in that helicopter! So a small plane arrived to shuttle us back to Daniel K. Inouye Airport – just in time to zip to the docks and catch the arrival photos of Comanche and her crew at Aloha Tower!

Commanche heli trouble

I’m not sure how good your math skills are, but you don’t need to be Albert Einstein to know, that’s a lot of images!!

Over 100,000!  (See gallery HERE)

One added complication is our team shoots in a RAW file format, which doesn’t compress data like JPEG does. We get better detail, better quality, and it’s more forgiving if the lighting isn’t ideal – as is often the case when photographing sailing.

All our camera cards need to copied to a hard drive, then processed, before the editing can begin. Every image has to be treated. This whole procedure is time-consuming, as our computers chug away all night long; but it guarantees the optimal quality images for media and personal reproduction.


Even I am surprised, one month later, to open photo files and see a spectacular image of a yacht carving tracks through the cobalt blue Molokai Channel, or one peeking through the clouds at Catalina’s West End, hard on the wind, with anxious sailors lined up on the rail. It brings it all back to me and takes my breath away.


I hope these images do the same for you – and that you’ll agree: it was worth the wait.

~ Sharon Green

Sunset Finish

Thanks to the Ultimate Sailing Team for Transpac 2019!

Allyson Bunting

Walter Cooper

Bronny Daniels

Emma Deardorff

Doug Gifford

Natalie Nakasone

Leighann Ruppel

Betsy Senescu

Ronnie Simpson

* Transpac 2019 – the 50th running of this historic race from Los Angeles to Honolulu – was the largest in history, with 90 boats starting. Of those, nine boats retired: some turning back, some limping in. And one, for the first time in the history of the race, sank. Fortunately, Pyewacket was nearby to rescue the foundering Orient Express; thanks to excellent seamanship all crew returned home safely.

Pyewacket OEX safe return

Photo credit: Allyson Bunting/Ultimate Sailing


Sharon Green
Sharon Green


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