Perhaps the most challenging race to Hawaii is the 2120-mile Singlehanded TransPac from San Francisco to Kauai. (UK Sailmakers is a longtime co-sponsor of this event). UK Sailmakers’ own Brendan Huffman recently completed his first solo sailing to Hawaii aboard his 44-year-old Santa Cruz 33, SIREN. He said he had a blast during the 15-day race with a variety of conditions and a new set of UK Sails helping him keep pace with the leaders. The following are some comments on his sail inventory and notes on the race.
“UK Sailmakers’ design team helped me develop a limited sail inventory that would provide some flexibility on wind conditions and durability on the windy portions of the race,” Brendan said.
“We decided on X-Drive white mainsail and 125% headsail on my roller furler with a slightly higher clew since there is a lot of reaching at the beginning and just a few miles of being close hauled at the start. I reefed both sails at the start off Golden Gate YC where it was blowing 20 knots, then shook out the reefs a few miles off the Farallon Islands as the winds got lighter. The white sails helped me maximize my visibility to other vessels crossing the Pacific, especially the freighters passing nearby. I also had a 125% light air reacher, which I kept on a Dyneema sub-forestay with soft shackles as hanks for quick and easy hoisting and dousing.
“As the trades filled in, I loved the speed and apparent wind angle I got when I used my new A2 spinnaker. Next time, I’ll take more asymmetrical chutes. Downwind I used symmetrical spinnakers in up to 30-knots of wind, regularly hitting 14 knots, with a top speed of 15.1 knots.
“Unfortunately, 400 miles from the finish, I rounded up while dropping my old 1.5oz spinnaker in a 30 knot squall. Water entered through a port light I foolishly left open and shorted out my primary autopilot and some other electronics. From then on, I went wing-and-wing with my 125% headsail, often furling it half way to relieve pressure on my backup auto pilot and other essential systems onboard.
“Although out of contention at that point, I enjoyed some fabulous sailing, particularly on the last day when I had a full day of sunshine, rainbows and 20 knots of wind. As I approached Kauai, the sun went down and I could see fireworks along the coast, reminding me it was July 4—and my mom’s birthday. (Yes, I called her earlier from a satellite phone!)
“The last few miles were dark and overcast as a squall approached with SIREN blasting along on a beam reach in 25 knots of wind, a few minutes ahead of another racer. Because visibility was so low, I relied on my chartplotter to get me safely past the reefs, and the race committee had a difficult time seeing SIREN cross the finish line off Hanalei Bay.
“I’m looking forward to racing again in 2023, but this time with more knowledge and some modifications to my boat’s systems and layout. The UK Sailmakers team was very helpful and supportive. I’ll be sharing my experiences and recommendations to our customers planning offshore adventures of their own.”
Brendan Huffman works out of UK Sailmakers’ loft in Los Angeles, CA. He has now completed seven races to Hawaii, including a Singlehanded Transpac and in the doublehanded division of the Pacific Cup. He can be reached at email@example.com