SHTP route, with a few previous entrants. Collage courtesy of SSS 2010 SHTP website.

The Singlehanded TransPacific Yacht Race–the Singlehanded Transpac, or SHTP–is a biennial event held during even-numbered years.  Racers start from San Francisco and sail 2,120 miles across the Pacific Ocean, alone, non-stop and unassisted, and finish in Hanalei Bay, on the island of Kauai in Hawaii.  The Singlehanded Sailing Society, formed in 1977 by a group of Bay Area singlehanders, organized the first race in 1978.  Of the thirty-three yachts that started that race, twenty-two made it to the finish line.  Thirty-two years and seventeen races later, the SSS is the custodian of a proud West Coast racing tradition, one that one racer characterized irreverantly as “a bug light for weirdos with boats.”

Check out the SHTP site:  http://sfbaysss.org/shtp/

One of coolest things about the SHTP is that regular folks compete in the boats they already have.  Many transoceanic events are raced in very expensive boats, by professional crews with enormous budgets at their disposal.  The expense of campaigning a boat that doesn’t enjoy corporate sponsorship limits many other events to the wealthy.  There are a few ocean races accessible to those who want the challenge without the premium price tag.  It’s probably accurate to say that the SHTP is the premier single-handed distance event in the Pacific.  Past participants have  spanned a range of ages from youthful to well-seasoned, and come from all walks of life.

A rough estimate of my round trip track.

A rough estimate of my round trip track.

Getting Back After The Race:

Getting from San Francisco to Hanalei Bay takes from about 11 days (current monohull record) to, well, whenever you get there.  If you don’t turn back relatively early in the race, you’re committed to go the distance.  My goal is to finish in 16 to 17 days.  There is a time limit for scoring in the event.  The 2010 race began June 19, and the deadline was July 10.

Okay, let’s say I finish in 17 days and reward myself with a week or so in Hawaii.  How do people get back to the mainland?  A lot of them just turn around and sail back.  Some people ship their boats back on cargo vessels.  My plan is to sail back.  The trip home takes longer than the race.  I’m planning about three and a half weeks.  Why does it take so much longer to get back?  Well, I have to sail back to Port Townsend, which means more sailing miles than the outbound course.  Also, there’s the weather to consider.

The Pacific High

The Pacific High is a zone of high pressure that forms in the North Pacific Ocean during the summer months.  Wind flows clockwise around it, so you can think of it as a huge carousel.  You get on shortly after leaving San Francisco and ride it all the way to Hawaii.  Depending on where it’s positioned when you leave on the return trip, you generally have to go substantially out of your way to the north to catch the westerly winds that will take you back to North America.  You can’t just cut through the middle of the high and sail straight home because there’s little wind there.  I also hear it’s a huge floating garbage patch, which is another story.

Here’s a Cruising World story on the Pacific High:  http://www.cruisingworld.com/how-to/voyaging/skirting-the-pacific-high

Stan Honey, an expert navigator and SHTP veteran, also wrote a great piece on the Pacific High:  http://www.pacificcup.org/node/42

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One Response to “About The Singlehanded Transpac”

  1. john Parkes Says:

    We did the Pacific Cup in 2010.
    Now considering the Solo Transpac in 2012


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