Sunday, August 2, 2015

Transpac 2015 is in the books!

Aloha Westward Fans!

It's been exactly a week since I posted the picture of Oahu from our vantage point, and most of you have probably seen the pictures of our finish and Aloha Welcome on Facebook, so this isn't news -- Westward finished!

The last 16 miles to the finish line were great. We navigated through the paddle board racers and got the chance to cheer them on,  saw "things that swim in the ocean!" on our way down the channel (after 13 days at sea, brains are a little mushy), were cheered on and welcomed by a group of enthusiastic sailors, learned that the amazing Betsy Crowfoot rescued Willie's hat just after the start and brought it to Hawaii, and enjoyed the view of passing by the red buoy off Diamond Head. We finished just after 1:30 pm Hawaiian Standard Time with Zack at the helm.

Mara, Alli, and Graham in the Molokai Channel
After the Diamond Head race committee gave us our official finish time and order (14/61), we took down our sails and followed Abby's Dream, our escort boat, into Ala Wai Yacht Harbor. Sometimes the ride into Ala Wai can be...exciting...because the waves will break into the channel. That was happening when we finished, but our trusty escort boat got us in no problem. It turns out we finished right in time because the channel was closed that night and 11 boats had to bob around after finishing until 5:30 am on Monday when the escort boats were allowed to go get them.

If you've been reading this blog for long, you know how I feel about finishing races and the ULTIMATE in race finishes is Transpac. As we came down the channel and Hawaii Yacht Club came into sight, we saw all the people gathered to welcome Transpac finishers. The Bells travel in packs and the welcoming party in Hawaii was huge! Our shore team consisted of Candy Bell, Shauneen Bell, Rosey Bell, Sadato Hoshina, Lee Ann, Whitney Rush, Jon and Alice Rush, Roger Gough and Margie, Paul Huber, Bill and Sally Huber, Lori and Martin Wilson, the Tom and Dixie Jorgensen family, Tom Trujilio, Dave Cort and Carol, a whole bunch of other LAYC and SDYC people I'm sure I'm forgetting, and of course, the best hosts ever, Wendy and Howard Suite. We also were greeted by our friends at Hawaii Yacht Club and the Honolulu Committee (Beth, Brian, Christina, and Dr. Bob -- looking at you!). We got inspected (every boat goes through a safety inspection) and lei-ed (we had a lot of leis which was good because we were stinky). Some of our competition was there to meet us on the dock, including Kerry Deaver who sailed on Between the Sheets and gave us our admonishment (which always feels more like she's proud of us) for beating them. 

Wendy and Howard Suite

The inspection committee.

Bells...lots of Bells...missing some!
Parents and kids.

Westward's crew holding each other up on land.
After the inspection, we were allowed off the boat, into the arms of our loved ones, and up to the party! The Aloha Welcome is a time-honored Transpac tradition and Wendy and Howard sure know how to throw a party. We sat around for hours eating and drinking and swapping stories. When it was time to leave, we continued the party up at the hotel until nobody could keep their eyes open.

It's important to get a good night's sleep because there's lots of work to be done in the days after you finish including cleaning up the boat, regaining your sea legs, and helping to welcome the other boats in! Alli and Candy got up early to help welcome Pyewacket, which was full of SDYC friends, and along the way also helped welcome in two other boats with longtime friends aboard. Unfortunately for them, these were three of the boats that had to spend the night floating around off Waikiki, but that didn't dampen their spirits in any visible way. 

The whole Bell team congregated for breakfast on the balcony of Hawaii Yacht Club and stayed there pretty much the entire day helping to welcome boats in. When a boat would come into the harbor, we'd spread ourselves out along the deck and make as much noise as possible. This practice was later termed a "Bell-come." One of the boats we Bell-comed was Resolute, which was double-handed to Hawaii...only two people brought that boat all that way...well done, Erik and Tim!

Later in the day, when the heat became too much, we retired to the pool and from there to crew dinner at La Mariana Sailing Club and Tiki Bar -- a cool little spot near the airport. The next morning brought the first round of departures with Graham, then Candy, then Alli all heading back home. The two days we all were together were a fitting end to an awesome race. When asked about their first experience at a Bell function, Jon Rush (Graham's girlfriend's father) said "well, the Bells are a great organization." I'm a little biased, but I must say, I agree.

The rest of the crew hung around for the week helping get the boat ready, enjoying Wendy's gracious hospitality, and picking up our THIRD PLACE hardware at the trophy ceremony.

Sam, Zack, Mara, and Willie representing Westward at the trophy ceremony
Just today, Westward began the long trip back home with Sam, Roger Gough, Bill Spencer, and Scott Miller on board. She'll be participating in the Mega Expedition. As part of this effort, they, along with the other boats that are participating, will collect samples twice daily along their unique path to bring back to scientists who will use the samples to learn more about how trash circulates in our oceans. This is an exciting and important effort. The amount of trash that we, and other Transpac racers, encountered during our two weeks at sea was shocking. A good reminder for us all that what we do, and how much we consume, affects the entire planet. (There was a trash blog in the works, but I just didn't have the energy. Let me just implore us all to reduce, reuse, and recycle. Please.)

If you're interested in tracking the return trip, you can do so here:

I've been told that there may be some blogging going on, so keep your eyeballs peeled (as Charlie Bell always used to say...really, it sounds pretty gross).

Before I sign off, let me just say a huge MAHALO to everyone who helped make this possible (and, yes, if you're wondering, I'm getting a little teary). Sam and Willie, thank you for the gift of participating in what is undoubtedly the best family tradition not once, but twice. All the other Bells, thank you for your support and all the work you did to make sure we could go. Howard and Wendy, our Hawaii Ohana, Mahalo doesn't seem like enough. Transpac committees -- both the LA and Honolulu sides, thank you, thank you, thank you for all the hard work you do to make sure we have a kick-ass time and are able to race safely across the Pacific. Hawaii Yacht Club and members, thank you so much for the warm welcome and always making it feel like we're home when we hit (sometimes a little too literally) your docks. There's NOTHING in the world like pulling in there. All the friends who came to Hawaii and supported us from afar, you'll never know how that kept us going when we were cold and wet (everywhere) and just wanted a nice warm bed. Betsy, Sharon, and Jeremy, thanks for the awesome stills and videos that we will always cherish.

Until next time, Westward Fans, fair winds and following seas.

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