TEAM HO’OKOLOHE: EATING TO WIN
Only one first-place Transpac crew barbecued on the transom every night
Dinner offshore usually means whatever freeze-dried flavor is the most palatable, because minimizing both weight and space is a top priority for teams that want to win long-distance races. But onboard Transpac 2021 Division Eight winner Ho’okolohe, a Farr 57, the entire nine-man crew enjoyed fresh barbecue for seven of their nine evening meals. Owner Cecil Rossi did his first Transpac in 1965, so he remembers the days when offshore meals meant, well, meals.
“That’s just the way Cecil wanted to run this program,” North Sails expert (and “Cat 3 Cooler Jockey”) Fuzz Foster explains, a few days after the finish. “The food was unbelievable. I spent the first hour of every off-watch eating… And then I just had to lie down.”
The first two dinners on Ho’okolohe were pre-planned: “Beef stew, manicotti. By the third night, we were into Cecil’s meal program—ribeye steaks and pork tenderloin and teriyaki chicken. We carried a tremendous amount of extra weight, but none of us really cared. We figured, we’ll just sail the boat hard, and it’s going to get lighter as we go.”
Ho’okolohe started with the first group on Tuesday, and Fuzz says they only logged seventy-five miles in the first twenty-four hours. But they were able to set a symmetrical spinnaker the first night; they’d learned on a previous race that the boat was calmer to sail that way. And then they led the entire fleet almost all the way to Hawaii—the only boat that finally managed to pass them was the Volvo 70, Pyewacket.
Shortly after one of their most memorable meals of grilled swordfish went on the grill, that symmetrical kite blew up. Fuzz was driving and Ty Pryne was cooking; “We went down a wave, and the old girl just let go. So Ty flipped the fish and then shut the barbecue off, and we went into a full stop to change sails. We put up the brand new A2 I’d built for the boat. It was an absolutely awesome sail designed by Steve Calder. The boat would go 10 to 11 all the time and then surf down a wave, and get up to 17. She goes all right for a boat that weighs like 34,000 pounds.” And how was the swordfish? Perfectly cooked, he insists.
Besides eating and drinking so well, Fuzz says he really enjoyed racing with his two sons—and passing along a few tips to the younger Travis about steering downwind on a moonless night. “He was nervous,” Fuzz admits. “He had never really driven anything bigger than a Cal 20. On the first night, we put him on the helm when we were ripping along because that is how you learn.
“He grasped it pretty quickly. I’d explain that if you want to surf, make sure you get the boat squared back up at the end. He did great—in fact he held the top speed of all the helmsmen for quite awhile.” Chuckling, he adds, “I don’t know if he ended up with the fastest speed or not, because the bet was they’d have to buy dinner for everyone. So nobody’s really come clean.”
Fuzz has been calling this year’s race his final Transpac, though he admits “like every sailor, you say stuff and then six months later, things change.” Either way, it will be hard to improve on this year’s race—and not just because of Ho’okolohe’s menu or racing home to Hawai’i with his two sons or nearly beating a Volvo70.
“The breeze went aft so early this year! If they were all like this, I think you’d have every sailor on the planet saying, ‘I want to do the Transpac.’ Because it was just that on-edge sailing downwind, going fast.”
Evening barbecues on the transom, and winning with a family team—how could it possibly get any better?