The 33rd Transpac yacht race from Los Angeles to Honolulu gets underway at 1 p.m. today off Pt. Fermin, and skippers and crews of the 66 yachts are expecting light winds for the first few days of the 2,225-mile crossing.
Weather experts at the send-off dinner Tuesday night were pessimistic about the start and advised the navigators to set a course well south of the great-circle route after rounding the west end of Catalina Island, the first and only mark.
The southerly course should take the yachts well clear of the Pacific high, which was reported to be split in the higher latitudes. The Pacific high is a vast area of flat air that could stall the yachts for several days.
On the other hand, skippers were warned about going too far south, where hurricanes have been lashing the area between Acapulco and the Hawaiian Islands.
Nearly 1,000 skippers, crews and their families attended the send-off dinner.
The Transpac is a biennial race, sailed in even numbered years, dating from 1906.
At stake are some of the most coveted trophies in yacht racing, including the hand-carved Koa Plaque, known as the "barn door" for first to finish, and the King Kalakaua Perpetual for the overall corrected-time winner.
The race is sponsored by the Transpacific Yacht Club, which was organized specifically to run the Honolulu race and the now extinct Los Angeles-to-Tahiti race.
A dozen ultra-light displacement yachts, 66- to 70-footers weighing less than 25,000 pounds, will be out to break the existing elapsed-time record of 8 days 11 hours set by the 67-foot Merlin in 1977. Merlin is also sailing in this race.
In a separate Transpacific race starting at the same time, two catamarans will be racing each other in an attempt to break the elapsed-time record of 7 days 7 hours 30 minutes set by the 65-foot catamaran Double Bullet in 1983. The course is the same as that for the monohulls, but TPYC does not allow multihulls in its race.
The catamarans are Wind Warrior, a 49-footer skippered by Randy Smyth of Huntington Beach, and Aikane, a 54-footer skippered by Rudy Choy of Honolulu.