The vanguard of the smallest Transpacific fleet in 28 years will start the 2,217-nautical-mile race off Pt. Fermin today at 1 p.m.
There are 42 entries, the fewest since the 32 in 1963 and far below the peak of 80 in 1979 when Bill Lee's Merlin set the record of 8 days 11 hours 1 minute 45 seconds. The smallest fleet was two in 1932.
The 10 smaller boats in the two slower classes will start the 36th biennial renewal of the Transpac today, followed by the other three classes Saturday. All will pass Catalina Island to port and follow whichever route they believe will provide the best combination of shortest line and strongest wind.
The favorite is unclear, although one of the ULDB 70s--or "sleds'--is the probable winner. John DeLaura's Santa Cruz 70, Silver Bullet, finished first in 1989, although Mitch Rouse's Reichel/Pugh 68, Taxi Dancer, won on International Offshore Rule corrected time.
Taxi Dancer has been chartered this time by Paul Simonsen, whose Mongoose was damaged in a boatyard accident recently.
New boats traditionally have done well, and the newest of the sleds is Roy Disney's SC 70, Pyewacket, which has won three of the sleds' five points events this year and placed second to Brack Duker's Evolution in last month's Cal Cup.
Merlin, a three-time winner, also is back but with a new identity in the International Measurement System handicap class and could be a threat.