Skip to main content
Original Issue


For the entire fleet of 41 yachts, the 1959 Transpacific race was a memorable test of boats and gear and, necessarily therefore, of men. Few competitors did not have trouble of some sort. Most serious was the transformation of rigs. Goodwill changed from schooner to ketch when her main-topmast came down in an awesome tangle of gear, while Cloud Nine, wiped clean of rig, was metamorphosed from yawl to sampan. Blown sails, fatigued fittings and splintered spinnaker poles were the lot of nearly all. Nalu II snapped both spinnaker poles, one twice.

Most admirable was the finish of Skylark without assistance. At 9:10 a.m., 14 July, when 385 miles from Honolulu and within handicap allowance of a top position, the permanent backstay fitting failed, and the mainmast carried away in a jagged break beginning some six feet above the deck. In little more than an hour the crew managed to lash the remaining spinnaker pole to the stump, and Skylark was making better than three knots toward Honolulu. Later, by resewing sails to fit, her speed was lifted to almost six knots.

Despite difficulties, Goodwill finished first in fleet, 16 minutes after midnight Honolulu time Wednesday. Chubasco, scratch boat of Class B and next across the line at 05.18:15, began the painful vigil of sweating out her time on Nalu. "Chubby" had a passage phenomenally free of failure. Only once did she have so much as spinnaker trouble, despite riding through a squall which developed into a miniature four-hour gale, with average velocities of 35 knots, and puffs up to 50.

While she was not officially in the race, the 46-foot catamaran Aikane, sailed by Owner Ken Murphy and Designer Rudy Choy, distinguished herself by finishing 17 hours ahead of Goodwill. She failed by seven hours to break the course record, due to light winds in the earlier stages.

Far astern in distance but running neck and neck with Chubasco on a handicap basis, the crew of Nalu II was working feverishly. Before the race, Owner Peter Grant and his brother Joe, the navigator, had laid down on a chart a composite of the courses sailed by Nalu and Staghound in previous races, as well as the tracks of other successful boats. Plotting in curves of average wind direction and force from past daily reports and weather bureau statistics, two points were established as significant: latitude 30° north, longitude 125° west, and 25 north 140 west. Boats following this path seemed likely from the record to enjoy the most reliable winds. So it was agreed in advance that the strategy of Nalu would be to come as close to these points as developing meteorological conditions permitted. In the words of Joe Grant: "On this race we saw no reason to change." She passed within a mile of the second point. Here, as roll call reports indicated more wind to the north, Nalu swung up to finally get on the great circle route, jibing several times to take advantage of each wind shift.

After Chubasco had finished, Joe calculated Nalu had to average seven knots to Diamond Head to save her time. Earlier in the race she had been handily ahead of the fleet on handicap, but had fallen into a calm hole to drop to seventh. Now at the most crucial stage the wind once more lightened. Down dropped the Kenyon speed indicator to six knots, then to five; but it responded to fervent prayers and again crept back up the scale, reaching eight and better. One crew member summed up a tense two days by commenting, "Our spirits were directly proportionate to the Kenyon."

For 36 hours Nalu sailed on the knife edge of her handicap, averaging almost exactly seven knots, keeping within seconds of victory or defeat, depending on each puff. But for Nalu the malevolent Molokai Channel was kind. As she entered, the wind freshened. After two consecutive Class C victories and moving from third over-all in 1955 to second in 1957, Peter Grant and his crew had achieved well-deserved victory.

Nalu, in turn, had to sweat out Debit in Class D, and for a short while it was theoretically possible that the smaller boat might still come through. But progressively the wind lightened, and when the tallies were in Nalu II became unquestioned champion of the Pacific, winner of Class C and the Governor of Hawaii Trophy. In final fleet standings, Chubasco was a gallant second as well as winner of Class B, and Debit third over-all and first in D, dividing the top honors evenly between the smaller classes. And, speaking well for the time allowance system, Constellation, which finished first in Class A, dropped to 10th in the over-all scoring.