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13th Transpac YC Tahiti Race starts Sunday
Chris Welsh's Ragtime to compete

presents the 13th Tahiti Race
Los Angele to Papeete
  Start Date: June 22, 2008


Four special boats start a rare Tahiti Race Sunday  


LOS ANGELES—Four extraordinary boats of past and present glory will write a new chapter in West Coast sailing history Sunday when they set sail in the Transpacific Yacht Club’s 13th running of the 3,571-nautical mile chase to Tahiti.

 Doug Baker’s Andrews 80, Magnitude 80; Bob Lane’s Andrews 63, Medicine Man; Chris Welsh’s Spencer 65, Ragtime, and Jim Morgan’s Santa Cruz 50, Fortaleza, will start the race at 1 p.m. off Point Fermin Park in San Pedro, a good location for spectators. The finish line is offshore from the Pointe Venus lighthouse near Papeete.

 All the boats are based in Long Beach, although Welsh is from nearby Newport Beach.

 Magnitude 80 is expected to break the record of 14 days 21 hours 15 minutes 26 seconds set by the late Fred Kirschner’s Santa Cruz 70, Kathmandu, in the most recent race in 1994. The sleek white boat already has bagged several coastal records since it was launched in 2004.

 Overall, the race will be scored on a special TPYC Tahiti time-on-time (not time-on-distance) rating issued by US Sailing, based on the mainly offwind Tahiti Wind Matrix, a Pacific Swell adjustment and a handicap course length of 3,700 nautical miles.

 The four boats are all racing Kathmandu, in a sense. Given the projected conditions, Magnitude 80 is pegged to finish in 10 days 7 hours, Medicine Man in 11:21, Ragtime in 13:20---all under the record---and Fortaleza in 15:06, only nine hours over the record. 

 The speed disparities among the four boats suggest there won’t be much close racing. But expectations could change while crossing through the Intertropical Convergence Zone---the “Doldrums”---at the equator. Andrews noted that even with modern weather forecasting on the boats, finding the fastest spot through the Doldrums will still be tricky.

 “There are weather pulses that go through,” he said. “The fleet will be spread out enough that each boat will have something different when it goes through. It’s not necessarily going to be follow the leader.” 

 Baker said, conservatively, “[Mag 80’s] run looks like about 12 days.” 

 If it’s any slower, he may miss his plane flight home, scheduled for July 6---14 days after the start.

 OCEANUS atomic solar wristwatches will be presented to the skippers at a sendoff buffet at the Los Angeles Yacht Club in San Pedro Friday night. OCEANUS is the official timekeeper of the race.

 Medicine Man was first launched in 1990 for Lane, its pharmacist owner/skipper, and has gone through an evolution of upgrades from 56 to 61 and now 63 feet to remain one of the most successful offshore racing boats in the region. Its milestone achievement came in 1997 as the first boat to break Merlin’s 20-year-old record in the Transpacific Yacht Race---although five boats that started three days later in a different division beat its time over the next two to three days.

 Ragtime, originally a 62-foot wooden black beauty built in New Zealand in 1966 by the late John Spencer, is the oldest boat and has the youngest crew---average age 34---including 16-year-old Daniel Caponetto of Long Beach and Genny Tulloch, 23, from the Morning Light crew whose 2007 Transpac experience will be told in a film documentary due for theater release in October.

 Ragtime stunned the sailing community when it burst upon the West Coast scene by finishing first in its first two Transpacs in 1973 and ’75. Later stretched to a Spencer 65, it has had several owners and gone on to sail a record 14 Transpacs in all. 

 In 2004 Welsh bought Ragtime at auction for $120,000 and this year upgraded it with a new bulb keel and taller carbon fiber mast while stripping it down 3,000 pounds lighter to about 24,000 pounds.

 “In light air it’s a ton faster,” Welsh says. “At hull speed, maybe one-third of a knot. Surfing downwind, now we can catch some of the waves we couldn’t catch before.”

 Welsh plans to continue on from Tahiti to take the boat home to its origins, where a festive welcome is in store. It should be quite a show when we get it down to New Zealand,” he said.

 Yacht designer Alan Andrews of Long Beach has an interest in all three of those boats. He drew the original lines for Mag 80 and Medicine Man, which were built at Dennis Choate’s Dencho Marine in Long Beach, and guided Dencho’s upgrades on Ragtime in the past year and several on Medicine Man over the years---including four new keels, a few masts, water ballast and a new, longer hull. He’ll sail on Medicine Man.

 The fourth boat, Fortaleza, carries the torch for the flock of Santa Cruz 50s that were a major part of the ultralight revolution led by designer Bill Lee in the 70s and 80s. As the smallest boat, Fortaleza, launched in 1982 for its original owner, will probably finish last, but that isn’t the point.

