North Sails NEWS
50TH TRANSPAC: HOW TO WIN YOUR CLASS
Making a Plan, Executing Well, and Trusting Your Team is What It Takes
Winning any ocean race requires a complicated combination of preparation, teamwork, persistence, and experience. To understand what worked on the 50th Transpac, we reached out to Liz Baylis, navigator for Santa Cruz 50 Oaxaca, which won a very competitive Division four and took sixth overall.
This year was Liz’s fourth Transpac (she’s also sailed seven Pacific Cups, from San Francisco to Hawaii), but the 2019 edition scores high on her list of favorites. Why? “Winning helps,” she laughs. “It’s a special race, and each one is memorable in a different way, but I’m really proud of how the team trusted me and we worked so hard together to succeed.”
That team combined two Transpac rookies with seven race veterans and included The Ocean Race skipper Dee Caffari. “It was a nice blend,” Liz says, adding that the trust the group developed during California Offshore Race Week was a big key to their success. (Oaxaca also won their class and finished third overall in that series of hops down the coast.)
Before the Transpac started, Oaxaca’s co-owner Michael Moradzadeh provided some background on the team blog that shows just how much preparation went into their eventual victory. “We have been building the program since 2015. A set of carefully researched modifications and upgrades to the 1980 Santa Cruz 50, together with an increasingly challenging practice schedule and, most importantly, recruiting world-class sailors to drive the team forward. With powerhouses like Liz Baylis, Dee Caffari, and Molly Noble, we pretty much let the women run the show. This is not to shortchange the other members of the Transpac crew: Harry Spedding, Brett DeWire, Tom Paulling, and Patrick Lewis.” They also added a flatter A2 and genoa staysail to their sail inventory.
While most Transpac competitors only have time for the minimum requirements of safety and offshore training, Liz points out that 2019 “is the third Pacific race we’ve done since Michael and David [Ritchie] bought Oaxaca in 2014. So the basic prep was done, and we could focus on improving performance and practice racing.”
Liz also put in a lot of prep time herself, away from the boat. “I sat down with navigating legend, Stan Honey, in February,” she says, “and then spent a few hours each week on the boat’s navigation computer, ‘Baby Lenovo’, downloading weather files and then running routes and critiquing them.” She also reviewed past races and race reports. The result was a carefully pre-planned track that corrected to first place for Team Oaxaca, just ahead of nine other Santa Cruz 50s and 52s. “The crew on deck did a great job executing the plan and trusting me to guide them the right way,” Liz adds.
With such a tight fleet, though, there was plenty of stress—and after nine days of racing, Oaxaca won by a mere twelve minutes. The last hundred miles into a light-air finish were both the best and worst parts of the race, Liz says. “We had moved into the lead, but we going slow and two others were going fast. I was stressing over the deltas between us and the other boats, trying to enjoy a spectacular run past the cliffs of Molokai, and dreading that I had made a mistake. But the team kept working, and in the end we got it done!” As Michael put it just after the results were posted, “When you sail with rock stars, expect a concert.”
Liz didn’t stand a watch and spent little time on deck, so it’s no surprise that her two best memories involved escapes from the navigation “cave.” “My first time on the helm with the kite up, we hit 27 knots within 5 minutes!” she says. “And the second to last night was beautiful; I came up to drive for an hour at dusk, and the sky transitioned to the most incredible star-filled night I had ever seen.”
Preparation, teamwork, persistence, and experience. Congratulations to Liz and the entire Oaxaca team, and to all the other North clients who completed Transpac 2019!