The afternoon weather conditions on June 4th were ideal for the start of the 2016 Great Pacific Race. “The idea of starting the race later in the day yesterday was to give crews a window of 16 hours to breakaway from Monterey Bay out into the Pacific Ocean,” stated Lia Ditton, Safety Officer for the race. Ditton explained that as the land heats up in the morning, air is sucked in off the ocean creating an onshore breeze. This pattern had become well established from 1100 to 1700 in the days running up to the race. Since ocean rowboats move relatively slowly, an onshore breeze is a headwind and therefore tiring to row into, especially for the pairs.
After the starting cannon was fired, crews and spectators saw sunshine along the shores with a fog bank over Santa Cruz. Crews enjoyed a favorable SW wind across the starting line. According to local knowledge, this is a reverse weather pattern to normal conditions this time of year in Monterey Bay. The rowers couldn’t have asked for better at the start of the race.
Team Uniting Nations took a strong lead off the start line, starting closest to shore at the pin end of the line. Endurance Limits decided to go three up, utilizing all three of their rowing positions on board ‘Ohana’. For the long haul to Hawaii, this rowing pattern is unsustainable due to the crew not getting enough rest, so we can expect them to go back to a two on / two off routine in the early days of the race.
While the boats with four rowers opted for more westerly courses, the pair’s boats Row Aloha, with local rowers Rick Leach and Todd Bliss – from Monterey and Oahu respectively – led the way to the Monterey Canyon. Team Fight the Kraken and team Endurance Limits USA on their boat ‘Mugatu’ followed close behind.
The Monterey Canyon is a vast underwater trench, which extends west from Moss Landing to the Pacific Ocean. This underwater canyon is a freeway of current and one of several fast ways to get off the Continental Shelf – the lip of rock, which edges the coast of the western United States. All rowers were briefed on the shortest routes off the shelf and with a calm night and good strategy, we are delighted that nearly all competitors are now in deeper water and well on their way to Hawaii.
Teams were lead out of the bay by a Monterey Fire Department vessel, which sprayed seawater high into the air, leading the way for the first 15 minutes of the race. A flotilla of spectators, race support vessels, friends and family followed alongside the rowers to cheer them on.
Around 1830 many spectators made their final calls to friends or loved ones about to row to Hawaii. Then crews started spreading out across Monterey Bay and disappearing over the horizon.
Back on shore, Race Management regrouped knowing that all eight teams were safely on their way. Race director Chris Martin said “It has been truly inspiring to witness these brave men and women endeavoring to fulfill their dream of rowing the Pacific. We collectively wish them a safe and speedy journey and look forward to welcoming them into the shores of Hawaii.”
You can follow the race via the YB Races app or via the link found on the Great Pacific Race website.