 As Morgan asked, "What are you going to remember 20 years from now, going to work or going to Tahiti?" 

 All but one Tahiti Race has had a single-digit number of entries, reflecting the challenges of funding and time off work for amateur sailors to do a race across the equator, especially in the current economic slowdown. Several early prospects dropped out.

 Andrews noted that most of Lane’s crew, including veterans Dave Jones, Scott Poe, Keith Ives, Matt Bryant and Jared Morford, have sailed with him for a decade or more---some when they waded ashore after running a previous Medicine Man onto a reef on a dark night at Diamond Head in the ’89 Transpac.

 “They said this is a chance to do a race that’s different and to go someplace different,” Andrews said. ”[But] the world’s a different place than it was a year-and-a-half ago when people started talking about this race. This is a whole different thing than going to Hawaii. Look at the air fares, for one---six times what it takes to get home from Hawaii. You’ve got to hand it to ‘em for sticking it out. These guys said, ‘OK, we’ll still race.’ It’s something that comes along once or twice in a generation.”

 Sailing Instructions and more Tahiti Race information is available from and the contacts listed below.

 Satellite tracking of the boats provided by Flagship/FIS Tracking Service LLS.

 Tahiti Race 2008 entries

 Fortaleza (Santa Cruz 50), Jim Morgan, Long Beach 

Magnitude 80 (Andrews 80), Doug Baker, Long Beach  

Medicine Man (Andrews 63), Bob Lane, Long Beach

Ragtime (Spencer 65), Chris Welsh, Newport Beach 



Bob Lane


Dale Nordin



Mike Nash


cell 714.501.3494



Rich Roberts


cell 310.766.6547




race winners 


1925 (4 boats)

San Francisco to Papeete

3,687 nautical miles 

First to finish: Mariner (107' LOA), L.A. Morris (elapsed time: 20 days 11 hours 45 minutes 00 seconds) 


1953 (3 boats)

Honolulu to Papeete


First to finish: Silhouette (55' LOA), Spencer Murfey Jr. (ET 21:01:16:00, corrected time 20:23:51:29) 

Overall: Mistress (38' LOA), Walter Johnson

 (ET 23:01:32:00, CT 20:22:22:54) 


1956 (5 boats)

Los Angeles to Papeete 


First to finish: Novia del Mar (89' LOA), John P. Scripps

(ET 21:01:01:08, CT 21:01:01:08)

Overall: Jada (56' LOA), William Sturgis (ET 21:03:47:04, CT 19:01:34:56)


1961 (7 boats)

Los Angeles to Papeete


First to finish: Morning Star (98' LOA), Fuller Calloway (ET 18:18:23:32, CT 18:17:43:14 )

Overall: Athene (62' LOA), James Wilhite (ET 19:13:30:02, CT 17:03:09:34)  


1964 (7 boats)

Los Angeles to Papeete


First to finish: Ticonderoga (72' LOA), Robert Johnson (ET 17:07:57:55, CT 17:06:26:16)  

Overall: Rascal (50' LOA), William Wilson (ET 20:13:50:05, CT 16:16:54:35) 


1968 (6 boats)

Los Angeles to Papeete


First to finish and overall: Aranji  (48' LOA) , Henry H. Wheeler (ET 20:12:27:24, CT 13:13:00:24) 


1970 (14 boats)

Los Angeles to Papeete


First to finish: Blackfin (75' LOA), Ken DeMeuse (ET 18:12:16:43, CT 17:21:54:19) 

Overall: Widgeon  (54' LOA), Norm Bacon (ET 19:11:04:20, CT 15:18:52:42) 


1972 (7 boats)

Los Angeles to Papeete

3,571 nm

First to finish: Graybeard  (73' LOA), L.H. Killam (ET 20:00:11:28, CT 20:00:11:28) 

Overall: Pen Duick III (57' LOA), Eric Tabarly (ET 21:11:25:35, CT 18:17:19:03) 


1974 (9 boats)

Los Angeles to Papeete


First to finish and overall: Sorcery (62' LOA), Jacob (Jake) Wood  (ET 18:11:14:32, CT 18:11:14:32)


1976 (4 boats)

Los Angeles to Papeete


First to finish: Natoma  (58' LOA), Don Dalziel (ET 21:03:37:37, CT 21:03:37:37) 

Overall: Bravura (48' LOA), Irving Loube (ET 21:08:36:10, CT 20:15:56:27) 


1978 (4 boats)

Los Angeles to Papeete


First to finish and overall: Sorcery (62' LOA), Jacob (Jake) Wood  (ET 18:22:53:00, CT 18:22:53:00)


1994 (2 boats)

Los Angeles to Papeete


First to finish and overall: Kathmandu (70' LOA), Fred Kirschner (ET 14:21:15:26*, CT 14:21:15:26). 


  *--Elapsed time record.