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Race officials have eye on Hurricane Eugene

  • COURTESY TRANSPAC 2017

    As of tonight, the boat that is closest to Hurricane Eugene is the Weddell, an 80-foot Grand Mistral, according to the online race tracker.

Organizers of the 2017 Transpac sailing race are keeping tabs on Hurricane Eugene but don’t expect the powerful storm to interfere with the biennial California-to-Hawaii event.

Eugene intensified into a Category 3 storm in waters off Mexico’s Pacific Coast this Sunday morning before it dropped to Category 2 late yesterday with maximum sustained winds of 75 mph. The storm was centered about 565 miles west-southwest of the southern tip of the Baja California Peninsula and was moving northwest at 10 mph.

The storm remains well east of the Transpac fleet, which left Point Fermin in Long Beach, Calif., in a series of heats staggered between July 3 and Thursday.

“It looks like it will completely miss the boats,” said Transpacific Yacht Race spokeswoman Janet Scheffer. “Winds have gotten lighter over the last 24 hours, so the storm may be drawing wind away, but that will be less of an impact as the race continues. The effect should be almost negligible.”

The storm was on a projected path that would take it northwest, parallel to the Mexican coast, passing behind the boats, but it could swerve unexpectedly, forecasters say.

Scheffer said organizers start planning the race a year in advance and that participants take a series of classes to help anticipate and prepare for emergencies. In addition, she said, organizers maintain close contact with the Coast Guard and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to ensure that they are aware of changing conditions.

The first multihull boat — typically a trimaran — is expected to arrive at the Diamond Head buoy between 2 and 4 p.m. Monday, which would set a new Transpac record by about a full day. The first single-hull boats are expected to complete the 2,225-mile course sometime Tuesday.

Eugene is not expected to touch land and should dissipate after moving into colder waters later this week, according to the National Hurricane Center. Eugene is the fifth named storm of the 2017 Pacific season, which officially began June 1.

At the head of the pack are multihulls Mighty Merloe, Phaedo 3 and Maserati, all in contention to break the record time in their class. These move faster than regular sailboats, or monohulls, which generate more drag on the surface.

The current record — five days, nine hours, 18 minutes and 26 seconds — was set 20 years ago by Explorer, skippered by Bruno Peyron.

The Hawaii-based boats include Grand Illusion from the Waikiki Yacht Club, with James McDowell at the helm, and Pyewacket, skippered by Roy Disney Jr., also flying the Waikiki Yacht Club flag.

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