In 1964, the Outrigger Canoe Club began co-hosting the first Multihull Transpacific Yacht Race with the Ocean Racing Catamaran Association. The race began on July 4 of even numbered years, in contrast to the Transpacific Monohull Yacht Race which was held in odd numbered years. The race began in San Pedro, California and finished at the Diamond Head Buoy, about a mile from the Outrigger Canoe Club.
A history of the race by Cline Mann follows:
In 1947 there appeared on the beach at Waikiki a twin-hulled beauty which was destined to become the forerunner of all modern catamarans. Designed and built by Woody Brown and Alfred Kumalae, Manu Kai was an essential part of the beach scene in Waikiki for a decade and captured the imagination of local folks and visitors alike.
To race a catamaran from California to Honolulu was Woody’s goal, and towards that end he and Rudy Choy produced Waikiki Surf. In June of 1955 this boat made the Honolulu-California passage in a very respectable 18 days. Unsuccessful in efforts to receive favorable consideration as a participant in the monohull TransPac, Waikiki Surf, skippered by Rich Muirhead, started unofficially after the 55 official starters on what was to become the wildest of TransPac races.
It was in this race that the splendid winds from start to finish propelled Morning Star to an elapsed time record of nine days, 15 hours, 5 minutes and 10 seconds, a record that would stand for ten years until the photo finish of 1965 when Ticonderoga established the record of 9:13:51.2 with Stormvogel a scant one-half mile and four minutes behind.
After passing through almost the entire fleet during the first few days and nights, Waikiki Surf continued into the lead at speeds up to 25 knots until, when approximately 400 miles from Oahu, in the dead of night, a fracture occurred and water poured into the lee hull. An entire day was lost assessing damage and making repairs, and during this time the lead was lost. Resuming at reduced speed, Waikiki Surf finally entered the Molokai Channel, and with the smell of land in their nostrils, the crew threw caution to the wind, and passing through the searchlight beam at Diamond Head came home to Waikiki. She was the fifth boat to finish, ahead of 49 others, in the elapsed time of ten days and 15 hours.
Almost at once another ocean-racing catamaran was on the drawing boards, this one destined to compile an ocean racing/cruising record unparalled to this day. Aikane, owned and skippered by Kenny Murphy, sailed in the 1957 and 1959 TransPacs, again unofficially. First to finish in both races, Aikane set a still-unbroken multihull TransPacific course record of nine days, 22 hours, 33 minutes in the 1959 race.
Race Inauguration 1964
In 1964, having decided to abandon efforts to be included as official entries in the 60-year-old TransPac race for conventional ocean racers, the West Coast ocean-racing catamaran owners under the leadership of Jack Swart and Vic Stern decided instead to inaugurate a separate TransPacific rate for multihulls. At the invitation of this group, which one year later became the Ocean Racing Catamaran Association (ORCA), the Outrigger Canoe Club became an appropriate co-sponsor of the race, the modern catamaran being the descendent of the ancient Polynesian doubles canoes and outriggers. Moreover the new OCC location was expected to be a spectacular and romantic site for the finishing boats to be received in colorful Hawaiian fashion in the lagoon.
A three-boat start on July 4, 1964 signified inauguration of the biennial Multihull TransPacific Race. Unhappily, two boats were quickly forced to withdraw as the result of under-strength members cracking in an intense off-shore storm, leaving only Vic Stern’s sturdy Imi Loa to make the crossing. The winds were good during the first half of the race, but gentled during the second half. The finish, completed under full sail, was immediately followed by a joyful reception at the Outrigger Canoe Club with a fabulously beautiful sunset as a backdrop. Among the happy crew of Imi Loa were Woody Brown and Alfred Kumalae, finally achieving their ambitions.
Adding great prestige to the event was the presence in the crew of poular Chuck Ullman, in prior years, owner-skipper of Legend, which, under his command, was once overall and twice class winner in the monohull TransPac race. Imi Loa set the official race record of 10:9:53:15 which stood until Seasmoke’s 1968 crossing narrowly eclipsed it. Imi Loa’s corrected time of 9.5963 days has yet to be bettered (1970).
With Seal Beach Yacht Club and Waikiki Yacht Club added as co-sponsors, the 1966 race started on July 2 with five boats. After a promising first three days, the winds died to a near calm for the following three days, but towards the finish were blowing strongly. Triumphing in a see-saw battle, Patty Cat II finished first followed by Glass Slipper II a few hours later, and both were treated to an Outrigger Canoe Club reception, as was Imi Loa, one night later.
Near the end of the awards banquet at Waikiki Yacht Club, at which Jay Johnson’s Glass Slipper II was given her race winner’s laurels, in came Tri Star which earned a second place trophy by a scant few minutes, necessitating a shuffling of trophies already awarded. Bringing up the rear was World Cat which since then has completed her historic round-the-world trip. Light-winded 1966 did not produce any new records.
Having gained the stature of a permanent fixture, the 1968 sailing of the race was made noteworthy by the entry of two new boats whose existence in many ways is owed to the challenge presented by this race: James Arness’ Seasmoke and Buddy Ebsen’s Polynesian Concept. In all, there were eight entries including veterans Imi Loa and Glass Slipper II, and newcomers Manu Iwa, Lani Kai, Auriga and Illusion.
Uniformly medium winds produced no challenge to Big Ti’s record, but allowed superfast Seasmoke to lower the race record set by Imi Loa in 1964 from 10:9:53:15 to 10:9:0:23. Polynesian Concept, dubbed Poly Con by all, though the smallest boat permitted by the race rules to enter, was second in after Seasmoke and, on corrected time, beat the entire classy field of seven finishers. Illusion broke her new stick in the gusty air at Catalina Island’s West End and was forced to retire.
The 4th Sailing of the Biennial Multihull TransPacific Yacht Race was scheduled to begin on July 4, 1970 at noon at San Pedro, CA. The race was cancelled and not held again.
- Outrigger Canoe Club Perpetual for Race Winner (First Place Corrected)
- ORCA’s Rich Muirhead Memorial Perpetual and Waikiki Yacht Club Multihull Perpetual (First to Finish Elapsed)
- Seal Beach Yacht Club Perpetual for Race Record
- Elapsed Time (Race) Record: 10 days -9 hours — Seasmoke 1968
- Elapsed Time (Course) Record: 8 days – 18 hours — Pen Duick IV 1969
- Corrected Time Record: 9 days – 14.3 hours — Imi Loa 1964